An Empirical Analysis of the Effectiveness of World Wrestling Entertainment Marketing Strategies

Submitted by Sungick Min, WonYul Bae, David Pifer and Colin Pillay

Abstract
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE), which is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, produces one of the most popular sporting events in the world, spans a diverse audience, and has a fanatical base and following for its entertainment value. This study was designed to investigate the numerous ways in which the company promotes and markets its brand, its programming, its events, and its products. Drawing from 107 randomly collected survey questionnaires, the results of this research indicated a variety of significant differences in the effects of WWE marketing promotions on the age, income, marital status, and ethnicity demographics. These findings can in turn be used to help the WWE target designated consumer segments with the appropriate resources and marketing strategies as the company strives to increase future opportunities for success. Further samples from other areas in the country are needed, though, to verify if the regionally recognized inclination is consistent across the country. In addition, research should be performed at different times of the year to clarify seasonal sport preferences.

INTRODUCTION
Professional wrestling fans receive different reactions from people. Some people think it is “cool” to be a fan; others are disappointed because they consider it to be faked. Fans respond that they enjoy the entertainment value of professional wrestling. According to Ball (1990), wrestling fans tend to be stereotyped as the “dregs of society,” a group composed mainly of lower-class people.

Nevertheless, professional wrestling is also a tremendous entertainment business and has become an addiction for a large portion of young Americans. Ball (1990) stated, “Professional wrestling in the United States provides an ideal platform for the study of entertainment-culture and portrays some of the richest symbolism in society today” (p. 4).

It incorporates action in the arena, and sometimes outside the arena. It is an action adventure show, a cartoon, drama, and a sitcom. It is like a big soap opera for men, a hybrid of everything ever seen on television. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE), which produces some of the most popular shows in the world and reaches a diverse audience, has an enormous fan base and following for its entertainment value. As one of television’s most unique shows, it draws upon many other successful forms of entertainment. The continuing story lines are familiar to viewers of soap operas. The action, adventure, and racier elements draw their motivation from the best that sports and Hollywood have to offer. According to Gresseon (1998), professional wrestling has gone from a dull participant ritual to an exciting, action-filled form of entertainment.

The action in WWE events may be “fake,” but the entertainment value of World Wrestling created by Vincent and Linda McMahon is very real. Gresson (1998) asserted that wrestling has taken into consideration the audience’s needs and successfully translated them into spectacular shows that draw spectacular profits. The WWE has dominated its market and has established its brand in the minds of the American public. As an integrated media and entertainment company, the WWE is principally engaged in the development, production, and marketing of television programming, pay-per-view programming, live events, and the licensing and sale of branded consumer products featuring its successful World Wrestling Entertainment brand.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE
In WWE’s 2006 annual report, net revenues of $400.1 million were generated, while an income from continuing operations of $55.2 million, before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortizations, stock options, and other non-cash charges, was reported.

WWE is incredibly prevalent in the male demographic, especially those aged 14 to 34. The company has been involved in the entertainment business for over 20 years and has established the brand as one of the most popular forms of entertainment today. According to Stotlar (2005), demographic changes in the United States population have directly influenced sport marketing. Brenner (2004) indicated that population trends have caused organizations to take a long, hard look at marketing efforts as teams and leagues find that there is no single, correct approach. To increase market penetration, marketers often discuss how to reach Hispanic, Asian, or other ethnic consumer groups, but oversimplify the challenge by applying such labels. According to WWE, its operations are organized around two principal activities:
1. Creation, marketing and distribution of live and televised entertainment, including the
sale of advertising time on its television programs; and
2. Marketing and promotion of its branded merchandise.

In an effort to further exploit and bolster its business, WWE launched a brand extension that created two separate and distinct brands, “Raw” and “SmackDown!” Each extension has its own distinct story lines, thus enabling the company to have two separate live event tours. The two tours permit the company to visit new domestic markets while touring internationally on a more frequent basis. In addition, WWE currently maintains licensing agreements with approximately 70 licensees worldwide. The company logo and images of WWE characters appear on thousands of retail products, including various types of apparel, toys, video games, and a wide assortment of other items.

According to WWE’s 2006 annual report, the company produces and promotes wrestling matches for TV and live audiences. Its nine hours of TV programming each week include “Raw”, a top US cable program, and “Smackdown!”, the highest-rated UPN show. Most of its programming airs on Viacom outlets, including MTV, TNN, and UPN. WWE also produces 14 pay-per-view programs and about 240 live events each year, licenses characters for merchandising, and sells videos and DVDs that showcase such wrestling stars as “The Rock”, “Hollywood Hulk Hogan”, and “The Undertaker.”

