Buyer or Browser? an Analysis of Sports Fan Behaviour Online

By Zhang, Zhu; Won, Doyeon | International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Buyer or Browser? an Analysis of Sports Fan Behaviour Online


Zhang, Zhu, Won, Doyeon, International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship


Executive summary

As the number of internet users has grown, e-commerce has become one of the major profit-generating avenues for sports organisations. While the number of internet users for sports organisations' websites has increased, not all users purchase licensed sports merchandise (LSM) online. In this regard, understanding more about consumer characteristics might be the first critical step in developing an effective marketing strategy to capitalise on internet traffic in order to maximise the profit generation potential for sports organisations.

This study addresses the following research question: can sports marketers differentiate between sports fans who purchase LSM online (buyers) and those who just browse sport-related websites on the internet (browsers), based on sports fans' individual characteristics and their perceptions concerning sports websites? To investigate the differences between buyers and browsers, a set of four variables--fan identification, trust in internet shopping, attitude towards online purchasing, and perceptions of the convenience of internet shopping--were selected as 'sports fan characteristics' while the variables perceptions of product comparison service provided by websites and website price advantage were selected as 'sports website characteristics' based on shopping preference theory and sports marketing literature.

Findings from an empirical study using a convenience sample of 326 American and Australian college students indicate that sports fan characteristics and their perceptions concerning sports website characteristics have the ability to differentiate LSM online buyers from browsers. In particular, these findings suggest that 'attitude towards online purchasing' contributed most towards discriminating between the two groups, followed by 'perceptions of convenience', 'website price advantage', and 'trust in internet shopping'. No group differences based on participants' nationality was found.

The results of the present study suggest that sports marketers need to build their consumers' positive attitudes and perceptions towards e-commerce. As shopping preference theory and the theory of reasoned action suggest, enhancing their consumers' favourable attitudes and perceptions towards products and shopping medium (e-commerce) is a primary step for sports marketers in sustaining and expanding on their e-commerce consumer base given that consumers' behavioural intentions depend on these attitudes and perceptions. In particular, the results of the current study recommend that sports marketers should pay special attention to enhance 'attitudes towards purchasing LSM online' and 'trust in internet shopping' in order to more effectively market sports consumers in e-commerce settings.

Introduction

A number of sports researchers have predicted that the use of the World Wide Web as a medium for commerce would become a new revenue-generating avenue for sports organisations (e.g. Evans & Smith, 2004; Mahony & Howard, 2001; Zhang et al, 2006). This prediction was largely based on the enormous potential of accessing the vast population of internet users as well as the current popularity of sports websites. According to Computer Industry Almanac, Inc. (2006), an internet marketing research company, the worldwide number of internet users surpassed 1 billion in 2005; in the US there were nearly 200 million internet users at the end of 2005. The exact number of sports fans that use the internet to seek sports products is unknown, but it is safe to assume that the size of the population of online sports fans is enormous based on the Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal (2002), which found that 39% of those who had a personal computer had used the internet to obtain sports information, and approximately 72% of NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB fans used sports websites to check sports scores. The popularity of sports websites, especially among young adult males, was clearly evidenced in a study conducted by the Zandl Group (iMedia Communication, Inc. …

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