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Spectators' Relationship with Women's Professional Basketball: Is It More Than Sex?

Article excerpt

Sports psychology and consumer scholars have acknowledged the importance of attitudes in shaping spectators' preferences for sport products. Because gender plays a salient role in shaping and directing consumer attitudes and experiences, a plethora of studies have examined the links between gender and spectators' relationships with team sports. Yet, much of this research is limited to the examination of sex differences, without measuring the psychological and social factors of gender (e.g., Klomsten, March, & Skaalvik, 2005; Krane, Choi, Baird, Aimar, & Kauer, 2004). A few studies have identified the significance of individuals' masculine and feminine gender traits on spectators' and athletes' relationships with team sports (e.g., Matteo, 1988; Wann & Waddill, 2003). More recently, it has been demonstrated that a multifactorial approach to gender (Spence, 1993) provides an increased understanding of the ways in which gender identity traits (i.e., instrumental and expressive traits) and gender-role attitudes influence spectators' attitudes toward college team sports as well as women's professional basketball (e.g., McCabe, 2007, 2008).

In addition to gender, spectators' psychological involvement has received a great deal of attention within the sports marketing and psychology literature. A critical outcome of understanding the nature of spectators' involvement with competitive sports is its relevance in predicting consumption attitudes and purchasing behaviors (Funk & Pastore, 2000; Kwon & Armstrong, 2004). Not surprisingly, much of the sports involvement research suggests that involved sports fans are more likely to be young, single, and male (e.g., Weiller & Higgs, 1997). As is the case with gender, limiting our perception of spectators' involvement to sex differences constrains our ability to enhance our understanding of spectators' involvement profiles (Burnett, Menon, & Smart, 1993; McCabe, 2008; Shank & Beasley, 1998).

Grounded in multifactorial gender identity theory and the psychological involvement literature, the current study is an important first step in examining the complex relationships between multiple gender factors and spectators' psychological involvement with and attitudes toward competitive sports.

While there is a dearth of research regarding the relationship between gender identity traits and spectators' involvement with team sports, interesting results have emerged from the few empirical investigations that have examined the influence of gender identity traits on sports fans. Psychological gender traits refer to instrumental and expressive traits associated with males and females. Traits are defined as "internally located response predispositions or capacities that have considerable transituational significance for behavior but are neither conceptually equivalent to behavior nor its sole determinant" (Spence & Helmreich, 1979, p. 1037). Expressive traits include characteristics such as understanding, ability to deal with others' emotions, kindness, helpfulness, and nurturing. Instrumental traits consist of competitiveness, independence, ability to make decisions easily, and self-confidence. For example, Wann and Waddill (2003) and Wann, Waddill and Dunham (2004), suggest that instrumental traits (e.g., competitiveness) positively influence sports' fans, while expressive traits (e.g., understanding) do not consistently contribute to sports fandom. Recently, studies grounded in multifactorial gender identity theory found that instrumental traits contribute to spectators' affect towards men's college basketball, but not affect towards women's college or professional basketball. Expressive traits were found to contribute positively to spectators' attitudes toward women's professional basketball but not men's or women's college basketball. In addition, the sex of fans did not influence their attitudes toward women's professional basketball whereas men were found to have a more positive affect for men's college basketball and women had a more positive affect toward women's college basketball (McCabe, 2007; McCabe, 2008). …