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Major League Soccer Fan Demographics

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It’s almost over! My paper “MLS Sponsorship: Activating to Increase Brand Equity” is close to being complete, and I will be a graduate of the University of San Francisco’s, Sport Management Graduate Program, on Wednesday.

I wanted to share with you the results section of my paper.  It is a little dry, but if you are interested in Major League Soccer, or interested in possible sponsorship opportunities, it may be of benefit to you.  Incase you have not read my post, “Can VW sell more cars because of its MLS Sponsorship?” survey participants were recruited from the Facebook pages of five MLS teams.

If you have any questions about my results, please do not hesitate to ask.  I welcome any inquiries about my work.

In all, 231 questionnaires were collected.  Due to incomplete responses, 29 of the questionnaires had to be discarded.  The margin of error for survey results is 7%.

Los Angeles Galaxy fans accounted for 27.2% of survey respondents.  The remaining fan bases and their corresponding percentages were: Real Salt Lake (20.8%), Houston Dynamo (17.3%), New York Red Bulls (14.9%), Seattle Sounders FC (13.9%), and other (5.9%). 63.4% of Survey respondents ranked their MLS team as their favorite professional sports franchise, and another 17.8% ranked it as their second favorite.

An overwhelmingly majority (77.7%) of survey respondents were male.  Notable, when compared to Facebook statistics that show 56% of Facebook users are female (Inside Facebook, 2010).  Caucasian (65.0%) was the ethnicity most cited by respondents.  Over three-quarters (77.7%) of survey respondents were 37 years of age or younger, only 63% of Facebook users are 35 years of age or younger.  The age brackets and their corresponding percentages are shown in the graph below.

Survey participants were highly educated, 48.3% reported having a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.  Education levels and their corresponding percentages were: high school (33.8%), Bachelor’s Degree (31.8%), graduate degree (16.5%), trade school (4.0%), and Associate’s Degree (13.9%).

A majority of survey respondents (60.9%) reported having attended ten or more matches in their lifetime, an additional 15.8% have attended between 4-9 matches. Moreover, 82.7% of survey respondents attended a MLS match in 2009, with 56.9% of survey respondents attending five or more matches.  Their past experiences are indicative of future consumption habits, 81.2% responded that they will “definitely attend a MLS match in 2010”.  Additionally, respondents were active followers of their MLS team on the Internet; 86.6% of respondents reported visiting their MLS team’s Web site within a week of taking the survey, with 69.4% of survey respondents visiting the team’s Web site within 24 hours of taking the survey.  More survey respondents reported watching a Spanish language television channel – for more than ten minutes – in the past month (48.5%), than those that have never watched a Spanish language television channel (23.3%).

Hispanic was the second most identified ethnicity by survey respondents at 24.8%.  The majority of Hispanic respondents (76%) were first-generation Americans, and the remaining 24% were immigrants.  Respondents identifying their ancestry with Spain did not classify themselves as Hispanic, as did a few respondents of Caribbean, Central American, or Spanish-speaking South American decent. When all respondents from these regions were included in the Hispanic demographic, they accounted for 31.1% of survey respondents. The geographic identity of these respondents were concentrated in three regions: Central America (31.7%) Mexico (30.2%), and Spanish-speaking South America (23.8%).

Volkswagen had the highest fan-recognition level amongst MLS Official Sponsors, and was the only sponsor to be recognized by more than 50% of survey respondents.  Budweiser was the only other sponsor to have a fan-recognition level which exceeded the uncertainty response.  The chart below shows the official sponsor and its recognition rate from the survey.

Fan Recognition Rate for MLS Official Sponsors
Volkswagen 55.50%
Budweiser 47.50%
Gatorade 36.60%
AT&T 33.70%
American Airlines 26.20%
Visa 25.20%
Degree Deodorant 21.80%

Survey respondents did not believe a MLS sponsorship would affect their consumption habits, 55.4% of survey respondents stated they are not more likely to regularly consume a product/service because it is a MLS sponsor – 43.1% stated they were more likely – and 58.9% stated that they are not more likely to refer a product/service to a family member or friend because it is a MLS sponsor (40.1% are more likely).

