Social seating & spaces

Author Jake Packman, University of San Francisco

Posted: April 13, 2017

Tagged: fan motives

Pons, Giroux, and Mourali (2014) discuss how trends in consumer motivation, particularly motivation revolving around socialization and group affiliation, directly impact fan behavior. Simultaneously, Funk and Lock (2014) argue that attitude formation, which can be learned, can have an equally enduring effect on consumer behavior. In an attempt to increase demand and satisfy consumer motives, professional sport teams have begun consolidating their arenas, opting to emplace socializing areas as opposed to low revenue-generating seats (Muret, 2017).

Although there are four patterns of consumption, organizations aim for sport event dominant and heavy consumption because it leads to greater connection, purchasing behavior, and revenue (Funk & Lock, 2014). According to Pons et al. (2014), gate receipts account for roughly 32.6% of income across sport, which is the largest source of income. David Manica, the sports designer responsible for the new Chase Center, relates the sport industry’s struggle against the home theater experience to the movie theater industry downsizing theater sizes in favor of “more comfortable seats and a higher level of service” (Muret, 2017, para. 28). In an effort to combat the home experience and shift consumers from media dominant to sport event dominant and heavy consumers, teams are emphasizing improving environmental factors, such as appropriate infrastructure and easy accessibility (Pons et al., 2014). Reducing capacity aims to decrease wasted space and increase demand through improved services.

In addition to downsizing capacity, teams are attempting to replace unused seats in the upper levels with social areas because “for those in their 20s and 30s, the focus is on having a shared experience” (Muret, 2017, para. 18). Wann’s Sport Fan Motivation Scale recognizes group affiliation, or “the social nature of events and their ability to fulfill belongingness,” as one of the eight factors of consumer motivation (Pons et al., 2014, p. 26). Furthermore, the MSSC, SPEED, and OTS scales all recognize socialization as a key element of attendance and team commitment (Pons et al., 2014). Muret (2017) states that replacing upper level seats with social areas, like The Rooftop deck and bar at Coors Field, eliminates the seats that are the costliest to build and bring in the least revenue, while simultaneously targeting millennials to come to games. Implementing these upper level social spaces can contribute to attitude formation through the three key elements of an attitude: evaluation, entity and tendency (Funk & Lock, 2014). According to Funk and Lock (2014), “evaluation refers to responses to external stimuli such as social interactions” (p. 40). Entity, in this case, refers to the respective team, event, or stadium because it is the “focal object of the attitude” (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 40). Lastly, by creating fun social spaces where consumers can interact, it creates a tendency in consumers, turning them into committed fans that “resist overt and covert attempts to change the attitude” (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 40).

Muret (2017) states, “The danger for teams, though, is phasing out the family-affordable seats situated in the upper deck” (para. 34). Both the SFMS and MSSC scales recognize family as a key factor for attendance and consumption (Pons et al., 2014). By eliminating family-affordable seats, teams risk missing out on revenue from tickets, as well as merchandise. According to Pons et al. (2014), through sacralization processes, “consumers associate different products as being an important part of their family traditions” (p. 33). Fans who have gone through the sacralization process and had a team as part of their lives starting at a young age have shown the propensity for stronger brand loyalty and attachment to the team (Pons et al., 2014). Constructing social spaces may benefit teams by allowing for greater acquisition of millennials, but it may also damage teams by preventing deeply committed fans from childhood.



Funk, D. C., & Lock, D. (2014). Sport consumer attitudes: Formation, function, and effects on information processing. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge.

Muret, D. (2017, January 16). Venues 3.0: Smarter, smaller, social. SportsBusiness Journal, 19(37). Retrieved from

Pons, F., Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer behavior and motivation: Why are sport event consumers so special? In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge.



About Jake Packman, University of San Francisco

Jake Packman graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a certificate in the Business of Sport. During his time in Colorado, Jake interned as a San Francisco Giants Lead Correspondent at and as a social media intern for the Colorado Rapids. Jake is currently enrolled in the Sport Management Master’s program at the University of San Francisco. He can be reached via LinkedIn.

This is an edited version of a paper Jake prepared for Professor Michael Goldman‘s Sport Marketing course at the University of San Francisco.

IImage by Lisa Goodwin, "Main lobby",