According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (9), chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States accounting for seven out of ten U.S. deaths annually. Approximately 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease and this has increased dramatically over the last three decades with young Americans' diagnosis of chronic diseases quadrupling over the past four decades (9). Also, worldwide, chronic diseases are reaching epidemic proportions, affecting individuals of all ages and nationalities with some 388 million people expected to die from one or more chronic diseases in the next ten years (10). Not only are chronic diseases devastating based on mortality rates but also bring with them high levels of morbidity which limit daily living and reduce quality of life.
Another consequence of an increase in the prevalence of chronic disease is the economic toll exerted on the economy of the United States. As a nation, the United States spends two trillion dollars per year on health care and it has been projected that more than 200 million Americans alive today will develop a chronic illness which in turn will equate to a cost of $1 in every $4 spent in the US going toward health care (1). This trend is also occurring internationally. Within the next ten years China, India, and the United Kingdom are projecting losses in national income of US$828 billion due to reduced economic productivity associated with chronic disease (10).
Risk factors associated with the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, being over weight or obese (BMI greater than 25.0), inactivity, and poor diet provides a depressing snap shot of the future development of chronic disease. Risk factor data elucidates the future chronic disease burden and provides information necessary for the development of preventive interventions (33). Lifestyle, behavioral risk factors, and social and environmental conditions have now become the key determinants of the public's health (31). Controlling disease risk factors must be addressed as a major component in the fight against chronic disease development.
One of the primary ways health prevention workers seek to control disease risk factors and alter personal behaviors is by educating the public through social marketing initiatives. Andreasen (2) defined social marketing as "the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of society" (p. 7). Distinguished by its emphasis on non tangible products such as ideas, attitudes, and lifestyle changes, social marketing has been described as a process serving to "increase the acceptability and ideas or practices in a target group, solve problems, introduce and disseminate ideas and issues, and as a strategy for translating scientific knowledge into effective education programs" (19, p. 2).
A key component of the social marketing process is market segmentation. The emphasis placed on market segmentation, or knowing one's audience brings precision to audience analysis, allowing health prevention efforts to collect vital information for the formulation of better targeted and more effective messages leading to more appropriate message design, more effective message delivery, and better reception by the public (22). Reaching large, targeted segments of the U.S. population with appropriate marketing of risk reduction education and interventions can begin reducing the disastrous course of chronic disease development.
One particularly large, readily identifiable, and commercially lucrative segment of the U.S. population is the sports fan. Distinguished from the casual sports observer, a sports fan is defined as someone who is "interested in and follow(s) a sport, team, and/or athlete" (47, p. …