"Which team do you support?" and why?

Dr Armagan Onal

Posted: October 7, 2014

“Which team do you support?” is a popular question in Turkey when you meet someone and talk about daily life. Generally the one who asked the question is a football fan and trying to start a conversation about football with the guy he just met. This is a very common scene in Turkey, where football is the most popular sport. If the other one answers as “I do not support any teams”, it will be a disappointment for the fan and cannot imagine such a world without football. However, this is a more rare answer in Turkey since most of the people state that they are fans of a football team even though the degree of fandom varies from person to person. Someone may attend all the games including away games; another may be just learning the score of the game in a newspaper the day after. But both claim that they are fans, so the marketing managers of the football clubs should differentiate these two people, otherwise they will not use their marketing budget effectively.

In the literature, this concern was taken into consideration and every person who says that s/he is a fan is not evaluated the same. The classification of fans evolved throughout the last decade of the last century. For instance, Smith (1988) made the classification as serious and normal according to belief of the fan whether the result of the game matters or not. According to Wann and Branscombe (1990) there are two types of fans: die-hard fans who always support the team even it does not perform well, fair-weather fans who support the team just when it performs well.

Sutton et al. (1997) made this classification based on the team identification level and found out three groups: social, focused and vested. Social fans have low team identification, low game attendance, low emotional connection, and low financial effort; but like socialization and focus on the value of entertainment opportunity. On the other side, vested fans have high level of team identification and emotional connection and keep this for a long period of time. Also they spend money and time for the team. Focused fans are in between and what they like is the success focused nature of sport.

Another classification is done by Hunt, Bristol, and Bashaw (1999) based on the motivational and behavioral factors. There are five fan groups: ‘the temporary fan’, ‘the local fan’, ‘the devoted fan’, ‘the fanatical fan’, and ‘the dysfunctional fan’.

Temporary fan does not use fandom for self-identification and becomes fan for a specific period of time from two hours to a few years. But at the end, s/he becomes non-fan. Local fans are bound by the geographical constraints like where s/he was born or is from or lives in. Like temporary fans time constraint, when the location constraint ends – moving from the city – the dedication of the fan decreases. The devoted fans do not have time or location boundaries. In fact they start as a temporary or local fan but their commitment to the team goes beyond the boundaries and the devotion and loyalty continues. The fanatical fans defines self with fandom, it is very close to the center of the self but not at the heart, and very significant part of self-identification like family or religion. Finally, the dysfunctional fan defines herself/himself primarily with the fandom. The results of the games are crucial for self-identification for dysfunctional fans and they engage in disruptive, anti-social, and deviant behavior (Hunt, Bristol, and Bashaw, 1999).

Valuable studies about fan segmentation or typology took place in the literature in the 21st century (Bouchet et al. 2011; Ross, 2007; Stewart, Smith and Nicholson 2003; Tapp and Clowes, 2002; Funk and Pastore, 2000).

Such researches and discussions on fan segmentation and typology help both academicians and practitioners in understanding the fans better and building up more successful marketing strategies. Indeed, since the football clubs have the ‘Big Data’ – a popular phrase nowadays – via the loyalty cards or club branded credit cards, these typologies/segments should be deepened via micro-segmentation based on demographics and lifestyles to increase the effectiveness of marketing strategies and budgets.

IBouchet, P., Bodet, G., Bernache-Assollant, I., and Kada, F. (2011), Segmenting sport spectators: Construction and preliminary validation of the Sporting Event Experience Search (SEES) scale, Sport Management Review, 14, pp. 42–53.

IIFunk, D. C. and Pastore, D. (2000), Equating attitudes to allegiance: The usefulness of selected attitudinal information in segmenting loyalty to professional sports teams, Sport Marketing Quarterly, 9, pp. 175-184.

IIIHunt, K. A., Bristol, T., and Bashaw, R. E. (1999), A conceptual approach to classifying sports fans, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 13, No.6, pp.439-452.

IVRoss, S. D. (2007), Segmenting sport fans using brand associations: A cluster analysis, Sport Marketing Quarterly, Volume 16, Number 1, pp. 15-24.

VSmith, G. J. (1988), The noble sports fan, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 12, pp. 54-65.

VIStewart, B., Smith, A. C. T., and Nicholson, M. (2003), Sport consumer typologies: A critical review, Sport Marketing Quarterly, Volume 12, Number 4, pp. 206-216.

VIISutton, W. A., McDonald, M. A., Milne, G. and Cimperman, J. (1997), Creating and fostering fan identification in professional sports, Sport Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p.15

VIIITapp, A. and Clowes, C. (2002), From “care free casuals” to “professional wanderers” – Segmentation possibilities for football supporters, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 36, No: 11/12, pp.1248-1269.

IXWann, D. L. and Branscombe, N. R. (1990), Die-hard and fair-weather fans: Effects of identification on BIRGing and CORFing tendencies, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 14, pp.103-117.

About Dr Armagan Onal

Armagan Onal holds a PhD degree in marketing from Bahcesehir University, Istanbul. His dissertation is about sports marketing and his main research interest is in ‘sports fan behavior’. He is a marketing instructor for MBA classes at Bahcesehir University. He also continues his professional marketing career in a GSM company in Turkey.