Exploring Fantasy Baseball Consumer Behavior: Examining the Relationship between Identification, Fantasy Participation, and Consumption
Shapiro, Stephen L., Drayer, Joris, Dwyer, Brendan, Journal of Sport Behavior
Identification is the process of linking an individual's experience and internal information processing to social networks created through interactions with others (Callero, 1985). This connection between "self" and "society" is the basis for identity theory which suggests that through experience and social interaction, individuals create various role-identities which influence future behaviors (Ervin & Stryker, 2001; Stryker, 1980; Stryker & Burke, 2000). Commitment to one's social network through experience and social interaction impacts identity salience which in turn influences individual behavior (Ervin & Stryker, 2001; Stryker, 1980).
From a spectator sport perspective, identity theory plays a significant role in the fan connection to sport, and this framework has been used in various forms to explain sport consumer behavior. Previous research provides evidence that identification influences consumption of sport-related products and services (Lavarie & Arnette, 2000; Madrigal, 1995; Trail, Anderson, & Fink, 2000, 2005; Trail, Fink, & Anderson, 2003). Additionally, fans appear to identify with multiple aspects of sport (e.g., team, individual players, the sport). These distinct points of attachment help explain individual consumption behavior (Robinson & Trail, 2005; Trail, Robinson, Dick, & Gillentine, 2003).
Despite the increased attention this area has received from researchers, there have been limited investigations regarding the role identification plays in the consumptive habits of fantasy sport participants. Previous research has identified relationships between identification and motives for fantasy participation and differing levels of identification between a participant's favorite team and fantasy team (Spinda, Wann, & Sollitto, 2012). However, the impact of identification on consumption for fantasy participants has not been explored. Residing primarily in a virtual world yet tied to real-world statistics, the activity of fantasy sport allows participants to own and manage a roster of professional athletes. The outcomes of this activity have been found to result in enhanced professional media consumption primarily in the form of television viewership of live games, televised sport programming, and internet usage (Dwyer, 2011a; Nesbit & King, 2010b). However, although the focus of fantasy sport is on the statistical output of individual athletes as opposed to teams, recent research has determined the activity is actually complementary to traditional professional sport fandom (Dwyer & Drayer, 2010; Dwyer, Shapiro, & Drayer, 2011). In other words, a fantasy participant can engage in the media consumption of his/ her fantasy players in addition to the consumption of his/her favorite team without having to sacrifice one for the other.
Despite these findings, little is known about a fantasy sport participant's points of attachment with professional sport. Spinda et al.'s (2012) findings demonstrate some distinct differences in points of attachment between team, individual, and sport. With additional opportunities to consume the product compared to non-participating sports fans (e.g., favorite team, fantasy players, opponent's fantasy players), examining various points of attachment relative to consumption habits will provide insight into this rapidly growing form of sport random. The population of fantasy sport participants is also an avid consumer of technology due to the nature of mediated participation in fantasy activities (Comeau, 2007; Farquhar & Meeds, 2007; Smith, Synowka, & Smith, 2010). This may impact both traditional forms of sport consumption (e.g., attendance, merchandise purchases) and mediated consumption (e.g., television, internet). Additional research regarding the various consumptive habits of this population of sport consumers is warranted. In particular, a deeper understanding of the antecedents of consumption would help media providers, team marketers, and league officials more completely meet the needs of this ever-expanding group of sport consumers. …