Submitted by David Gargone*(1)

(1) David Gargone is an assistant professor of business and director of the sport management program at Misericordia University.

*Corresponding Author:
David Gargone, Ed.D.
Misericordia University
301 Lake St
Dallas, PA 18612

Fan motives, factors that influence a person’s decision to attend a sporting event, affect sport consumption at both the amateur and professional levels. This study identified the fan motives, selected from the Sport Interest Inventory (SII), most influential on college football fans and more specifically examined the effects on fan motive prevalence of seven variables: team identity, team loyalty, team affiliation, conference affiliation, household income, age, and level of education. All seven variables exhibited a statistically significant effect, at the p < 0.001 level, on a majority of the 17 fan motives considered, with team loyalty exhibiting a statistically significant effect (p < 0.001) on all 17 motives. In general, higher levels of team identity and team loyalty were associated with greater preference for fan motives. Across all participants, excitement, drama, sport knowledge, and interest in team were identified as the most common college football fan motives; interest in players, bonding with family, interest in sport, and escape were identified as the least common motives.

Keywords: fan motive, team identity, team loyalty, college football

The popularity of college football has increased in recent years, making it more important for college football marketers to understand the factors involved in building and maintaining a loyal fan base. Not only do loyal fans spend more money in support of their respective teams than non-loyal fans, they are also more likely to expend effort recruiting new fans (Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer, & Exler, 2008). Expansion of a team’s fan base can result in greater media coverage, larger corporate sponsors, and the negotiation of more lucrative broadcasting packages. Conversely, the increase in broadcasting and media coverage can result in an expanded fan base.

Consumer loyalty also has a greater impact on customer retention, helping to alleviate ebbs and flows in attendance and team support (Bee & Havitz, 2010). Fans with higher allegiance to a team experience greater levels of positive emotions like satisfaction and enjoyment (Raney, 2003; Keaton & Gearhart, 2014). Sport marketers need to identify the driving motives behind their fans in order to promote their team and develop a loyal fan base. In order to effectively accomplish this task, sport marketers need data that provides insight into the specific sport fan motives associated with the differing fan groups making up their fan base.

An understanding of the type of fan (e.g., highly identified, not loyal) is also important. This type of information may allow marketers to target specific segments with promotional methods that match the fan motives associated with that segment. The purpose of this research was to study the fan motives at varying levels of team identity and team loyalty of fans of selected college football teams.

Fan Motives
Understanding the motives that promote spectatorship allow marketers the opportunity to tailor strategies to smaller segments of fans to increase team consumption in sports. Several researchers have constructed instruments to measure these motives. Early work by Wann (1995) established the Sport Fan Motivation Scale (SFMS), comprised of eight fan motives that prompt sport consumption: family needs, group affiliation, aesthetic qualities, escape, self-esteem, entertainment, economic factors, and eustress. Shortly thereafter, Milne and McDonald (1999) developed the Motivations of the Sport Consumer (MSC) scale, which identified a total of 12 fan motives, three included in the SFMS and nine not previously identified.

Limitations of the SFMS and MSC scale led Trail and James (2001) to propose the Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC), which offered a reduction, to nine, in the total number of fan motives. Concurrent work by Funk, Mahony, Nakazawa, and Hirawaka (2001) established the Sport Interest Inventory (SII), which originally contained 10 variables but underwent two major revisions (Funk, Mahony, & Ridinger, 2002; Funk, Ridinger, & Moorman, 2003), each resulting in the addition of four motives, for a total of 18 fan motives. Because supporting women’s participation is among those 18 but is not relevant to a study of major college football, only the remaining 17 fan motives were considered in this study: bonding with friends, socialization, customer service, vicarious achievement, wholesome entertainment, drama, interest in players, bonding, interest in sport, entertainment value, aesthetics, escape, community support, sport knowledge, excitement, interest in team, and role model.

Additional research has focused on fan motives and developing fan profiles for comparison across teams, leagues, and sports. The Scale of Sport Spectatorship Motives (SSSM) is an alternative measurement tool that uses four underlying motive constructs: Aesthetics, Casual Spectatorship, Fan-Self Concept, and Recreational Value (Keaton, 2013; Keaton & Gearhart, 2014). The 18 item scale has been used to profile typical fans at different levels (amateur vs. professional) and types of sport (Keaton, Watanabe, & Gearhart, 2015). Keaton et al. (2015) compared fans of a team sport with those sport fans that have athletes as their attachment point. Significant differences existed in the motives driving sport consumption for college football fans in comparison to NASCAR fans.