WWE’s success prompted this study, which set out to investigate the numerous ways in which the company promotes and markets its brand, its programming, its events, and its products. Kwon and Armstrong (2004) asserted that one of the most crucial elements of sport marketing involves segmenting the market of sport consumers into smaller, homogeneous groups for which specific marketing strategies can be cultivated. Accordingly, this study examined the different results of WWE promotions and marketing based on age, income, marital status, and ethnicity.

Pitts and Stotlar (2002) defined sport marketing as “the process of designing and implementing activities for the production, pricing, promotion, and distribution of a sport product to satisfy the needs or desires of consumers and to achieve the company’s goals” (p. 80).

Understanding the “4 Ps of Marketing” is crucial to any successful marketing channels in an organization. In traditional marketing, the “4 Ps of Marketing”, a concept coined by E. Jerome McCarthy (McCarthy & Perreault, 1990), specifically refers to the following:
Product: the essence of the product or service that includes product lines, product extensions, and the meeting of new consumer needs within the targeted group of customers.
Price: shows the desired image a company wants to portray about a product or service while taking into consideration competitors’ prices, available discounts, and market share.
Place: the actual, physical distribution of a product or service. This can include the transporting of goods to wholesale and retail outlets or the geographic location of a business or organization.
Promotions: carrying messages about products and services to potential consumers. This can be performed through publicity, advertising, or other means of communication.

A brief overview of the 4 Ps as they relate to the WWE will serve as a base from which to understand WWE’s success. To begin, the WWE “products” are its superstars – “The Rock”, “Trish Stratus”, “Stone Cold Steve Austin”, and “The Undertaker”. These superstars are professional and skilled in the portrayal of popular characters. One of WWE’s top superstars, “The Rock”, the son of a Samoan homemaker and an African-American pro wrestler, became a feature film action hero in Universal’s blockbuster, “The Scorpion King”. WWE has a vastly increased talent pool that translates directly to brand extension and additional revenue streams producing more pay-per-view events, more live events, more international tours, more branded merchandise, and more new television programming with new stars and new brands outside the genre.

Compared to other sports leagues, the WWE ticket “price” is one of the most expensive. According to the WWE website (2007), the average ticket price for three live events in Asia in March 2002 was $63.00 and the average ticket price for live events in the United States was $36.00. Each of WWE’s other 11 domestic pay-per-view events have a suggested retail price of $34.95, up from $29.95. Compared to the baseball ticket, ESPN (2007) indicates that the lowest average price is $13.79.

According to the WWE annual report (2006), it has major arenas, such as Madison Square Garden in New York City, Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, California; Allstate Arena in Chicago, First Union Center in Philadelphia, Fleet Center in Boston, and Earls Court in London, England. These major arenas represent the “place” in the marketing mix. WWE has a 46,500-square-foot entertainment complex located in Times Square. The complex boasts a 600-seat restaurant and 2,200 square feet of retail space. The complex provides for a variety of entertainment uses, including:
1. Airing WWE’s regularly scheduled TV shows and pay-per-views;
2. Hosting concerts and other live events, including press conferences,
stockholder meetings and product launches;
3. A night club;
4. Appearances and autograph sessions featuring performers; and,
5. Banquets, birthday parties and other social and corporate functions.

“Promotion” is the final P in the marketing mix to be discussed. According to WWE, the company promotes and markets its brand, its programming, its events, and its products in numerous ways, including:
1. Approximately 200 live events are held each year in major stadiums and arenas
throughout the world, including Madison Square Garden in New York City, Arrowhead
Pond of Anaheim, California; Sky dome in Toronto, Canada; and the Manchester
Evening News Arena in Manchester, England;
2. Nine hours of original television programming are produced, 52 weeks per year;
3. 12 domestic pay-per-view events are produced each year;
4. Programs and pay-per-view events are distributed in over 150 countries in nine languages;
5. Branded merchandise is marketed and sold directly to consumers and to major retailers
worldwide;
6. The branded merchandise is licensed to approximately 85 companies to produce and distribute thousands of retail products worldwide;
7. Two monthly magazines are published with a combined annual circulation of
approximately 5.8 million; and,
8. News and information is distributed about the WWE’s story lines, performers, and
programming and, consequently, affects e-commerce sales through Internet sites.

For years, a great deal of research has been undertaken in an effort to understand the behavior of sport marketing strategies. However, most studies have focused on direct sport marketing strategies, while studies examining the factors that influence indirect consumer behavior have been neglected. At present, studies investigating the effectiveness of WWE marketing strategies have not been well designed, thus creating a need for further research. The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of various WWE marketing platforms and the demographic composition of its fan base. An empirical analysis looks at the numerous ways in which the company promotes and markets its brand, its programming, its events, and its products.

