Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Exploring the Relationship between Involvement, Fan Attraction, Psychological Commitment and Behavioural Loyalty in a Sports Spectator Context

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Exploring the Relationship between Involvement, Fan Attraction, Psychological Commitment and Behavioural Loyalty in a Sports Spectator Context

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Loyalty in the context of consumption is a "deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatronise a preferred product/service consistently in the future" (Oliver, 1999, p.34). Studies have demonstrated that small increases in consumer retention lead to exponentially greater profit (Reicheld & Sasser, 1990) and that the costs of customer retention are substantially less than the costs of new customer acquisition (Fornell & Wernerfelt, 1987). As emphasised by Oliver (1999), loyalty in the context of sports consumption may be different from loyalty towards a brand, vendor or store. The observation that sport represents a unique context for the study of loyalty is founded in the idiosyncratic psychological processes of sports consumers, the sundry of attributes and benefits associated with sport, and the consumer's involvement and identification with sport. Understanding the variables that influence loyalty may assist sports organisations in their management of spectator attendance and retention. This paper presents and tests a model using attraction to the sport, involvement with the sports activity and attitudinal loyalty towards the sporting event as predictors of behavioural loyalty.

Researchers have long recognised benefits for conceptualising loyalty along both a behavioural and attitudinal dimension. In this study, behavioural loyalty is represented by actual attendance at a professional women's tennis event. Attitudinal loyalty is included in the model as a predictor of behavioural loyalty and is based on a measure developed by Pritchard et al (1999). In their study, attitudinal loyalty is represented by two separate constructs, psychological commitment and resistance to change. Psychological commitment is viewed as a precursor to resistance to change and is thought to have three antecedent processes: information, identification and volition. These three antecedents influence psychological commitment's root tendency, resistance to change. Resistance to change is considered to be evidence of psychological commitment and is proposed to mediate the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioural loyalty.

Fan attraction and involvement were included as predictors of psychological commitment. Fan attraction considers factors that attract spectators to competitive sporting events (Madrigal, 2006). In the context of this study, fan attraction would specifically assess consumer attraction to women's professional tennis. Involvement, in the context of sport, is defined as an unobservable state of motivation towards an activity that is evoked by a particular stimulus or situation (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997). In this research, involvement is examined from a participant perspective, the individuals' participation with tennis as an activity.

The proposed model suggests that fan attraction, involvement, psychological commitment and resistance to change are predictors of behavioural loyalty. Specifically, this model proposes that psychological commitment will mediate the effect of involvement and fan attraction on resistance to change and that resistance to change will mediate the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioural loyalty.

A survey was mailed to 892 random customers of a women's international tennis championship (30% response rate). Regression equations were estimated to assess the role of psychological commitment and resistance to change as mediators (Baron & Kenny, 1986). The pattern of results suggests that psychological commitment mediates the influence of fan attraction and involvement on resistance to change. The results of the second set of regression analyses support the hypothesis that resistance to change mediates the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioural loyalty. These results suggest that involvement and fan attraction do not directly convert into resistance to change, but influence resistance to change through psychological commitment to the event. …

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