Team Identity and Team Loyalty
From purchasing more expensive tickets to buying more team merchandise, fans who identify with a team (i.e. acknowledge some level of emotional attachment to that team) have been associated with greater sport consumption than fans who do not (Wann, Drewer, & Royalty, 1999; Trail, Fink, & Anderson, 2000; Fink, Trail, & Anderson, 2002; Bauer et al., 2008). The reliability of team identity as a predictor of sport consumption has sparked studies of the psychological factors associated with team identity (Fink et al., 2002) and the relationships between team identity and other types of social group identity (Heere & James, 2007a, 2007b; Pons, Laroche, Nyeck, & Perrault, 2001; Hickman, Lawrence, & Ward, 2005). Studies on the impact of stadium experience (Lee, Lee, Seo, & Green, 2012), including an examination of the impact of fan senses (Lee, Heere, & Chung, 2013), on team identity and team loyalty have increased the academic knowledge in this area.

Several attempts have been made to model fan progression from team identity to team loyalty. Funk and James (2001) proposed, via the Psychological Continuum Model (PCM), a four-stage progression, later revising this model (2006) to account for the specific inputs, processes, and outputs involved in each stage. The four stages- Awareness, Attraction, Attachment, and Allegiance, represent a rise in attitude toward a sports team. Continued research made strides in the operational development of the PCM by using participant involvement (Beaton, Funk, & Alexandria, 2009; Beaton, Funk, Ridinger, & Jordan, 2011). Additional support that the PCM can be used to segment sport consumers into different levels of brand involvement, increasing the reliability and validity of the construct, was established in a 2013 study by Kunkel, Funk, and Hill. Funk and James are additionally responsible for the development of the Fan Attitude Network (FAN) model (2004), which suggests that the progression from team identity to team loyalty largely depends on the evolution of a fan’s attitude toward that team. Heere and James (2007b) later devised the Team*ID scale, a six-dimensional description of the processes involved in the development of both team identity and team loyalty.

Mahony, Madrigal, and Howard (2000) made the first attempt at systematically quantifying team loyalty by creating the Psychological Commitment to Team (PCT) scale, which, like the FAN model, accounted only for attitudinal indications of team loyalty, ignoring the role of behavioral signs. Additional research by Gladden and Funk (2001) was also limited to fan attitudes. Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) defined team loyalty in terms of five behavioral variables: duration, proportion, frequency, intensity, and probability of brand use. Scremin (2008) combined the attitudinal metrics of Gladden and Funk (2001) with the behavioral indicators of Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) and determined that the development of team identity may serve as a transitional stage between the fulfillment of fan motives and the engenderment of team loyalty. Wu, Tsai, and Hung (2012) used a similar approach when measuring the effects of trust, vicarious achievement, and identification on team loyalty. This study distinctively separated team identification from player identification, though the results show team identification had a much greater influence on fan behavior than player identification.

Environmental factors have received increased attention in the literature. Lee et al. (2012; 2013) examined the influence of stadium experiences, including the sights and sounds of the game, on team identity and team loyalty. Sensory factors have been found as having an impact on varying levels of team identity and team loyalty (Lee et al., 2013).

Participants of this study were solicited via ten randomly selected college football team fan pages on the social networking Web site Facebook. All participants were 18 years of age or older and had attended a college football game during the five calendar years prior to the study. Participants completed a survey, built and hosted on the Web site Survey Gizmo, consisting of approximately 100 questions compiled from the Sport Interest Inventory (SII) (Funk et al., 2003), Team*ID scale (Heere & James, 2007b), attitudinal team loyalty scale (Gladden & Funk, 2001), and behavioral team loyalty scale (Iwasaki & Havitz, 2004). Respondents’ gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, household income, education level, favorite college football team, and favorite college football conference were also solicited.

A variety of statistical methods were used to analyze the results of the survey data collected. These methods included descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation, percentage, frequency) and multivariate inferential statistics (MANOVA). Bonferroni post-hoc tests were run following the MANOVAs to identify specific variances to support the initial findings.