Furthermore, this study also examines the effectiveness of WWE promotions and marketing based on age, sex, educational level, and ethnicity. Differences based on age, sex, educational level, and ethnicity may compel sports marketers to adapt current marketing approaches.

Best marketing practices of current WWE are also examined, and recommendations for sports marketers on how to successfully target the population segment are provided.

In sum, the general research question for this study is: How do WWE marketing channels affect various fan bases?

METHODS
Sample and data collection
As mentioned, WWE’s 2006 annual report showed a strong following of fans in males aged 14 to 34. Taking this into account, the designated target population of this study was university students aged 18-34. In addition to its representation of the WWE fan base, this demographic was also deemed appropriate due to the fact that university students fall into the age demographic (18-34) that is most sought after by sport producers. According to Turco (1996), college students differ significantly from other markets in their consuming behaviors. Therefore, surveys were distributed to over 500 students and a total of 107 viable questionnaires were obtained using SurveyMonkey. Within the collected sample, 40 students were from a public university in South Korea and 67 students were taking Sport Exercise and Science (SES) activity classes from April 23 to May 4, 2007, at the University of Northern Colorado. This sample size was intended to be used as a pilot study for future research.

Instrumentation
The questionnaire was comprised of several sections with a total of 35 items. Part of the survey contained questions to gain information about general demographics of spectators, WWE-related information, and marketing-related information. Requested demographic information included age, sex, marital status, and household income. This survey was formulated to WWE marketing channels before the questions for demographic information. The objective of the study was to provide other related information necessary to assist WWE in developing effective marketing strategies. It took respondents approximately 15 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

Procedures
The data was collected through SurveyMonkey from April 23 to April 30 in 2007. The researcher contacted course instructors and obtained consent from them to disseminate the surveys. Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the author’s Institutional Review Board, which approved the methodology and survey instrument. All participants were informed in advance that participation was voluntary and that all information would remain confidential and anonymous. They were able to refuse and decide to stop responding at anytime. 107 survey questionnaires were distributed randomly. A total of 103 usable surveys were collected. All questionnaires were answered anonymously. It was assumed that the participants in the survey gave honest and thoughtful responses to each question.

Data Analysis
A cross tabulation is the process of taking two variables and tabulating the results of one variable against the other variable. A cross-tabulation gives us a basic picture of how two variables inter-relate. It aids us in searching for patterns of interaction. Each cell indicates the number of respondents that gave a specific combination of responses, that is, each cell contains a single cross tabulation. A cross tabulation was performed to examine the correlation between the different variables and various demographic make-up of its fan base. Descriptive statistics were also calculated for each of the demographics. SPSS 13.0 for Windows was utilized to perform the above statistical analyses.

RESULTS
The participants of this study included Caucasian, Asian, African-American, and Hispanic populations. Of the 107 total respondents, 55% considered themselves Caucasian and 38% considered themselves Asian. Only 7% of the responses gathered this study were from African-American and Hispanic (Chart 1). Figure 1 indicates that there is a significant difference between various ethnic groups. The majority of Caucasian respondents indicated that they made their decision to go to the WWE event to entertain guests, while most Asian respondents preferred attending the event to spend time with their families.

CHART 1 Demographics of Participants
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FIGURE 1 Factors to Go to the WWE Event
Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 4.54.12 PM

Overall, giveaways were not seen as a significant factor in determining whether or not to go to the WWE event. In addition, in the question regarding the importance of the excitement offered by WWE, approximately 90 % of female respondents provided a response of neutral or less. 29% of male respondents produced a neutral response (Table 1).

TABLE 1 The Levels of Excitement by WWE
Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 4.55.30 PM

One of the interesting findings in this study is that while the majority of Caucasian respondents watched over 3 hours of television a week, their Asian counterparts reported watching less than 5 hours of television in a single week (Table 2). According to the WWE Report (2006), the majority of the WWE fan base was Caucasian. However, the results of this study indicate that 52% of Caucasian respondents were not watching WWE events on television. In general, the results of this study indicated that there were more male than female spectators at WWE events. The majority of the respondents who attended the events was from middle-income families and was Caucasian.

TABLE 2 Hours of Watching WWE on Television
Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 9.33.39 AM

A large proportion of the spectators were single. The people in different age groups differed significantly in the marketing channels. Those 30 years of age or younger appear to be more interested in attending the events, ordering pay-per-view, and visiting the WWE site. In regards to ethnicity, not only did very few Hispanic people attend WWE events, but very few participated in or were affected by the other marketing strategies.