Written by Peter Amador

May 16, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Hispanic Millennials: The Future of MLS

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Major League Soccer’s future success is contingent upon its ability to market its game to first and second generation Hispanic-Americans. 

The United States Census Bureau estimates there are 48 million Hispanics living in the United States, a number which is expected to increase to 73 million by 2030.  I contend that this figure will be driven by an increase in American born Hispanics, opposed to immigration.  Arizona may be considered a rogue state today, but we are a nation which is increasingly moving right of center. However politically untenable the situation may become, I believe the rate of illegal immigration will decrease in the coming decades.  Thus, any increase in the Hispanic population of the United States will be attributable to an increase in birth rates; a development which my statistics suggest will serve MLS well.      

I recently recruited 202 survey participants from the Facebook fan pages of five MLS teams, and Hispanics accounted for 25% of survey participants. I acknowledge the economic bias of my recruitment method; however, I contend the disparity between immigrants and first-generation survey participants is indeed indicative of a trend amongst MLS fans.  

First-generation Americans accounted for 76% of Hispanic respondents, with immigrants accounting for the remaining 24%.  The lack of second-generation Hispanic-Americans, indicates first-generation Hispanic-Americans of the Baby Boomer generation assimilated into American culture through football, basketball and baseball, and did not communicate a passion for soccer to their children.  First-generation Hispanic-Americans from Generation X did not face the discrimination of their predecessors, and gravitated to soccer without the fear of being ostracized.  This generation will produce a second-generation of Hispanic-Americans whom share a passion for soccer with their fathers.  However, to maximize the potential of the Hispanic demographic, MLS must attract more Mexican-Americans to its games.       

Mexican-Americans account for 68% of Hispanics in the United States, but only 30% of Hispanic survey respondents.  It has been theorized that Mexican-Americans have been slow to adopt MLS because of the availability of Mexican First Division matches on Spanish language television in the United States.  Mexican-Americans can continue to follow teams in their native country, unlike their Central and South American counterparts.  Furthermore, the escalating rivalry amongst the national teams of Mexico and the United States, inhibits many Mexican immigrants from accepting any form of American soccer.  Mexican immigrants’ indignation towards American soccer will not transcend generations.

MLS provides first-generation Hispanic-Americans the opportunity to define their American identity, without abandoning their cultural attachment to the sport of soccer.  First-generation Hispanic-Americans from Generation X have proven that they will embrace MLS.  Therefore, it stands to reason that first-generation Hispanic-Americans of the Millennial generation will continue to gravitate to the league.  Their support, in conjunction with their second-generation counterparts, provides a reassuring confidence to MLS; the only professional sports league which is expanding domestically.

Written by Peter Amador

May 12, 2010 at 9:27 AM

The King of Beer’s World Cup Strategy

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You‘re the largest beer company in the world, and have the marketing rights to the world’s most popular event.  What do you do?  You activate on a scale not seen since Gen. George C. Marshall was the United States Army’s, Chief of Staff.

A-B InBev is launching multiple offensives for Budweiser’s 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsorship.  They have effectively turned a 30 day tournament into a four-month global marketing blitz.  Roger Goodell and the NFL could not have done any better. 

A-B InBev Chief Marketing Officer Chris Burggraeve said the campaign is “about uniting beer drinkers around the world and celebrating the game of football.”  To do so, the campaign includes grassroots, digital, and interactive components.  A-B InBev will be activating in every hemisphere of the world. 

Budweiser launched its marketing blitz in March: the soccer-style Budweiser United crest was unveiled, the six-on-six grassroots soccer tournament “Budweiser Cup” began, and the Budweiser Man of the Match Sweepstakes was announced. 

