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

Keywords: Team Loyalty, Fan Socialization, Team Fans, Professional Football, Sport Fans

Executive Summary

Sport organizations recognize the importance of a strong fan base, yet little research has been done to help organizations understand how to build and maintain such a group of fans. There is ample evidence that people are readily able to form deep attachments to sports teams. A body of research has examined the level of attachment (i.e. identification) that fans have with a team (Branscombe and Wann, 1991, Wann and Branscombe, 1993, 1995; Wann and Dolan, 1994), and also the relationship between level of identification with a team and different types of fan responses. Fans' emotions, perceptions of influence on team performance and game outcomes, objective knowledge and subjective beliefs about their team, and enjoyment of sports events have all been related to identification levels among United States collegiate sport fans (e.g. Murrell and Dietz, 1992; Wann and Branscombe, 1995; Wann, Dolan, McGeorge and Allison, 1994).

The small amount of work that has been done on building and maintaining a fall base has focused primarily on maintenance issues. Sutton, McDonald, Milne and Cimperman (1997) suggested that a sport franchise could foster fan relationships by having a successful team and a good organizational reputation, creating some connection with the community, and by providing as many consumption opportunities as possible for people. Mahony, Madrigal and Howard (1999) found that loyalty to professional teams in the National Football League (NFL) in the United States could be largely determined by knowing a fan's specific personality characteristic. To date, however, research has not adequately examined what factors incipiently influence a person to become a team fan. Knowing what influences people to become team fans is important because these factors are the corner stones for creating, building, and maintaining a base of loyal team fans.

The current study was designed to explore a/Id identify: (1) when in their life span individuals became team fans; and (2) what people and things affect this process. A survey was conducted with long-term season ticket holders (N = 518) of a professional National Football League (NFL) team in the United States to address these issues.

The results suggested that fathers were very influential in shaping team preferences, particularly among those who became fans in their preteen years and, to a somewhat lesser extent, among adolescents. The majority of respondents stated that they had become a team fan prior to age 15. Players and coaches of the team wee important influences for those who became fails as adolescents or adults. The emotional hometown connection fans made between the city in which the team plays and the team itself was influential in shaping team loyalty. Attending and experiencing the excitement of games was also a catalyst for becoming a team fan. Respondents valued being part of a "community" of fans (i.e. a group of people sharing a common bond -- the team).

Sports marketers who wish to build the next generation of fans need to create opportunities for fathers to spend time with their children at team-related activities. Developing and promoting linkages between a team and the city in which the team is located has value in building team loyalty as well. Such linkages help fans attribute positive characteristics to both the team and city, thereby reinforcing strong feelings held about each entity. The community of fans concept can be used to build linkages to the teams. One means for creating esprit de corps among fans is to use e-mail and other team-sponsored Internet forums to encourage fans to discuss among themselves their feelings about the team. Team personnel can monitor this information to identify trends and other issues important to team fans.

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. …

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