Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Factors That Drive Team Identification in Intercollegiate Athletics: A Perspective on Product Involvement

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Factors That Drive Team Identification in Intercollegiate Athletics: A Perspective on Product Involvement

Article excerpt


Since intercollegiate athletics have become a powerful business that generates significant profits from fans of a variety of sports, many scholars have begun to pay attention to fans; relationships with sports entities. In particular, team identification has been recognized as a level of psychological attachment toward a certain sports team (Branscombe &Wann, 1994; Koo & Hardin, 2008). Fans who have strong identification with a team tend to show biased purchase behavior, differentiation with respect to alternative brands, and healthy sociopsychological functions in the evaluative process (Branscombe &Wann, 1994; Koo & Hardin, 2008; Milne & McDonald, 1999; Underwood, Bond, & Baer, 2001). Even though the previous studies have established a foundation for understanding team identification within the sports industry (Gladden & Funk, 2002; Funk & James, 2001; Hill & Green, 2000; Kahle, Aiken, Dalakas, & Duncan, 2003; Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 2007; Park & Dittmore, 2014; Yoshida & James, 2010), there is still a lack of understanding of which aspects are positively associated with the improvement of team identification. Therefore, it is necessary to identify factors and test a comprehensive conceptual factor model generating the level of team identification. Based upon product involvement, this study aims to provide a multidimensional model and test to identify the factors that generate team identification in the case of intercollegiate athletic program.

Theoretical Framework

Team Identification

Team identification has been defined as a psychological attachment toward a team, coach, athletic department, or organization (Trail, Anderson, & Fink, 2000; Wann & Pierce, 2005). While highly identified fans are disposed to define themselves as integral participants in the game, many scholars have noted that their affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses are different from those of fans who have lower levels of team identification (Trail, Anderson, & Fink, 2000; Tafjel, 1982; Wann & Pierce, 2005). For instance, while highly identified fans have a greater tendency to integrate into social groups, they share self-concepts and knowledge about the team' tradition, history, and personnel with the in-group members, which, in turn, enhances personal self-esteem (Branscombe & Wann, 1994; Tajfel, 1982; Wann, 2000; Wann & Pierce, 2005). In addition, the level of team identification is significantly related to consumers' responses regarding intention to attend home or away games, and likelihood to purchase season tickets or team-licensed products (Gau, James, & Kim, 2009; Lee, Shin, Park, & Kwon, 2010; Madrigal, 1995; Theodorakis, Koustelios, Robinson, & Barlas, 2009; Trail et al., 2000).

In higher education, when the student group is a significant fan segment, the development of team identification in the college years plays a significant role in students' college lives (Sung, Koo, Kim, & Dittmore, 2015; Sutton, McDonald, Milne, & Cimperman, 1997). While the highly identified students have more opportunities to engage in social activities in the college environment, there positive social interactions with group members enhance their sociopsychological well-being in the complex nature of college life, which is a noteworthy facilitator of these students' academic goals (Pedrotti, Edwards, & Lopez, 2008; Pittman & Richmond, 2007, 2008; Shankland, Genolini, Franca, Guelfi, & Ionescu, 2010). In addition, the college students who are highly identified toward a team have a strong sense of belonging to the university, which is directly related to academic performance in higher education (Sung et al., 2015). Finally, the fans who successfully complete a college degree with strong team identification are perspective donors and season ticket holders; who will generate significant revenue for the intercollegiate athletic programs. …

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