The Budweiser Cup is a 12-country tournament, and the finals will be played on July 1st in a FIFA World Cup stadium.  The United States tournament is being played in 16 California cities, and is heavily marketed to Hispanics under the name “La Copa Budweiser”.  The tournament is supported with print, radio, out-of-home, and television advertisements.  La Copa Budweiser enabled Budweiser to secure product displays in Hispanic supermarkets during the month of March.  According to a Budweiser representative, the displays accounted for an additional 3,000 cases of Budweiser being sold in San Diego during the month of March.  La Copa Budweiser also served as a cause marketing platform, the brand donated $16,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund of California.  Budweiser will maintain its display space in the Hispanic supermarkets through the duration of the World Cup (that’s an extra 12,000 cases of “Big Red” being sold to Hispanics in San Diego from March-July). The displays  will promote the Budweiser Man of the Match after La Copa Budweiser.   

 Logos of Budweiser United, Hispanic Scholarship, and MLS on the backdrop.

Photo taken at the San Diego tournament, and no, I am not in the picture.

The Budweiser Man of the Match Sweepstakes is a soccer fan’s Make a Wish Foundation.  Sweepstakes winners – 10 from the United States – receive an all-expenses paid trip to the World Cup, and the right to present the Budweiser Man of the Match award on the pitch following a World Cup match.  The sweepstakes drove traffic to Budweiser’s Web site from March 1st – May 1st , and increased awareness of Budweiser’s FIFA sponsorship in the months leading up to the World Cup (especially at points-of-sale).  Budweiser’s “March to May” marketing strategy is driving awareness of its sponsorship prior to the tournament.  The increased awareness of its sponsorship will maximize the efficiency of the brand’s interactive World Cup initiatives.

Bud House is Jersey Shore meets Survivor, except the house mates fist pump to goals instead of DJ Pauly’s party mix.  Bud House will have one house mate from each of the 32 countries participating in the World Cup, 16 males and 16 females.  The house mates bunking accommodations will be based on World Cup matches e.g., house mates from the US, England, Slovenia, and Algeria will share a room.  House mates will be kicked out as their team is eliminated, until the World Cup Final.  Then, the two remaining house mates will attend the championship match, with the winner presenting the Budweiser Man of the Match award to the Finals MVP.  Budweiser will upload 6-8 Bud House webisodes per day, and there are plans to stream live video from the house.  

Bud House is a great idea.  It is a format which Millennials (Budweiser’s target demo is males 21-35) are comfortable with, and the brevity (3-5 minutes) of the webisodes will appeal to them.  Bud House’s success is contingent upon Budweiser’s ability to create captivating stories out of the house mates interactions.  As much as I like  Bud House, the true interactive/groundbreaking component of Budweiser’s marketing strategy is the Budweiser Man of the Match voting.

Fans will determine the Budweiser Man of the Match online.  Think about that for a second…  A FIFA award will be determined by the fans, via an online poll, and be presented by Budweiser consumers.  

Budweiser Man of the Match voting is an example of a brand capitalizing  on the dynamic way in which fans are consuming sports.  Hundreds of millions of fans will have the opportunity to literally touch the Budweiser brand during World Cup action. Fans will be tweeting, posting, and looking up statistics during the matches (from laptops and smart phones), and now they will be interacting with the Budweiser brand.  Furthermore, think if they incorporated Facebook Connect into the voting. How many more millions of consumers would its FIFA sponsorship reach if every time someone casted a vote it posted to their profile? 

Now only if Budweiser would create a World Cup specific app, or partner with a supermarket chain on a Foursquare promotion during the World Cup.

Can VW sell more cars because of its MLS sponsorship?

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Volkswagen was recognized as the Official Automotive Sponsor (OAS) of Major League Soccer by 55.0% of the 202 Major League Soccer fans I surveyed in the past month.  To put that into perspective, GM is the OAS of MLB and the NFL.  GM’s 2009 recognition levels for those two properties were 31.4% and 30.0%, respectively (SportsBusiness Journal, Feb. 15-21, 2010).  Additionally, a SBJ and Turnkey Intelligence poll conducted the week prior to this year’s Super Bowl, revealed 30.7% of Avid NFL Fans could correctly identify GM as the leagues OAS (SportsBusiness Journal, Mar. 1-7, 2010).  If I were to use a similar guideline to distinguish Avid MLS Fans – fans stating that their MLS team is their 1st or 2nd favorite professional sports team, and have attended 10 or more MLS matches in their life – Volkswagen would have a fan-recognition level of 61.4% (70/114).  It would be difficult to postulate that a MLS sponsorship is more effective than a sponsorship with MLB, NFL or NBA; however, with the statistics from my survey, we can begin to examine the merits of a MLS sponsorship. 

