Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Consuming Sport: Fans, Sport and Culture

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Consuming Sport: Fans, Sport and Culture

Article excerpt

Consuming Sport is the first book to explicitly and comprehensively address how sport is experienced and engaged with in the everyday lives, social networks and consumer patterns of its followers, the fans. It examines the process of becoming a sport fan, and the social and moral career that supporters follow as their involvement develops over a life course. As well as developing a new theory of sports fandom and presenting a case for new ethnographic approaches to the study of sports fans, the book includes a wealth of unique research material. The following extract (chapter eight) considers the social importance of sport related consumption.

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Consumer goods

This chapter considers the social importance of sport related consumption. It argues that consumption should not be seen as an end product and outcome of processes of production, but rather as an active process, which can involve the production of meanings, further consumable texts and can also play a significant role in the users' construction of identity. This chapter argues that a considerable quantity of research and discussion of consumption has been located within an incorporation/resistance paradigm (see chapter two), where consumers are seen as either resistant or incorporative of capitalist-driven consumer culture. However, as argued throughout this book, it is suggested that focus needs to move away from this linear model of power and consider how consumer goods are experienced, utilized and located in the everyday patterns of their users. This is not to say that social power is not significant to this discussion, and moreover, this chapter suggests that the increased importance of surveillance and spectacle in late-capitalist society makes questions of social power relations even more pertinent to the consideration of patterns of consumption. In particular, this chapter focuses on the theorization of 'performative consumption' offered by Hills (2002), and suggests this is a useful framework for understanding how consumer goods are drawn on and used by individuals in their everyday performances. Finally, this chapter recognizes that access to consumer goods is not necessarily open to everyone in equal measure, and social factors such as ethnicity, gender and social class can help shape patterns of consumption. However, I suggest that academic focus needs to consider not only how social factors can restrict access to certain consumer activities, but also how these can shape the nature of participation within consumer cultures and the use of consumer goods.

Considering consumption

In chapter two the argument was made that a consideration of sport fans needs to be located within a wider discussion of contemporary patterns of consumption. Too often considerations of fan culture, and in particular a large proportion of the literature on sport fans, has focused around highly subjective codes of 'authenticity', which seek to distinguish and focus consideration solely on who they see as 'real' fans, at the expense of considering wider patterns of consumption. However, the argument I set out in this book is that while it is important to recognize different levels of fan connection and involvement, seeking to isolate fan culture as somehow separate and distinct from all other forms of consumption severely limits our potential understanding of fan culture and its location within wider (consumer) society.

It is evident that though fans may express high levels of 'brand loyalty' (Gruneau and Whitson 1993), the activities of fans and fan cultures are principally constructed around consumer activities, and this is particularly the case with contemporary patterns of sport support. Following, or simply taking an interest, in sport, can involve many different patterns of consumption, such as attending a 'live' sport event, watching sport on television, listening to this on radio, reading newspapers or magazines, or surfing Internet sites. …

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