Self and Product Image Congruency among Male and Female Minor League Ice Hockey Spectators: Implications for Women's Consumption of Professional Men's Sports

Article excerpt

Abstract

Women's increased interest in and consumption of professional men's sports have made women a viable target market for men's sports (Shank, 1999). However, since males comprise the majority of the consumer base for men's sports, the challenge for men's sport organizations is to identify the factors that may influence sport consumption among males and females differently. The objective of this paper was to examine image congruency among male and female spectators (n=120) in attendance at a minor league men's ice hockey event. Image congruency refers to the match or consistency between consumers' self-images and their images of products they are consuming (Sirgy, 1986). The results revealed differences in the self-images, product images, and (consequently) level of image congruency experienced between males and females with the overall event. The results also revealed a need for differentiated sport marketing strategies targeted to male and female consumers.

Introduction

Women as Consumers of Men's Sports

"Not only are women watching men's sports, but men's sports are watching women - very closely" (Barbano, 1998, p.1).

Until recently, women were not perceived as a viable consumer segment for professional men's sport marketing initiatives. "Traditional and stereotypical thinking has placed women as an afterthought in the minds of most sport marketers, promoters, and corporate advertisers when it comes to identifying women as a potential target market" (Branch, 1995, p.9). However, women's increased interest in and consumption of professional men's sports are noteworthy.

Shank (1999) provided an overview of women's sport consumption by compiling findings from varied data sources. Shank (1999) reported that between 1989 and 1993 women's interest in the National Basketball Association (NBA) increased 70%; women's interest in the National Football League (NFL) increased 45%; and women's interest in Major League Baseball (MLB) increased 40%. Consequent to women's increased interest in professional men's sports, the fan base for the NFL was comprised of 43% females; women comprised 46% of the MLB fan base; the NBA reported that women comprised 40% of its adult fan base; at weekend day games, women accounted for approximately 50% of the attendance at Major League Soccer games (Barbano, 1998); and over half of the spectators at the Indianapolis 500 were reportedly women (Shank, 1999).

Women's interest in professional men's sports may also be witnessed in their sport apparel purchases. Regarding purchases directly related to professional men's sports, Shank (1999) reported that women who purchased merchandise for themselves represented approximately 35% of the total sales for the National Hockey League (NHL); women were responsible for 44% of the sales from adult purchases of NBA licensed products; and 70% of the NFL's female fan base purchased NFL merchandise. In response to women's patronage of the NHL and NFL, these leagues planned to test-market versions of their team logo apparel that will be appealing to female consumers; while the NBA and MLB already have some women's products in stores (Shank, 1999).

Due to women's demonstrated interest in professional men's sports along with: (a) the need for sport organizations to respond to the changing social and cultural demographics of sport consumers (Hofacre & Burman, 1992), and (b) the increasing number of women who are heads of households who either participated in sports themselves and/or have sons and daughters who are sport participants (Barbano, 1998), professional men's sport organizations have increased their awareness of the implications of attracting and retaining female consumers. The increased focus on female consumers, however, should not imply a decreased focus on male consumers (who comprise the majority of the consumer base for most professional men's sports). Therefore, to effectively attract and retain male and female consumers simultaneously, professional men's sports marketers need to: (a) identify differences between males and females on factors that motivate sport consumption (and subsequently influence sport consumption experiences), and (b) devise marketing practices respective of the differences (Bauer, 1987; Bednarski, K, 1993). …