Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Identification and Examination of Influences That Shape the Creation of a Professional Team Fan

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Identification and Examination of Influences That Shape the Creation of a Professional Team Fan

Article excerpt

An Identification and Examination of Influences That Shape the Creation of a Professional Team Fan

While we often speak of the interest in sports among the collective population, it is the individual fan who invests her/his time, money and self in sports. One question raised by the prevalence of sports in society is how this fascination with sports develops at the individual level. Of particular interest in the current study is the issue of who and/or what influences people to form attachments to a sports team. What is especially interesting about this issue is that, for many, these are not casual relationships with their chosen team, but rather relationships that are temporally persistent and very resistant to change. The complexity of this phenomenon is manifest by fans who remain strongly attached to their chosen team, even when the team performs poorly for periods of time (e.g. the Chicago Cubs baseball team in the US and Manchester City Football Club in the UK).

A relatively small body of research has provided some understanding about the appeal of sport. Research has distinguished between spectators (those who merely observe sport) and fans (those who are allegiant to specific sports or teams) (Pooley, 1978). Others have demonstrated that people have different levels of identification (psychological attachment) with sports teams (Branscombe and Wann, 1991; Murrell and Dietz, 1992; Trail and James, 1999; Wann and Branscombe, 1993, 1995; Wann and Dolan, 1994; Wann, Dolan, McGeorge and Allison, 1994). Research has also tried to profile committed sports fans (Smith, Patterson, Williams and Hogg, 1981); to demonstrate basking-in-reflected-glory (raising one's self-esteem by associating with a source--a winning team); to demonstrate cutting-off-reflected-failure (distancing oneself from an unattractive source--a losing team) (Cialdini, Borden, Thorne, Walker, Freeman and Sloan, 1976; Snyder, Lassegard and Ford, 1986); and to identify motives of sport fans (Milne and McDonald, 1999; Sloan, 1989; Trail and James, 1999; Wann, 1995). However, research has not adequately examined what influences a person to become a fan of a particular sport or team and to form a persistent attachment with a sport/team.

This issue is important to understand from a practical perspective due to the increased competition for the hearts and wallets of fans. By studying the dimensions that influence an individual to form a relationship with a specific team, the opportunity exists not only to know how to facilitate the development of new fans, but also to strengthen relationships with existing fans. The purpose of the present study is to advance the field's understanding of sport fans by identifying and examining the dimensions that initially influence people to become fans of a particular team.

Background

Most attempts to understand a fan's relationship with a team have focused on what a sport organization can do to promote or maintain relationships with existing fans. For example, Sutton, McDonald, Milne and Cimperman (1997) proposed that identification (attachment) with a sport team could be explained based on an individual's level of satisfaction, the reputation of a sport organization, the fan's frequency of contact with the team, and his/her visibility of affiliation with an organization. Mahony, Madrigal and Howard (1999) argue that a person's willingness to continue as a team fan is related to his/her level of self-monitoring (the willingness/ability to change one's image in the face of situational change). Mahony et al. (1999) argue that an individual's degree of self-monitoring is inversely related to team loyalty (e.g. high self-monitors are not likely to be loyal fans). The implications of these studies are very useful for maintaining a fan base, but do not shed light on what initially influences someone to become a team fan.

Wann, Tucker and Schrader (1996) conducted an exploratory examination of why people begin, continue and end their identification (or attachment) with sports teams. …

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