DISCUSSION
According to the responses, pay-per-view and the website were the most effective sources of information about WWE. CD’s, home videos, print media, and other items were relatively less effective sources of information for WWE. Consequently, WWE should develop additional weekly television programming through creative and entertaining events while strengthening its pay-per-view marketing efforts to reach new consumers.

In essence, WWE must strengthen its existing television and pay-per-view distribution relationships and develop broader distribution arrangements for WWE branded programming worldwide. This can be accomplished by continuing to produce high quality, exciting live events, branded programming, and consumer products for global distribution.

In addition, WWE must develop its story lines by further integrating contemporary themes and increasing its focus on the continuous cultivation of skilled, young, entertaining characters to complement its pool of established talent. This can be accomplished by recruiting, developing, and maintaining a roster of highly skilled athletes who possess the physical presence, acting ability, and charisma to develop into popular performers. WWE should also augment the licensing and direct sales of WWE branded goods through its distribution channels while cultivating its Internet operations to further promote the brand and develop additional sources of revenue. In addition, the organization should also inflate the licensing and direct sale of WWE branded merchandise, and bring the distribution of home videos, CD’s and publications in-house.
WWE must meet certain objectives if it wants to achieve its goal and be the number one entertainment business in the United States or among the Hispanic Community. While advertising and broadcasting in Spanish may invite Latino and Hispanic consumers to the arena, the presence of Spanish-speaking ushers, vendors, and customer service representatives will ensure an enjoyable experience. According to Sergio Del Prado, Los Angeles Dodgers’ Vice President of sales and marketing (summarized in 10 Tips for Reaching Hispanic Consumers, 2007), “one thing where people really drop the ball, you get [Latinos] to commit, and then they come to the ballpark and nobody speaks the language and they feel different than anyone else.”

A Hispanic marketing blitz should contain promotions in the Hispanic newspapers, on Hispanic TV channels, and on Hispanic radio stations. Heavy advertising through all these media outlets will enhance the WWE brand name and symbol in the Hispanic community. Spending on advertising to Hispanic media outlets should be double that of English speaking outlets. WWE does not want to be an organization for the elite, but an organization that all of the country, regardless of income and race, can enjoy and love. This end message has to be communicated to WWE’s prospective Hispanic fan base in order for WWE to become profitable in the Hispanic community.

In addition to Hispanics, young people are a second market that WWE must target in order to achieve lucrative success. WWE must gear its consideration toward the young generation, a mission that can be accomplished by concentrating on young people while they are at school. WWE must work with the schools to generate programs and initiatives that spark the students’ interests. This can be accomplished through WWE ticket and merchandise giveaways. For instance, students who accomplish a certain GPA receive four tickets to a WWE live event. At the event, WWE will acknowledge their accomplishments with either scoreboard or public address recognition during a break in activities. This sort of program could generate short-term expenses, but will benefit WWE in the end. These students and their parents will become consumers of the WWE’s brand and will subsequently be more interested in WWE’s product. This interest will bring them back to the live events, where additional marketing strategies can move them up the consumer escalator.

Considering the time people normally spend on watching TV, television promotion showed high efficiency to communicate the information about WWE events to the respondents. However, it is obvious that TV advertising is the most expensive means to promote any event. Due to the fact that most people who attend WWE events are working class and spend plenty of time in their automobile driving regularly, radio is a comparatively cost-effective and efficient method to market a WWE event.

CONCLUSIONS
The aim of this study was to analyze the effectiveness of various WWE marketing platforms and the demographic composition of its fan base. What was discovered was that many people cannot pay for the price of a WWE event. The price is too costly for many people living in the United States at the present time and many of WWE’s prospective consumers consider a live event as a novelty and not a usual night of entertainment. Providing new ticket plans that are reasonable for the majority of U. S. residents would be exceedingly favorable to WWE. It would augment its revenue and attendance in a very short period of time and supply WWE with a stronger fan base for the future.

APPLICATIONS IN SPORT
WWE should implement new forms of entertainment and build brands that harmonize its existing businesses, including the improvement of new television programming that will extend beyond its current offerings. Such formulations will appeal to WWE’s targeted demographic market and build up branded location-based entertainment businesses directly or through licensing agreements, joint business enterprises, and other preparations. For the promotion to be flourishing and fill the stands, this decision must be made based on knowledge of WWE’s prospective spectators, their characteristics, and behavior patterns.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
None

REFERENCES
1. Ball, M. R. (1990). Professional wrestling as ritual drama in American popular culture. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen.