Here is a brief description of how I recruited survey participants:

202 Major League Soccer (MLS) fans were surveyed from March 10 – April 15th, 2010.   Respondents were recruited via the Facebook Fan pages of the: Los Angeles Galaxy; Houston Dynamo; Major League Soccer; New York Red Bulls; Real Salt Lake; and Seattle Sounders FC.  A small percentage of the 202 respondents were recruited through LinkedIn and Twitter.

Survey participants were active and engaged MLS fans: 69.3% had visited their MLS team’s Web site within 24 hours of taking the survey, 81.2% stated that they will definitely attend a MLS match in 2010, and 56.9% attended 5 or more matches during the 2009 season.  Furthermore, the survey required respondents to take two deliberate actions to participate.  First they had to become a Fan of a MLS team on FB, and then they had to click a link posted on the team’s FB Fan Page.   These fans actions indicate they will be more responsive to a sponsor’s message, and more likely to change their purchase behavior because of a sponsorship.  If a brand can establish a presence within MLS, its brand equity will increase because of the league’s status with the consumer. 

VW, like every other MLS sponsor I studied, is leveraging its MLS sponsorship to increase its brand image with Hispanics.  A noble and wise ambition.  Hispanics/Latinos represented one-quarter (50/202) of survey respondents, and VW has an established presence in Latin America that has not translated into sales with Hispanic-Americans.  However, VW’s recognition numbers decreased with Hispanics to 48% (every sponsor experienced a decrease in recognition with Hispanics).  Not a large decrease – VW was the sponsor with the highest recognition rate amongst Hispanics – but one that can, and should be improved upon. 

Hispanics were 41.3% more likely to “regularly consume/purchase a product if that product/service is an Official Sponsor of MLS” than White/Caucasians respondents (Whites/Caucasians represented 65% of survey participants).  Granted, sponsorships are not as effective in changing consumer behavior for large purchases such as cars – due to the likely involvement of another party – but this is a significant result.  If your goal is to change consumer behavior, you should target those who are willing/eager to embrace your brand.  Furthermore, opportunities exist for brands to establish themselves with the next generation of Hispanic consumers.

76% of respondents identifying themselves as Hispanic/Latino had at least one parent born outside of the United States.  The other 24% of Hispanic/Latino respondents were born outside of the United States.  Their offspring will grow up rooting for a MLS team, opposed to a team in Mexico’s First Division or another foreign league.  The next generation of Hispanic MLS soccer fans should be arriving shortly.  92% of Hispanic/Latino fans are under the age of 37, with 42% between the ages of 19-25 (note: this could be attributable to the survey being conducted on FB, but only 26% of Caucasian respondents were between the ages of 19-25).  

VW might be selling a lot more Jettas in 2030… Heck, you might be seeing more Tigans, Routans and CCs at your kids AYSO games.  

**** I am only using the SBJ numbers as a reference point.  It would be irresponsible to make a correlation between their numbers and mine.  Their methodology and respondents are too different.

Written by Peter Amador

April 21, 2010 at 6:18 PM

Co-Branding: Beyond Brand Equity

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I read a FANTASTIC article “Equity in Coporate Co-Branding: The case of the All Blacks and adidas”.  It described the evolution of adidas’ sponsorship of the All Blacks rugby team into a co-branding partnership. 

Co-branding should be considered the apex of the sponsorship pyramid.  Below, is an except from a section of my work on sponsorship components.  Co-branding is discussed at the end.

