Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Travis Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yao Sun, Ph.D.


brand management, communication strategy, sports communications, sports management


Atlanta United FC is a unique example of a U.S. soccer club that had set a record in the number of season tickets sold even before the team played its first game in Major League Soccer (MLS). This research constitutes a thematic analysis of the press releases created by Atlanta United during the period between the launch of the club in April 2014 through its first official game in MLS in March 2017, examining what communication strategies Atlanta United adopted as well as what brand attributes the team communicated to its audience, and how the organization did that.

The study reveals that during the launching period, the team utilized all but one of the communication strategies listed in the Hazleton's (1992) taxonomy of public relations strategies, with the informative and facilitative strategies being the most used ones. The persuasive strategy was often employed, but Atlanta United mostly did it without using directive messages and calls-to-action; the organization utilized emotionally charged vocabulary instead. Atlanta United often combined elements of two or more strategies in one press release making use of the vocabulary, the structure of the messages, and the exploitation of the quotes.

The results of the study show that though the team was new and had not started competing, it found a way to communicate all the brand attributes, including the product-related ones, as well as the team's history and traditions. The most often communicated brand attribute was the club's connection with its fans. The results also revealed cross-cutting themes that were communicated by the team within most of its messages. Those themes are the team's connection with its community, fame/popularity of the team, and the team's connection with global soccer.

The study is building upon the Hazleton's (1992) taxonomy of public relations strategies and Gladden and Funk's (2002) Team Association Model. It can also be beneficial for public relations practitioners because it explores an example of successful communications in the circumstances of launching a new brand in the areas where the publics have a low interest in the sports it represents.