Of the 345 participants in the study, 61.4% were males (n=212) and 38.6% were females (n=133). Over half of the participants, 51.3%, fell in the 18 to 25 years of age category (n=177), and 81.4% of the participants were under the age of 45 (n=281). The majority of participants, 87.8%, reported being Caucasian (n=303). Nearly 75% of the participants reported having a yearly household income lower than $49,000 (n=251). Over half of the participants, 58.6%, reported being single (n=202) and two-thirds held at least an undergraduate college degree (n=231).

Survey questions concerning the 17 fan motives were presented in a 1-to-7 Likert scale format. Concerning which motives were most attractive to college football fans, Drama (M = 5.87, SD = 1.28) and Excitement (M = 5.87, SD = 1.30) tied for the highest average. Sport Knowledge (M = 5.54, SD = 1.55), Interest in Team (M = 5.54, SD = 1.55), and Bonding with Friends (M = 5.40, SD = 1.44) also had high averages (see Table 3 in the appendix). In contrast, Interest in Players (M = 3.19, SD = 1.68), Bonding with Family (M = 4.44, SD = 1.77), Escape (M = 4.47, SD = 1.65), and Interest in Sport (M = 4.47, SD = 1.84) exhibited the lowest scores. Participants rated nine motives on average as at least somewhat important (M ≥ 5).

Levels of Team Identity and Team Loyalty
Participants’ responses to team identity and team loyalty items were used to identify which level of identity and loyalty an individual had towards a team. Table 1 illustrates the division of participants among the three levels of team identity, Not Identified, Moderately Identified, and Highly Identified. Each level of identity consisted of exactly one third (n=115) of the sample population. Participants with a maximum identity rating of 4.00 are considered part of the Not Identified (M = 3.27, SD = .62) group. Participants with an identity rating between 4.00 and 4.99 are located in the Moderately Identified (M =4.45, SD = .30) group. Participants scoring above 5.00 in identity form the Highly Identified (M = 5.73, SD = .500) group.

Table 1
Three Levels of Team Identity

Level of
n Mean Standard
Minimum Maximum
Not Identified 115 3.2729 .62107 1.76 3.99
Moderately Identified 115 4.4523 .29825 4.08 4.97
Highly Identified 115 5.7325 .49969 5.00 6.61
Total 345 4.4859 1.11883 1.76 6.61

Table 2 illustrates the division of participants among the three levels of team loyalty, Not Loyal, Moderately Loyal, and Highly Loyal. The groupings for loyalty are not evenly divided. Participants with a maximum loyalty rating of 4.00 are located in the Not Loyal (n= 150, M = 3.17, SD = .63) group. Participants with a loyalty rating between 4.00 and 4.99 are in the Moderately Loyal (n= 90, M = 4.45, SD = .298) group. Participants scoring above 5.00 in loyalty form the Highly Loyal (n= 105, M = 5.73, SD = .500) group.

Table 2
Three Levels of Team Loyalty

Levels of
n Mean Standard
Minimum Maximum
Not Loyal 150 3.1717 .63404 1.35 3.98
Moderately Loyal 90 4.5181 .31809 4.05 4.97
Highly Loyal 105 5.6357 .46948 5.00 6.43
Total 345 4.2728 1.17403 1.35 6.43

Effects of Team Identity
Team identity exhibited a statistically significant effect on 15 of the 17 fan motives at the p < 0.001 level, and on all 17 fan motives at the p < 0.005 level (see Table 4 in the appendix). For 16 motives, “highly identified” fans’ preference was greater than “moderately identified” fans’ by a statistically significant amount at the p < 0.001 level; for 13 motives, “moderately identified” fans’ preference was greater than “not identified” fans’ by a statistically significant amount at the p < 0.001 level. There was no statistically significant difference in preference for the motive interest in players between the “highly identified” and “not identified” groups, but “not identified” fans’ preference for this motive was greater at the p < 0.001 significance level than that of “moderately identified” fans. All other statistically significant differences in preference, across the remaining 16 motives, reflected the opposite trend: higher levels of identification resulted in higher motive preference.

Effects of Team Loyalty
The effects of team loyalty on the prevalence of fan motives were even stronger than those of team identity: level of team loyalty had a statistically significant effect on all 17 motives at the p < 0.001 level (see Table 5 in the appendix). “Highly loyal” fans reported a greater preference at the p < 0.001 significance level than “moderately loyal” fans for 14 motives; “moderately loyal” fans also reported a greater preference at the p < 0.001 significance level than “not loyal” fans for 14 motives. All statistically significant differences in motive preference indicated a correlation between higher loyalty and higher preference, again with the exception of interest in players: “not loyal” fans exhibited the highest preference for this motive, followed by “moderately loyal fans” and then “highly loyal” fans.

