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.

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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.

Explaining Sponsorships Using Analogy

By Jesse King, Ph.D. (Weber State University) and Robert Madrigal, Ph.D. (California State University, Chico)

Most sponsorship alignments do not make sense. For example, what does FedEx have to do with the NFL? This sponsorship is incongruent because the brand and property (e.g., events, teams, leagues, etc.) have little in common. In such cases, the brand must explain to consumers how it is related to the property. In a recent article in Journal of Sport Management, we find that using analogies is one tactic for explaining an incongruent sponsorship to consumers.

Understanding an analogy is like solving a puzzle. By highlighting shared associations, analogies provide a creative way for sport managers to explain how the brand is similar to the property. For example, FedEx makes use of an analogy by awarding the “Air and Ground Players of the Year” to the NFL’s top quarterback and running back.  The analogy allows fans to connect the actions of running backs and quarterbacks to ground and air delivery of a package, respectively. The package and football each plays the same relational role in this analogy. Just as a football may be passed through the air by a quarterback or carried by a running back on the ground, a FedEx package can be sent by air via a plane or ground delivered using a truck. Good analogies are useful because they promote a deeper understanding of the sponsor-event alignment. In this way, a sponsorship that once did not make sense to a consumer can explained in a way that links core equities of the property with those of the brand.

Creativity is required for fans to understand analogies and for sport managers to build them.  The goal for sport managers in creating analogies is to help the customer understand common functions in the sponsoring brand and sport property. To build analogies, managers should:

1) Identify Brand Action Words: Identify actions performed by the brand. This can be accomplished by identifying actions in terms of verbs used to describe a core function (e.g., Gillette razor blades shave hair off the body). Keep in mind that there are often many ways to describe the same action. For example, a close shave is achieved through close contact between the razor and few missed hairs.

2) Identify Property Action Words: Consider actions performed by the property that might align with those of the brand. Avoid shared surface traits such as common appearance (e.g., both property and brand’s logos are red) or immaterial detail (e.g., both players and employees wear uniforms). Instead, focus on common patterns of relationships that exist for the brand and for the property.

3) Avoid the Abstract: When creating analogical explanations, avoid abstract descriptors such as “excellence” or “integrity.” If no relevant actions within the property can be identified, the sponsor should work with the property to create something (e.g., award, event) that will serve a similar role to the actions that the brand wants to emphasize (e.g., the turnaround play of the game).

Analogies that explain deeper relationships are likely to be more effective than those that only explain surface similarities. For example, Gillette could explain a partnership with competitive swimming, a sport in which competitors “shave” the hair off their entire body prior to a major competition, by emphasizing shallow similarities associated with shaving hair and shaving seconds from a race time. However, a better fit might be achieved by explaining deeper patterns of shared relations. For instance, Gillette recently explained their partnership with Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby by emphasizing the relational importance of establishing close contact between a razor and skin as a way of making sure to not miss any hair follicles on one’s face with the importance of a baseball batter making contact with the ball in order to miss fewer pitches.

King Blog Photo 1

Key Takeaways:

In this research we found analogy improves sponsorship fit, relative to other types of explanation. They help because analogies are perceived as creative. Also, short explanations of analogies seem to be equally effective as more detailed explanations.

For sport managers this means that short messages such as “The FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year Awards” may be as effective as full press release in explaining a brand-property alignment.  Analogies are capable of concisely conveying a great deal of information. Because space and time are often severely limited in a sponsorship message, the use of analogy offers an efficient and creative method for concisely explaining how an incongruent brand is similar to a sports property.

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

By Dr. Brendan O’Hallarn (Old Dominion University)

“Twitter is Destroying America”

This stark headline greeted readers of current affairs and politics website The Week early in 2017, after a particularly ugly Presidential election campaign. The piece joined others with similarly bleak prognoses in The Atlantic and Medium as the popular social media site faced a rash of criticism over the prevalence of bad behaviors by its users.

For me, unabashed Twitter enthusiast, the critique represented a challenge. Can the enlightened, pro-democratic discourse Twitter promised during its hopeful early days

NASSM Blog Habermas
 Jürgen Habermas

as a vital organizing tool used by Arab Spring protesters still be realized? Can it still offer the potential to create dialogue akin to Jürgen Habermas’ public sphere?

The passion and consumption pattern of sport fans, along with specific aspects of Twitter architecture—notably the nimble hashtag—could spur the type of online discourse that Habermas termed deliberative democracy. Of course, barriers exist to that construct, notably the limitation on the length of tweets and the Online Disinhibition Effect, the tendency for online interactions to turn angry and negative.

On April 20, 2016, a former World Series-winning pitcher decided to make his political views very public.

The Military Child Education Coalition 17th National Seminar
Curt Schilling

Schilling was fired after sharing a meme on his Facebook wall about HB2, the North Carolina law which prohibits transgender people from choosing which bathrooms to use. It featured a picture of a large man in ill-fitting women’s clothing and the caption: “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you are a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling was swiftly fired by ESPN.

