Segmentation of a professional sport team’s social media community

SEGMENTATION OF A PROFESSIONAL SPORT TEAM’S SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITY

 

Katherine Bruffy (Unitec Institute of Technology) kbruffy@unitec.ac.nz

Olan Scott (University of Canberra) olan.scott@canberra.edu.au

Michael Naylor (AUT) mnaylor@aut.ac.nz

Anthony Beaton (University of Canberra) anthony.beaton@canberra.edu.au

The relationship people have with sport teams ranges from the very casual (those who might view parts of matches on television when their schedule suits) to being an avid fan and organising one’s life around the activities of the team. The varying strength of this connectedness has been captured in Funk and James’ Psychological Continuum Model (PCM; 2001).  Four stages of increasingly deep connection were proposed (Awareness, Attraction, Attachment and Allegiance), and have now been explored thoroughly with Beaton and Funk (2009) developing an algorithm that relies on facets of the involvement construct (Beaton, Funk, Ridinger & Jordan, 2011) as a staging mechanism for placement along the PCM.

One way in which sport fans now connect to the teams they follow is through social media.  With the proliferation of social media, consumers are able to connect to teams more easily and more often. As early adopters of social media, organisations within the sports industry have embedded social media into marketing (Eagleman, 2013), communication (Thompson, 2013), and public relations (Sanderson, 2010) mix.  The purpose of the current research is to explore a professional sport team’s social media community and segment based on connectivity.

Data (n = 311) for the study were collected online over several days during the second half of the New Zealand Breakers’ most recent ANBL season. The sample was predominantly female (58%) and the mean age was 36.  Most respondents reported using Facebook (98%) and Twitter (42%) at least once a week, while a significant majority of respondents (77%) reported engaging with the Breakers’ social networking sites at least “a few times per week”.  Exploring the underlying psychology and behaviours of a professional sport team’s social media community using the PCM and involvement construct represents an important contribution to sport management literature.  In addition to questions that generated the above demographic and behavioural profile, individuals were also asked to respond to questionnaire items designed to measure the involvement construct (Beaton, et al., 2011) and resistance to change (Pritchard, Havitz & Howard, 1999).  The involvement construct dimensions (Hedonic Value, Centrality, Symbolic Value) and resistance to change were measured with three items each.  These items were included so that data could be fed into the staging algorithm that was to be used in subsequent analysis.

A larger than expected segment (40%) of those within the Breakers’ social media community who completed the questionnaire were placed within the Attraction stage of the PCM.  This finding has significant implications for those working to enhance the depth of the relationship between a professional sport team and its fans.  Indeed, important processes like attitude strengthening and the development of relationship meaning are believed to be ongoing at this stage so social media can be used to nurture that growth.  Less than 15% of questionnaire respondents were placed in the Allegiance stage.  These findings may help to dispel the myth that social media is nothing more than an additional means to connect with already deeply loyal and identified fans.

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