Brands have utilized sponsorships to increase brand awareness and brand image for the purpose of building brand equity with their intended audience (Cornwell, Roy, & Steinard, 2001).  Brand awareness relates to a consumers ability to recognize and recall a brand (Keller, 1993).  Brand image is the consumer’s association of the brand in terms of: favorability, strength, and uniqueness (Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer, & Exler, 2008).                                       

Research has demonstrated a sponsorship to be the most effective in building brand equity when a brand’s image is a fit with the property’s (Cunningham, Cornwell, & Coote, 2009).  Furthermore, brand equity enables the brand to position itself within the consumer’s expectations for brand performance (Ferreira, Hall, & Bennett, 2008).  The alignment of a brand’s image with a property’s, propagates brand loyalty from the consumer of a sporting event, or franchise, to the brand.  The expectation of which is an increase in revenue for the brand directly attributable to the positioning of a brand with a property (Maxwell, 2009).

Sponsorships can be deemed a co-branding exercise when the brand and property’s image are positively impacted by a partnership (McDonald, et.al, 2001).  Motion, Leitch, and Brodie (2003) stipulate, “… co-branding is not simply cooperation between two organizations, but must involve public linkage of corporate brands that are owned or controlled by two different organizations.” To effectively build a co-branding partnership, the partners must share core values which enable them to enter the marketplace and compete effectively.  

A successful co-branding partnership will:

  1. Communicate clearly and consistently the co-brand promise
  2. Differentiate the co-brand promise
  3. Enhance the esteem and loyalty of consumer, stakeholders, and networks (Balmer, 2001, p.14)

The subject of Motion, Leitch, and Brodie’s (2003) work was the co-branding of New Zealand Rugby Union’s (NZRU), All Blacks with adidas.  The effort was successful because NZRU and adidas sought to make the rugby consumer perceive them as a unified organization.  The change in perception was intended to change their consumers and stakeholders behavior.  To achieve their co-branding objective, adidas and NZRU officials sought first to align their brand values, and secondly to gain the public’s “acceptance of the articulation” of the co-branding endeavor. 

NZRU and adidas shared the goal of establishing the All Blacks presence internationally.  The All Blacks and adidas pursed their goal by emphasizing the core values which their brands shared “excellence, respect, and humility”.  Furthermore, adidas embraced the All Blacks as a representation of the values of New Zealand; therefore, the co-branding was consistent with the All Blacks brand image.

Written by Peter Amador

March 22, 2010 at 8:57 AM

A good move to be “Miles Away from Ordinary” in the ATP?

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Groupo Modelo’s decision to invest $70 million over 5 1/2 years for its Corona Extra brand to become the premier partner of the ATP Tour has raised some eyebrows.  Bob Basche, chairman of Millsport, described Corona’s partnership with the ATP as a category reach for the brand.  While I do not believe the sponsorship is a category reach – my presumption of the ATP’s demographics is affluent, active, middle-aged males; sounds like a good fit for Corona – I would like to argue for Corona’s investment based upon Hyung-Seok Lee and Chang-Hoan Cho’s work “The Matching Effect of Brand and Sporting Event Personality: Sponsorship Implications” (2009).  After all, we should feel encouraged that a deal of this magnitude has come to fruition.  There’s hope for Jerry Jones and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority!   

Sponsorship research has primarily focused on the necessity of a brand matching its sponsorship portfolio with the lifestyles and interests of its targeted market.  This would explain Monster Energy Drink’s successful partnership with motocross.  They are both targeting white males,14-30 years old, that are thrill seekers (having worked at six motocross events I can safely make this assertion).  However, if you are a marketer without such an intuitive brand fit as Monster and motocross, how should you approach sponsorship?  You could take Spongetech’s approach and sponsor every team on the Eastern Seaboard, or you could look deeper.  You could look to your company’s DNA to determine if a property is a personality match.