The current study advances academic knowledge in the area of the fans of collegiate sports, specifically football. The results support findings outlined by Keaton et al. (2015) regarding the profile of a college football fan. College football fans use sport consumption as an avenue for social interaction, typically with friends. Spending time with family was not as high of a motive for fans in the study, aligning with the results of Keaton et al. (2015).

This study also provides further empirical evidence that a fan’s level of identification with a particular team, and her level of loyalty to that team, may have an effect on the fan motives that most strongly influence her purchases in support of that team. Fink, Trail, and Anderson (2003) found that level of identification had a significant effect on only the fan motives aesthetics, drama, vicarious achievement, and socialization. Scremin’s 2008 study of professional soccer points to stronger effects of identification and loyalty, suggesting that only drama does not increase in prevalence as a motive for more “highly identified” and “highly loyal” fans.

The results for each of the seventeen fan motives offer insight into the reasons that influence fans in their support and spectatorship of their favorite college football team. The findings revealed that the fan motives Excitement (M = 5.87, SD = 1.30), Drama (M = 5.87, SD = 1.28), Sport Knowledge (M = 5.54, SD = 1.55), and Interest in Team (M = 5.54, SD = 1.55) had the highest scores for college football fans. The results for the Interest in Players (M = 3.19, SD = 1.68) fan motive are substantially lower than the other motives. Although the level and type of sport differ (college football vs. professional baseball), this result might provide insight to findings by Wu et al. (2012) that suggest that player identification has less impact on team loyalty than team identification.

An additional examination of fan motives for differing levels of team identity provided even greater detail. For example, the fan motives Excitement and Drama had the same mean score for all participants. However, looking at these two fan motives for highly identified fans gives a different perspective. For highly identified fans, Excitement (M = 6.61, SD = 0.56) and Drama (M = 6.13, SD = 0.81) had a mean difference over .50. The real difference exists between these two fan motives for not identified fans. The fan motives Excitement (M = 4.93, SD = 1.08) and Drama (M = 5.65, SD = 1.39) had a mean difference of .73. Even though these fan motives had the same means for the entire sample, the highly identified and not identified groups had much higher differences. Drama holds more importance with not identified individuals and excitement is more important to highly identified individuals.

This study of college football suggests that with the exception of Interest in Players, the preference for all fan motives increases to some degree for more highly identified and more highly loyal fans. Although the preferences of “moderately identified” or “moderately loyal” fans were not always statistically distinguishable from those of fans at the extremes of each spectrum, “highly identified” and “highly loyal” fans did exhibit a significantly greater preference for all fan motives (other than interest in players) than “not identified” and “not loyal” fans.

The true value of this study lies in its examination of the factors that motivate college football fans to support their respective teams. The results suggest that college football fans are most strongly motivated by drama, excitement, interest in team, and sport knowledge. Because it is likely that fans of different sports (e.g. college basketball) or different levels (e.g. professional football) are motivated differently, further work is needed to identify fan motive prevalence for other fan bases.

The results suggest that college football marketers should continue to focus on the team and its brand over highlighting individual players. This seems logical given the amount of turnover on college rosters and the limited amount of eligibility for players at the collegiate level. As suggested by Wu et al. (2012), maintaining a long-term outlook on generating a fan base that focuses on developing loyalty and trust, should be allotted more resources than short-term strategies focusing on single players. Even though the ability to acquire and keep star players at the professional level is greater, the strategy should still be utilized at the collegiate level.

More specifically, however, this study provides useful information about the differences in fan motive preference among fans of different levels of identification and loyalty. An examination of the results for drama and excitement serves as an important example. The mean scores for these two motives, across all respondents, were identical. However, among “highly identified” fans, the mean score for excitement is significantly higher than the mean score for drama, while the opposite is true for “not identified” fans. The same comparison between drama and excitement holds for “highly loyal” and “not loyal” fans.

Further refinement of the definitions and measurement techniques used to assess fan motives, team identity, and team loyalty will only enhance the validity and reliability of results obtained in future research of this nature. The continual evolution of the business of competitive sports will require frequent re-evaluation of the relevance of each of the fan motives considered in this study. The concepts of team identity and team loyalty will also need further revision as more accurate assessments of consumer psychology and behavior become available.