Clearly, two “teams” of Twitter users materialized—with pro-Schilling and pro-firing tweets appearing in abundance. Analyzing the conversation patterns demonstrated there was very little interaction between the “poles”—the two sides were almost exclusively talking past each other.

However, an online questionnaire given to users of #CurtSchilling in the time interval of the study revealed three interesting things:

  1. The users themselves felt a tremendous kinship with other users of the hashtag, feeling like they were part of a collective conversation;
  2. Almost universally, they had no interest in communicating with the other “side” in the debate, feeling like everyone’s mind was already made up; however,
  3. Despite the lack of interactions, hashtag users knew all of the arguments being put forward by the other side. Even though they weren’t discussing the issue actively with them, they were consuming the alternative viewpoints.

Why This Matters:

The general fulfillment from users of the hashtag and the awareness of differing viewpoints (even if not commented upon) suggest some behavior approaching the Habermasian public sphere is present in the interactions.

For #Sportsbiz Professionals:

If they are running an active Twitter feed for their organization, the feeling that “engagement” with followers is the only way to feel like your feed is making an impact. Sometimes it’s worth simply knowing that even if they don’t voice their opinions, people are listening.

 

For those interested in reading in more detail, find the full research article here.

Challenge accepted: Why women play fantasy football

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants.

By Brendan Dwyer (Virginia Commonwealth University), Joshua M. Lupinek (University of Alaska-Fairbanks), & Rebecca Achen (Illinois State University)

Women dominate the consumer economy. Some estimate that they control over 75% of all discretionary purchases and represent a growth market larger than China and India combined. Yet, our marketing strategies for this lucrative population are often stuck in the 1950s. Spectator sport marketing provides a harrowing example of this, as we often engage women’s sports fans through the “Pink it and Shrink it” strategy. That is, we take a product initially marketed toward men, like a football jersey and make it pink and smaller. While strategy may reach some women, it fails to fully represent the unique needs and wants of this important demographic.

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Credit: Julia Gilbert (www.juliagilbertart.com)

In the context of fantasy football, women make up nearly 38% of participants and represent the fastest growing demographic for the activity. This is unique phenomenon, as fantasy football has been portrayed as a highly masculine domain. In the sport management and communications literature, most of the research on fantasy football has focused on why people participate. The resulting motives vary from one study to the next, but consistency between the studies exists in that nearly all of them surveyed or interviewed male participants only. A few studies have then taken the motive instruments developed through male samples and applied them to female samples.

This provides some utility; however, similar to the above “Pink it and Shrink it” strategy, it misses the opportunity to understand the unique motives of female fantasy participants. Certainly women play for the same reasons as men, but they may also play for reasons that have never been measured. The current study aimed to explore this phenomenon.

The current study explored why women play fantasy football through a scale development research design. We conducted multi-stage, mixed methods study where women fantasy football participants and sports fans were inductively interviewed, motives were then developed, refined, and retested on two larger samples of female fantasy football participants. In total, 450 participants were studied.

As expected, women play fantasy football for similar reasons as men, but also play for unique reasons. A total of five motivation factors were uncovered.

Three factors (Enjoy, Enhance, and Socialize) are similar to motives previously found by sport management and communications scholars, and two factors (Challenge and Connect) are unique to female participants. These factors include:

  • Enjoy: playing for fun and entertainment
  • Enhance: to improve the time spent engage in NFL-related activities
  • Socialize: to bond, compete, and stay in contact with friends, family, and coworkers Two factors, however, represent new motives for the fantasy sport knowledge base.
  • Challenge: The first unique motive. It represents the opportunity to engage and defeat male opponents in a male-dominated environment.
  • Connect: The second motive signified the drive to connect with individual NFL players on a deeper level through fantasy participation.

Validity testing found that the Enjoy and Enhance factors predicted NFL viewership, the Connect factor predicted social media use, and the Challenge factor negatively predicted enjoyment with the activity and positively predicted frustration. In general, the findings provide a number of takeaways for both academics and practitioners.

For academics, there remains a need for understanding the unique attitudes and behaviors of female sports fans. The current study is evidence that similarities obviously exist with males, but there are also distinct aspects to being a female sports fan.

For practitioners, the Challenge factor may represent an opportunity for more empowerment-related marketing tactics for female fantasy football participants and potentially female sports fans, in general. Empowerment marketing has grown recently, since its inception in the late 1960s. Companies like Under Armor and Dick’s Sporting Goods have utilized empowerment messages directly with sports equipment and apparel. Fantasy football may represent another platform for this marketing strategy. Similar to the female consumers, in general, female sports fans are powerful, and more empirical research in this area is advised.

Interested in learning more? Read the full article here.