Feeling That In-Group Feeling at a Sponsored Sporting Event: Links to Memory and Future Attendance
By Dr. T. Bettina Cornwell (University of Oregon), Dr. Steffen Jahn (University of Goettingen), Dr. Hu Xie (Western Michigan University), and Wang Suk Suh (University of Oregon).
Have you ever felt alone at a crowded event? If you have felt outside the group, you can imagine that you might focus on different things. When you feel swept up with others in the swirl of activity, well, it is just more fun. It is also easy to imagine that event organizers and sponsors would like for you to enjoy an event, for your sake and theirs.
We investigated the emotions that people feel while at a track and field event. Excitement, joy and pride are emotions we might experience in viewing sport. We can also get bored waiting for the next event or feel discontent, especially if things are not going to plan. We were interested in these sorts of emotions in the research but also wanted to know if experiencing these emotions with others made a difference.
We began with the thinking that you might come to an event alone, or even with others, but your common interest in the event helps you to feel like you are part of the in-group. Importantly, if you do have that in-group feeling, what happens?
We found that emotions influence things like what sponsors you remember. Excitement, boredom, and the overall group atmosphere at an event influence sponsor recall in different ways. Excitement, contrary to popular thinking, can support recall for sponsors.
Feeling In-Group Matters for Sponsor Recall.
What was really interesting is that emotions are related to the extent of in-group feelings. For example, when people feel they are part of an in-group, excitement further supports recall for sponsors. When people don’t feel like they are part of the in-group, not only does excitement not support recall of sponsors, boredom negatively influences it too.
Similarly, in terms of attending the event in the future, emotions play a role and so do your in-group feelings. Group atmosphere, boredom and joy all influence future attendance. Feeling a group atmosphere, where “compared to other events, other attendees at this event create a great atmosphere” really makes a difference if you feel like you are part of that group.
Sport has always delivered emotional engagement and sponsors have always been attracted to sports for it. This research confirms that thinking and guides it. The findings suggest that events should find ways to help attendees feel a part of the event.
Idea for the Industry: For a multi-day event, it might be worthwhile to imagine events where people meet and greet others before attending the sporting events. Make queues into opportunities. Instead of letting people stand in line with little interaction or amusement, turn this captive audience into a chance to meet people by incentivizing meeting someone new.
For Sponsors: the good news is that excitement at an event is not necessarily detrimental for learning about sponsors. It was the case, however, that a great atmosphere that moves out into surrounding areas may encompass sponsors intentional ambushers or simply other brands that are later remembered as sponsors.
The clear finding is that building in-group feelings is positive for event organizers and event sponsors, and we feel, event attendees.
Interested in learning more about this research? Read the article in the September Issue of the Journal of Sport Management.