Lee and Cho describe this match as “personality congruence”.  Previous research has established the anthropomorphism of brands by their consumers – Aaker in “Dimension of Brand Personality” (1997) described the five personality dimensions as: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness – but little research has been done to see if people ascribe similar human characteristics to sporting events.  Lee and Cho undertook this task in their previous work “Sporting Event Personality: Scale development and sponsorship implications” (2007), finding consumers associate sporting events with the traits of: diligence, unihibitedness, fit, tradition, and amusement.  The U.S. Open of Tennis to be associated with the trait of diligence.

Lee and Cho determined the best pairing, of the 25 possible combinations between brand personalities and event personalities, was that of a sincerity brand e.g., Cheerios or Hallmark, with a sporting event inferred to be diligent. 

****The word inferred here is important.  Brands proactively create an image, while sporting events/franchises image is molded by the consumer. A hockey franchise is a hockey franchise.  I do not find their product appealing; therefore, a brand’s image would not be elevated in my opinion as a consumer were they to sponsor an NHL franchise (as a marketer I believe the NHL does have value i.e., an affluent, educated, tech savvy and passionate fan base).  However, it is possible the NHL franchise’s image would be elevated in my opinion were they to strike an accord with a brand I admire.  An interesting topic I will tackle in a future post. ****      

One point of contention I have with Lee and Cho’s work, which they acknowledge as a flaw, is their choice of subjects.  As with most academic research, undergrads looking for extra credit were the participants in the experiment.  Tennis’ diminished stature in the United States would preclude most college students from developing an opinion of the sport.  Furthermore, the 18-22 year old demographic is a mercurial one, and not necessarily a fair representation of the population at whole.  I believe tennis should be associated with the characteristics of tradition or fit, more so than diligence.  The vagueness of their sporting event classifications leaves something to be desired.  Nevertheless, the idea of “personality congruence” is an important revelation.  We are more likely to do business with people whom we find agreeable; therefore, it would make sense that we align our properties with a compatible partner.

James Martin of ESPN.com, argued that Corona’s sponsorship of the ATP would enhance the tour’s image.  He stated the sponsorship would appeal to “the highly coveted Joe Sixpacks of the world.”  I disagree.  Only a brand with the personality trait of  “ruggedness”  e.g., any domestic beer, would enable the ATP to penetrate the “Joe Sixpacks” demographic.  Corona has a personality that would be considered either “sophisticated” or “sincere”.  While the ATP may not be able to reach a new subset of individuals, Corona may benefit immensely from their investment in the ATP.

As was stated previously, Lee and Cho found the best sponsorship pairing to be a “sincerity” brand with a “diligent” sporting event.  Their research also found participants to have an increase perception of a “sincerity” brand when it sponsored a “fit” or “tradition” sporting event.  “Sophistication” brands were found to have the greatest personality congruence with “diligence” and “tradition” events.  Thus, if we believe Corona to be a “sophisticated” or “sincerity” brand, we must then assume – according to Lee and Cho’s work – Corona’s marriage to the ATP  as a “personality congruence”.

Theoretically, we can argue for the partnership, but will its ATP sponsorship enable Corona to penetrate the markets of Europe and China, or increase its market share in the United States (where, according to my inside sources, Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign has done a number on Corona’s sales)?  As with any sponsorship it will come down to how Corona activates its sponsorship.  Will they host events in cities leading up to ATP tournaments?  Will they interact with ATP fans via social media channels?  Will they sign Rafael Nadal as an endorser (doubtful, considering Corona’s emphasis on the experience of drinking its product)? Will they create a campaign similar to Coca-Cola’s phenomenal “FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour” (possibly the best activation of a sponsorship in the past five years; I’m not buying a Pepsi anytime soon)?  It is difficult to know. 

Corona does not have much of a history when it comes to sport marketing.  Corona has created a brand image focused on a distinctive bottle, an image which they must incorporate into their sponsorship.  Time will tell whether it was a prudent decision by Corona to invest so heavily into the ATP.  But I’m glad they did.

