Academic journal article Irish Journal of Management

New Consumers and Football Fandom: The Role of Social Habitus in Consumer Behaviour

Academic journal article Irish Journal of Management

New Consumers and Football Fandom: The Role of Social Habitus in Consumer Behaviour

Article excerpt


Association toothall (or soccer) is widely credited with being the most popular sport in the world (Derbaix et al., 2002). Whether that claim is verifiable is not the topic of this paper. What is beyond question is that sports fandom is a source ot excitement and pleasure ibr millions (if not billions) of consumers worldwide, and many of these consumers happily spend much of their discretionary income in the pursuit ot their interest (Derbaix et al., 2002; End et al.,2002; Madrigal, 1995; Matsuoka et al.,2003).The loyalty of sports fans as consumers has therefore become firmly established on the academic research agenda in recent years (Kolbe and James, 2000; Mahony et al., 1999; Richardson and Dwyer, 2003).


Cialdini et al. (1976) concluded that basking in reflected glory, or EIRGing (End et al., 2002; Madrigal, iotj$), was a key source of pleasure and benefit to the sports fan. BIRGing is the attempted raising of social esteem levels through increased association with highly successful others (Madrigal, 1995).This could be through wearing team apparel after a victory, or verbal association, such as use of the pronoun "we" when talking about the team, again after a victory (Cialdini et al., iuyn; End et al., 2002). The tendency to IMRG is partly explained by social identity theory, which proposes that the motivation to boost self-esteem causes individuals to identify themselves strongly with a successful (and therefore positively perceived) group (End et al., 2002). Should the group, or in this case the team, experience failure, then the individual may seek to protect self-esteem through a process termed cutting oft reflected failure, or CORFing, which involves disassociating oneself from the losing team (End et al., 2002: Madrigal, 1995).

Madrigal (1995) suggests that these tendencies (i.e. to BIRG or COKF) help to explain the tendency of'fair weather' tans to avoid attending matches when the team are going through an unsuccessful period and the increased attendance at matches during a successful period.That in itself is of interest, but it does not explain why many fans continue to attend games even at those times when the team is unsuccessful.


Tendency to BIRG or CORF seems to be mitigated by the individual's level of team identification:

Team identification refers to a spectators involvement with and psychological connection to a sport team. (Wann and Schrader. 2000: 160)

Wann and Branscombe's Sports Spectator Identification Scale, or SSIS (Madrigal, 30OO, 199$; Wann and Schrader, 2000), utilises a Likert Scale test to measure the degree of team identification. Other studies (Matsuoka et al.. 2003) have used amended versions of this scale to examine the same question, i.e. the extent to which the individual identifies with a particular sports team.

This measure is of interest because of the apparent differences in the behaviour of high identifiers and low identifiers. High identifiers display a far greater propensity for self-serving bias (team victories explicable in terms of internal controllable factors such as team ability or fans' strong vocal support; defeat explicable through external factors such as cheating by the opposition, poor retereeing or other external and uncontrollable factors) (Wann and Schrader, 2000). They have higher pre-game expectations than low identifiers (Madrigal, 100$, 2003), stronger emotional reactions during a game and are more inclined to engage in 'wishful thinking' and less inclined to be objective about the team's likely future successes (Madrigal, 2003). High identifiers also have stronger intentions vis á vis future game attendance (Matsuoka et al., 2003).

High identifiers derive more enjoyment from their fandom than low identifiers:

... fans who view their association with the team as a more important facet of their self-identity tend to experience greater personal joy and seek greater individual association with the team when it experiences successful outcomes. …

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