An Investigation of Old School Values in the Arena Football League

By Aiken, K. Damon; Campbell, Richard M. et al. | Sport Marketing Quarterly, September 2010 | Go to article overview
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An Investigation of Old School Values in the Arena Football League

Aiken, K. Damon, Campbell, Richard M., Sukhdial, Ajay, Sport Marketing Quarterly


Over the past decade or so, the study of oldschoolness has emerged as both a significant values dimension and an important fan segmentation dimension. This paper advances research in the study of old school values by administering the Old School Scale to fans at an Arena Football League (AFL) game.

Interestingly, even in this proposed "new school" sport, AFL fans appear to hold some measure of old school values. In addition, the study uncovers noteworthy demographic differences. For instance, female AFL fans are significantly more Old School than male fans (especially in their attitudes towards winning and their sentiments in regards to professional athletes being role models). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, as well as directions for future research.

An Investigation of Old School Values in the Arena Football League

Values have been defined as prescriptive or proscriptive beliefs that a specific end state of existence or specific mode of conduct is preferred to an opposite end state or mode of conduct (Rokeach, 1973). More generally, values have been described as essential principles, or closely held beliefs, that guide our behavior (Kahle, 1996). Our social values are often expressed through deeply rooted and well-documented desires to closely identify with our sports heroes (Wann & Branscombe, 1990; Wann, Tucker, & Schrader, 1996). Moreover, past research has shown that sport plays a major role in illustrating and expressing both personal and social values (Kahle, Duncan, Dalakas, & Aiken, 2001; Aiken & Sukhdial, 2004). Thus, understanding fan values becomes an important area of study in sport marketing. What we believe in, as fans, tends to direct our sport consumption behaviors.

Recently, many modern athletes, both amateur and professional, have been described as having "old school" values in reference to the athletes' work ethic, their level of commitment, their style of play, or some other aspect of their character (e.g., Wahl, 2002; Killion, 2006; Helsley, 2006). Given the pervasive nature of sport in American society, even the most casual sports fan probably has a basic understanding of what it means to be old school (OS). Further, given the context in which our athletic idols are often hailed as OS, it may come as no surprise to learn that many fans either consider themselves to be or aspire to be OS (Sukhdial, Aiken, & Kahle, 2002). Consequently, it appears that this process of aspiring to be OS, of desiring to be with others that are OS, and of harboring OS values further signals the expressive nature of sport. Such expressions emphasize the distinctly positive aspects of fanship and become yet another unique way of managing self-image (Fisher & Wakefield, 1998).

The purpose of this study is to further investigate old school values. The work seeks to continue the novel examination of OS values and seeks validation of the OS scale developed by Sukhdial, Aiken, and Kahle (2002). Additionally, the current work is an exploration of OS values in the unique consumption context of the Arena Football League (AFL). The work explores key relationships between OS values, demographic variables, and self-reports of fan loyalties. In this way, the current study extends marketers' knowledge into the complex world of fan values and loyalty behaviors. Moreover, it does so under a very distinct contextual backdrop - the AFL.

Conceptual Background

Old School Values

The old school values system is a relatively new direction in the multifaceted study of fan values and segmentation. Sukhdial, Aiken, and Kahle (2002) first investigated oldschoolness and developed the Old School Scale to measure and then segment fans according to their Old School - New School (NS) orientations. Their research into the historical development of OS values led them down paths ranging from "the American Way" (Tutko, 1979; Gibson, 1993), to social values dealing with the definition of sport success (Vande Berg & Trujillo, 1989), America's desire to win and idolize winners (Tutko & Bruns, 1976; Gibson, 1993; Velden, 1986) and the societal importance placed on sportsmanship, material wealth, and the modern athlete as a role model (Verducci, 1993; Scherer, 1998; Burton, Farrelly, & Quester, 2001).

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