Written by Peter Amador

March 8, 2010 at 8:43 PM

It’s the fans, stupid

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“It’s the economy, stupid”  

A phrase that allegedly won Bill Clinton the presidential election of 1992, and catapulted James Carville into American history books.  It was intended to keep then Gov. Clinton on message “President Bush has lead the economy into a recession”.  As a tribute to Mr. Carville, I would like to tell Web site developers for professional sport teams “It’s the fans, stupid”. 

Every business must satisfy a need or a want of its consumer (thanks Professor Choi); therefore, let’s examine the needs fulfilled by professional sports: vicarious participation (Basking In Reflected Glory), communal bonding (otherwise how could municipalities explain spending millions of dollars on new stadiums, ask Cincinnati), and diversion from reality (the only explanation for baseball, and I like baseball).  Now consider your favorite team’s Web site.  What comes to mind; your team’s star player, season ticket links, highlights from the most recent game (unless your team is the Chargers)?  Does the Web site make you anymore likely to buy tickets to next week’s game, purchase a jersey, or call friends over to watch the game?  No, it doesn’t. 

Most teams Web sites are exercises of vanity.  They are built on the foundation of, “fans are our subjects, they will do as we say.”  I did not have this belief until I read two superbly written articles, “Development of the Motivational Scale for Sport Online Consumption” by Won Jae Seo and B. Christine Green (2008), and “The Role of Web Site Content on Motive and Attitude for Sport Events” by Kevin Filo, Daniel C. Funk and Glen Hornby (2009).

Seo and Green (2008) found ten dimensions for a fan’s consumption of a team’s Web site: technical knowledge of the game, interpersonal communication, information, fanship, entertainment, economic, pass time, escape, team support, and fan expression.  Seo and Green go to great lengths to describe the emergence of fan expression as a motive for consumption of sports online.  They describe the motive of fan expression as being, “… consistent with the concepts of community, belongingness, and subcultural expression, which are important sought-after benefits of sport participants and spectators, sports tourists, volunteers, and other communities of consumption.”  Seo and Green then go on to describe the unexpected result of their research.  Content (motive to read articles, look at photos and download media) is not a motivating factor for fans to visit their team’s websites, but rather a support mechanism for the motives of: information gathering, passing-time or the need to express oneself.  While I do agree with most of their work, I would argue that dismissing content as a motive for a fan’s consumption of a team’s website is negligent to a fans expectations in 2008. 

Fans did not expect teams to provide them with quality content in 2008.  However, I believe that some franchises have been able to change their fans expectations; thereby, changing motives for consumption of a team’s online material.  The trend of teams hiring former beat writers as columnists for their Web site, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Kings to name two, has increased their site’s credibility amongst fans.

Seo and Green’s oversight of this possibility does not negate from their outstanding work.  It should be noted that their uncovering of the motive of fan expression in 2008, preceded the explosion of social media.  They correctly identified the ever-increasing need for individuals to share themselves with their community.

Filo, Funk, and Hornby’s (2009) work focused on “…evaluating the impact of Web site marketing communication on consumers’ motivation and attitudes toward a sporting event.”  They found that a sport organization must include 15 things on its Web site to satisfy the consumers need: event ticket procurement, venue site, shopping locations, accommodations, event schedule, local attractions, entertainment opportunities, travel costs, public transport, food and concessions, location of event, parking, safety and security measures, weather forecasts and conditions, and traffic conditions.  Admittedly, a limitation of their research is its focus on an annual event, the Indy 300 in Southern Queensland, Australia, that attracts tourists from outside Southern Queensland; therefore, the material needed on the Indy 300 Web site would differ from a professional sports franchise’s.  However, the research demonstrated that,there was a significant increase in a fans motive to attend, or consume the event, if their needs were met by the organization’s website.”  Once again demonstrating the focus of a professional sports franchise’s Web site should be on the consumer.

The research supports the hypothesis that a professional sports franchise should take a customer centric approach to the development of its web site.  We have entered an age where people expect to be heard, seen, and respected.  Fans devote a great amount of energy to their team. Franchises should respect the fans’ commitment by catering to their needs.  It’s not an argument, it’s a reality.

Written by Peter Amador

March 4, 2010 at 11:15 AM

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