Examining Similarities and Differences in Consumer Motivation for Playing and Watching Soccer

By Tokuyama, Sagatomo; Greenwell, T. Christopher | Sport Marketing Quarterly, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Examining Similarities and Differences in Consumer Motivation for Playing and Watching Soccer


Tokuyama, Sagatomo, Greenwell, T. Christopher, Sport Marketing Quarterly


Abstract

Knowing similarities and differences between sport participants and spectators can be advantageous for sport marketers as it may allow sport organizations to increase their consumer base beyond their traditional consumers. Therefore, the present study is aimed at examining similarities and differences of consumer motivation for both playing and watching sports. Using a sample of soccer consumers who both play and watch soccer (N = 237), the study found that for the most part, motivations for playing and watching soccer were different. However, affiliation was found to predict commitment to both playing and watching for highly involved individuals. Similarly, stress reduction was found to predict commitment to both playing and watching for lesser involved individuals. These findings help marketers in the soccer industry determine how spectator sport can be marketed to sport participants, and likewise how participant sport can be marketed to spectators.

Introduction

Two major consumption activities in sport are (a) participant sport (i.e., playing sport) and (b) spectator sport (i.e., watching sport), which produce two types of consumer groups (Cohen & Avrahami, 2005; Shamir & Ruskin, 1984). Accordingly, consumers of these respective activities are called 'sport participants' and 'sport spectators.' Since sport participants and sport spectators consume different activities, they are usually considered separate independent consumer groups, and most studies have focused on only one of the two activities (Milne, Sutton, & McDonald, 1996). Given current economic conditions and a saturated market, it is more likely that some sport organizations need to market not only to their traditional consumers (e.g., spectators), but also beyond their traditional consumers (e.g., participants) in order to increase their consumer base. Thus, identifying similarities and differences between consumers of the two activities would help sport marketers determine how spectator sports can be marketed to sport participants, and likewise how participant sports can be marketed to spectators.

Soccer within the United States is a good example of one sport that could benefit from this information. Major League Soccer (MLS) is one entity that has been attempting to increase their spectator base by marketing to soccer participants. Undoubtedly, soccer is one of the most popular sports to both play and watch throughout the world, however, this is not the case in the US (Carlin, 2010; Saporito, 2010). Although soccer has become one of the most popular sports to play, especially among youth, it does not seem that many of these soccer participants watch soccer games as passionately as they play (Brown, 2007). This may be an important factor to explain why MLS is still seen as a second-tier sport league in the US (Collins, 2006). To deal with this issue, MLS sponsors many grassroots tournaments throughout the country, not to make a profit, but to create interest toward the league among soccer participants (Warfield, 2004). This marketing strategy clearly indicates that 16 million soccer participants in the US (Levitan, 2008) are a major target group for MLS.

The important question, then, is "how should Major League Soccer market to soccer participants?" Since soccer participants are different consumers from soccer spectators, the ways MLS markets to traditional soccer spectators may not be effective when marketing to soccer participants. Thus, knowing soccer participants' reasons for watching soccer is critical in developing successful marketing plans. This example illustrates a significant gap in the literature, as only a limited number of studies have looked at similarities and differences of consumer characteristics for participant sport and spectator sport. As a result, sport marketers are still left with little knowledge of how to effectively encourage spectators to play the sport or get players to watch the sport. …

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