Segmenting Consumers of Professional Soccer: Identifying the Enthusiast

By Pick, Charlotte; Gillett, Alex G. | Journal of Services Research, October-March 2018 | Go to article overview

Segmenting Consumers of Professional Soccer: Identifying the Enthusiast


Pick, Charlotte, Gillett, Alex G., Journal of Services Research


INTRODUCTION

The sport of association football (or soccer) is the most supported sport in the world and its consumer base is still growing observed Boudway (2018). The scope of the soccer industry is demonstrated by the fact, that soccer's global governing body FIFA has more members than the UN commented De Bruijn & Leijten (2007). The relevance for service research is that in simple terms, soccer fans are customers and soccer clubs, teams and governing institutions are service organizations.

The financial pressures on clubs and the companies which own them have become more complicated, and increasing amounts of capital are invested as owners pursue success, to satisfy their supporter-base, grow the club, achieve a media profile, or in some cases to simply sustain the club's professional status of the club. In this way, professional soccer clubs can be considered to follow their own institutional logic, that of professional sport observed Gillett and Tennent (2018). Whilst soccer has been commoditized and marketing has become an increasingly important topic, the peculiar finances of football clubs therefore are nteresting from the research point of view, because sports consumers do not behave as predictably as those of goods brands showed Neale, (1964); and Kuper and Szysmnski(2012).Although according to Abosag et al. (2012) supporters, who are orientated towards future possible achievements, see the benefits accruing to their club out of branding.

As an important element of the marketing planning process MacDonald et al. (2011) stated, that research into the segmentation of soccer fans is frequently published in market research reports like Kynote (2015) and has also been the subject of several academic studies. Of the latter, perhaps the most notable has been Tapp and Clowes (2002) pape,r which focused on the English Premier League (the EPL - the elite league in England and most financially lucrative in the world),which drew upon experiences within the direct marketing sector based upon data collected during the final years of the last millennium, proposed to segment soccer fans on the basis of customer value, and sought to complement the use of traditional geo-demographic and psychographic variables. Since Tapp and Clowes (2002) published their work, the amounts of money involved in the global soccer industry have increased significantly as commented by Deloitte (2015); and Keynote (2015), whilst the financial pressures on clubs have not subsided.

A simple way to categorize the football club's revenues is into three broad streams: match day, broadcasting and commercial activity . Whilst the majority of supporters (13.9 million) attend EPL games, the total attendances in the Football League reached 9.2 million in the Championship (English football's second tier), 4.2 million in League One (the third tier) and 2.4 million in League Two (the fourth tier). In addition to having less supporters in their stadiums, clubs outside of the EPL are also unable to bargain for the same significant revenues from broadcasting. Furthermore, a lack of global television coverage limits other streams of commercial income for lower-league clubs in comparison to EPL clubs; because with less brand exposure it is more difficult to raise awareness. This disparity in the values of the leagues has widened over the years and even when compared to other leading European elite leagues, the EPL looks different, its total revenues €2.1bn in 2012/13 being approximately double those of its nearest competitors Italy(€1.2bn), Spain (€1bn), and Germany (€1bn) as reported by KeyNote (2015). This gap is highlighted by the fact that of the top 30 revenue generating clubs globally, 14 compete in the EPL stated Deloitte (2015).

Our study investigates segmentation in relation to the behavior and attitudes of lower league football supporters to refine and develop a framework for their segmentation. Compared to previous studies such as Tapp and Clowes (2002) and Tapp (2004) which have placed particular focus on the EPL, which is an a typical market1; our findings are more broadly applicable to a greater number of soccer clubs and their stakeholders. …

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