Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Fantasy vs. Reality: Exploring the BIRGing and CORFing Behavior of Fantasy Football Participants

Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Fantasy vs. Reality: Exploring the BIRGing and CORFing Behavior of Fantasy Football Participants

Article excerpt


Originating in the field of social psychology, basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) is an image management method that occurs when individuals broadcast their association with successful others regardless of the significance of the affiliation or connection (Cialdini et al., 1976). Conceptually, Cialdini et al. (1976) suggested BIRGing behavior was explained by Heider's (1958) balance theory, wherein individuals attempt to make perceived relations between two independent concepts match. Thus, if a sport fan connects with a sport team and that team is successful, those around this fan will balance their perceived relationship of the sport fan and the successful team by transferring the team's success to the fan.

The counterpoint to BIRGing, cutting offreflected failure (CORFing), was uncovered a decade later as an additional image management technique to explain the other side of the balance equation (Snyder, Lassegard, & Ford, 1986). CORFing occurs as individuals attempt to distance themselves from unsuccessful organizations or individuals (Wann & Branscombe, 1990). In general, BIRGing serves as a way to enhance ego, and CORFing serves as a way to preserve it (Wann & Branscombe, 1990).

Given the unpredictable nature of sport and the lack of control exhibited by sport marketers over the onfield performance, it is paramount for organizations to understand the impact of competitive outcomes on fans. BIRGing and CORFing behavior explain both a fan's social and psychological reactions to his/her favorite team's success and failure. Winning is an obvious goal for team management and can be a highly influential factor in marketing the team, but it only explains one side of the story. Dealing with team losses is also an important factor within the fan experience, and as Turnali (2013) suggests, "fan experience matters because it is the fire that ignites fan engagement" (para. 3). As a result, the study of sport fan social-psychology has received a great deal of attention from sport marketing and management researchers (e.g., Cambell, Aiken, & Kent, 2004; Pritchard, Stinson, & Patton, 2010; Trail, Kim, Kwon, Harrolle, Braunstein- Minkove, & Dick, 2012; Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001; Xiaoyan, Chalip, & Green, 2014).

Within this wealth of reseach, the significance of spectator sport fandom as an important factor in an individual's socialization has been a major finding. This comes decades after sport sociology researchers determined sport participation (i.e., playing soccer, playing baseball, running, etc.) is a critical component in an individual's socialization (Kenyon & McPherson, 1973). Sport marketing and psychology researchers have established the activity of becoming a fan, maintaining one's fandom, and interacting with other fans is a multi-phase process that helps fans build relationships and make sense of the world in which they live. Whether it is related to the social and self concept consequences of fandom (Branscombe & Wann, 1991), the social identity battles related to in-group and outgroup behavior (Wann & Grieve, 2005), or the broadcasting of one's emotional sentiment through social media (Yu & Wang, 2015), spectator sport can be an interactive social catalyst that plays a major role in a fan's life. Thus, from a marketing perspective, measuring the socialization impact of spectator sport outcomes through BIRGing and CORFing behavior represents a worthwhile opportunity in today's global, social, and seemingly boundaryless world (Berthon, Pitt, Plangger, & Shapiro, 2012).

Given this opportunity, researchers have applied and assessed the BIRGing and CORFing behavior of fans in a number of spectator sport contexts such as college basketball (men's and women's), college football, professional baseball, professional football, and professional soccer (Dhurup, 2012; End, 2001; Kwon, Trail, & Lee, 2008; Madrigal, 1995; Trail et al. …

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