The Effect of Sport Setting on Fan Attendance Motivation: The Case of Minor League vs. Collegiate Baseball

Article excerpt

A significant amount of prior research in sport marketing has explored the area of fan motivation. This research has addressed topics such as self-esteem as a motivator of fanship (Branscombe & Wann, 1991). Cialdini's seminal work on self-esteem as a fan motivator, for example, found that fans tend to "bask in reflected glory" (BIRGing) when their team wins, and "cut off reflected failure" (CORFing) when they lose (Cialdini et al., 1976; Cialdini & Richardson, 1980). Other research has explored gender differences in fan motivation (e.g., Dietz-Uhler, Harrick, End, & Jacquemotte, 2000; Gantz & Wenner, 1995;) with the general finding that women tend to be relatively more motivated to be a sport fan for social reasons such as watching a game with family/friends, while men tend to be relatively more motivated by the competitive aspects of sport. Further research on fan motivation has examined motivations underlying the preference for certain sports or certain types of sports over others (Warm, Schrader, & Wilson, 1999; Wenner & Gantz, 1989). Sport and entertainment has also been used as a context for examining motivations underlying general consumption (e.g., Arnould & Price, 1993; Holt, 1995).

While existing fan motivation research has provided considerable insight, one area that remains unexplored is fans' motivation behind attending different settings of the same sport. The current study examines, using minor league baseball and collegiate baseball as the settings, the extent to which fans of different settings of the same sport can be differentially motivated in terms of attendance at the events. This study was largely motivated by Wenner and Gantz's (1989) study which compared fan motivation factors by sport and by Wann et al.'s (1999) study which compared fan motivation factors by sport type, and seeks to expand upon these studies and their significant contributions. Wenner and Gantz (1989) found differences among sports in fans' motivation for watching sports on television. For example, fans of collegiate basketball were the most motivated to watch in order to see how their favorite team does, and also the most motivated to learn more about the players and the sport. Baseball fans were the least likely to watch their sport to get "psyched up", particularly compared to pro football fans, who rated this as a relatively stronger motive to watch.

Wann et al. (1999) examined differences in fan motivation on a more aggregate level than Wenner and Gantz (1989) by utilizing sport type as the independent variable as opposed to simply different sports. They identified eight common fan motivation factors that have been identified in prior literature, and which comprise the Sport Fan Motivation Scale (Wann, 1995). These eight motives include eustress (a positive, stimulative, energizing stress), self-esteem enhancement (BIRGing), escape, entertainment, economic motivation (gambling opportunity), aesthetic value (in essence, the "beauty" of the sport), group affiliation/need for belongingness, and desire for family socialization. The authors examined differences in these eight motivations in fans of different sport types, specifically between fans of team (e.g., hockey, football) versus individual (e.g., figure skating, tennis) sports, and between aggressive versus nonaggressive sports. Results indicated that fans of individual sports had higher levels of aesthetic motivation than fans with a preference for team sports, while fans of team sports were relatively more motivated by eustress and self-esteem enhancement than fans who preferred individual sports. Further, they found that fans of aggressive sports were relatively more motivated by economic concerns than fans of nonaggressive sports, while fans of nonaggressive sports were relatively more motivated by aesthetics.

In reflecting on these studies and the body of fan motivation literature, we contend that as fans can be differentially motivated depending on both the specific sport under consideration as well as the sport type (aggressive versus nonaggressive, individual versus team) under consideration, so too can they be differentially motivated within one particular sport depending on the setting of that sport. …