This study’s more general application is its suggestion that sport marketers may benefit from marketing differently to fan base segments exhibiting different levels of team identification and team loyalty, and possibly to different demographic groups as well. Although most teams may not have the resources necessary to develop and implement separate marketing strategies to accommodate all groups considered in this study, one or two adjustments may be sufficient to substantially improve exposure and revenue. The advancements in internet and social media marketing allow for greater targeting among the smaller segments of fans.

Increased usage of technology to communicate and promote to fans should also encourage the development of identification and loyalty to the team. Because “not loyal” fans reported a higher preference for interest in players than “highly loyal” fans, for example, promotion of individual players may attract new fans. Conversely, “highly loyal” fans’ greater preference for drama and excitement suggests that the promotion of these qualities may effectively influence season ticket holders, who are likely to be less motivated by player promotion.


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Table 3
Descriptive Statistics for Fan Motives

Variable Range Mean Standard
Vicarious Achievement 1 to 7 5.16 1.51
Escape 1 to 7 4.47 1.65
Community Support 1 to 7 4.66 1.49
Sport Knowledge 1 to 7 5.54 1.55
Drama 1 to 7 5.87 1.28
Excitement 1 to 7 5.87 1.30
Interest in Players 1 to 7 3.19 1.68
Bonding with Friends 1 to 7 5.40 1.44
Role Model 1 to 7 4.75 1.38
Entertainment Value 1 to 7 5.22 1.34
Aesthetics 1 to 7 4.76 1.70
Socialization 1 to 7 5.00 1.36
Interest in Team 1 to 7 5.54 1.56
Bonding with Family 1 to 7 4.44 1.77
Customer Service 1 to 7 4.74 1.33
Interest in Sport 1 to 7 4.47 1.84
Wholesome Environment 1 to 7 5.26 1.35

Table 4
ANOVA Table for the Effect of Team Identity on Fan Motives

Sum of
df Mean
f Statistical

Team Identity

Vicarious Achievement 341.45 2 170.73 216.87 <.001
Escape 178.57 2 89.28 57.30 <.001
Community Support 114.99 2 57.50 58.32 <.001
Sport Knowledge 234.12 2 117.06 87.37 <.001
Drama 13.48 2 6.74 6.01 .003
Excitement 169.61 2 84.81 94.73 <.001
Interest in Players 31.61 2 15.81 7.543 .001
Bonding with Friends 147.36 2 73.68 62.66 <.001
Role Model 168.57 2 84.28 79.17 <.001
Entertainment Value 159.82 2 79.91 72.17 <.001
Aesthetics 148.33 2 74.16 45.08 <.001
Socialization 172.58 2 86.29 93.79 <.001
Interest in Team 322.72 2 161.36 156.42 <.001
Bonding with Family 207.75 2 103.87 48.40 <.001
Customer Service 106.88 2 53.44 53.76 <.001
Interest in Sport 340.93 2 170.47 144.04 <.001
Wholesome Environment 125.72 2 62.86 67.31 <.001

Table 5
ANOVA Table for the Effect of Team Loyalty on Fan Motives

Sum of
df Mean
f Statistical

Team Loyalty

Vicarious Achievement 305.77 2 152.89 171.49 <.001
Escape 92.44 2 46.22 25.54 <.001
Community Support 74.57 2 37.29 33.77 <.001
Sport Knowledge 173.08 2 86.54 57.00 <.001
Drama 33.70 2 16.85 15.87 <.001
Excitement 206.20 2 103.10 130.79 <.001
Interest in Players 46.34 2 23.17 11.29 <.001
Bonding with Friends 165.24 2 82.62 73.53 <.001
Role Model 191.11 2 95.55 95.68 <.001
Entertainment Value 166.43 2 83.22 76.49 <.001
Aesthetics 89.90 2 44.95 24.75 <.001
Socialization 111.71 2 55.85 50.87 <.001
Interest in Team 360.73 2 180.37 195.96 <.001
Bonding with Family 107.00 2 53.50 21.92 <.001
Customer Service 66.43 2 33.22 29.86 <.001
Interest in Sport 150.22 2 75.11 43.14 <.001
Wholesome Environment 125.98 2 62.99 67.51 <.001
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