Factors and Differential Demographic Effects on Purchases of Season Tickets for Intercollegiate Basketball Games

By Pan, David W.; Gabert, Trent E. et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 1997 | Go to article overview
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Factors and Differential Demographic Effects on Purchases of Season Tickets for Intercollegiate Basketball Games


Pan, David W., Gabert, Trent E., McGaugh, Eric C., Branvold, Scott E., Journal of Sport Behavior


Athletic programs at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division IA level have been popular for decades. Their reputation for attracting spectators has rivaled and often surpassed that of even professional sports. But in recent years, many universities have seen the popularity of their teams diminishing, and consequently, attendance at games has dropped. Among all the possible causes, elevated ticket prices, fluctuations in game schedules and team performance, and the proliferation of alternative forms of entertainment have played major roles in this decline. The increasing cost of running an athletic program has been a primary reason in driving ticket prices up, and ever-changing schedules and performance have often set the tone of spectator interest for attending a team's future games. In the past, the big weekend college game may have been the only event that people saved their money for and looked forward to attending. Today a growing number of pro and semi-pro sport teams, theme parks of all kinds, multi-screen movie theaters, and numerous viewing options on television are potential alternatives to attendance at intercollegiate sports.

Unfortunately, many athletic departments have not prepared themselves to overcome these challenges. The years of sold out stadiums and arenas lulled athletic directors into a false sense of security. Now that the stands are no longer full, athletic directors must find innovative ways to attract and maintain fans. However, many of their efforts have been characterized by a marketing myopia in which the focus has been on the production and sale of goods and services rather than on identifying the needs of consumers (Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 1993). Why spectators come to a game and what factors influence their behaviors in consumer sport appear to be the most important questions for us to answer. This research was therefore designed to study factors that contribute to season ticket purchasing behavior, and differential demographic characteristics of season ticket holders for an intercollegiate basketball team at an NCAA Division IA institution. The results of this study should assist athletic administrators to better understand consumer needs so that university athletic programs regain popularity among consumers, and consequently consumers' needs are better served.

Review of Literature

Winning Isn't Everything

For years the attitude existed that as long as winning teams were put on the field, the spectators would come. Researchers have realized that other factors besides winning also influence attendance. Mashiach (1980) pointed out that spectating behavior was not determined by a single motive or factor but rather occurred for a wide variety of reasons. While winning has often been thought to be the primary factor for drawing fans, Levine (cf Kennedy, 1980) found that only 25% of sports fans come to professional sporting events solely because of the team's winning record.

Functions of Spectator Sports

Schwartz (1973) pointed out some important functions of spectator sports: (a) creating a spectacle, (b) displaying talent, 8 relieving tension, (d) confirming cultural values, (e) providing continuity in fans' lives, (f) fostering social conformity and companionship, (g) building team spirit and allegiance to an organization, and (h) providing an avenue in which to foster business interests. These points suggested that the motives for people to attend sports events are multidimensional in nature. Duncan (1983) asserted that by understanding those dimensional items such as aesthetics, political and religious overtones, and societal values which sports symbolize, people can then come to realize their important social implications in a sporting event. Spreitzer and Snyder (1975) found while 75% of both men and women agreed that "sports are part of being a well rounded person," 84% of men and 75% of women felt that "sports are a good way of getting together with friends and having a good time.

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