2. Boston has highest average for 10th straight season. (2007, March). Retrieved from http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2819597

3. Brenner, S. (2004). A world of opportunity. Sport Business Journal, 15-16.

4. Gresson, A. D. (1998). Professional wrestling and youth culture: Testing, taunting, and the containment of civility. Boulder, CO: Westview.

5. Kwon, H., & Armstrong, K. (2004). An exploration of the construct of psychological attachment to a sport team among college students: A multidimensional approach. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 13(2), 82–93.

6. McCarthy, E. J., & Perreault, W. D. (1990). Basic Marketing (10th Edition.) Boston: Irwin.

7. Pitts, B. G., & Stotlar, D. K. (2002). Fundamentals of Sport Marketing (2nd Edition.). Morgan town, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

8. Stotlar, D. K. (2005). Developing successful sport marketing plans. Morgan town, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

9. Turco, D. (1994). Event sponsorship: effects on consumer brand loyalty and consumption. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 3(3), 42 – 45.

10. World Wrestling Entertainment Website (2006). Retrieved April 2, 2007, from http://www.wwe.com

11. 10 tips for reaching Hispanic consumers. (2007, January 22). Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 9(37). Retrieved April 5, 2007, from http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/index.cfm.

2014-02-06T09:44:56-06:00February 6th, 2014|Contemporary Sports Issues, General, Sports Marketing, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on An Empirical Analysis of the Effectiveness of World Wrestling Entertainment Marketing Strategies

A Study of the Effect of Experiential Marketing on Customer Purchase Intention: Case Study of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show

Submitted by Chao-Chien and I-Han, Chen

ABSTRACT
The meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition (MICE) industry has gradually flourished. However, the market encountered at exhibitions has increasingly changed into the commercial buyers’ market. Through experiential marketing, the industry can enhance its contact and communication with potential customers by participating in exhibitions, and thus, increase customer intent to purchase for products highlighted and exhibited at this specific type of venue. In recent years, one industry, in Taiwan has used sports marketing through MICE as a platform to market sport bikes. Manufacturers and business owners alike used the exhibition to reach the potential customer base, and as a result, this study conducts a questionnaire-type survey at the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show. The main purposes of this study are to investigate the degree to which experiential marketing influences customer intent on purchase choices and to assess differences in experiential marketing across different demographic variables. The results of this study are as follows:
• There is a significant difference in experiential marketing across different demographic variables, including age, educational level and average monthly income.
• There is a significantly positive correlation between experiential marketing and the purchase intention of customers participating in exhibitions.
• All attributes of experiential marketing have a significantly positive influence on purchase intention.

INTRODUCTION
Taiwan is highly regarded worldwide as having an excellent reputation for its outstanding manufacturing of bicycles. In the past, the bicycle was considered merely a traditional transport vehicle; however, recently and in a very short period of time for many Taiwanese, cycling has become a popular recreational activity because of the rising awareness of environmental protection, energy saving and carbon reduction policy, and an increased focus on exercise, attention to health issues and seeking an improvement in overall quality of life (21). Until very recently, the bicycle industry was monopolized by a single giant manufacturing company and this corporation was one of the most dominant manufacturers of bicycles, having occupied the largest output of all bicycles within the sports cycling market. As a result of this company having the monopoly for the production of sports cycles, the global revenues amounted about $ NT 300 million, and annual production and sales targeted about $ NT 4.8 million bicycles (5). In 1985, Taiwanese manufactured bicycles were far greater in overall annual production than the amount produced in Japan. This earned Taiwan the reputation as “World Bike Kingdom” (20). Additionally, with the extremely rapid progress of information and technology, not only did the development of the national economy advance quickly, but also international businesses had increased growth as well. As these companies grew, many of them began utilizing the marketing strategy of exhibition venues, which contributed to the development of the meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition (MICE) industry (32). Recently, the bike industry in Taiwan is without exception. It has held lots of international sports cycling exhibition for selling its own brand of sports bike by means of the MICE promotion platform, the Taiwanese sports bike industry has participated lots of international sports cycling exhibition for selling its own brand of sports bike. These products do not only sell in the Taiwanese domestic market, but also globally, using exhibition venues such as the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show, Taichung Bike Week, and Taiwan Cycle Night.

Compared to the consumers who do not attend exhibitions, the visitors to the MICE have a higher level of product consumption, and vendors positively appraise their experience in host countries (22). Moreover, numerous cities regard the development of the MICE as a strategy for a new era of urban development and a path to the development of local infrastructure. The statistical results of the research showed that the average consumption of the visitors brought by conventions and exhibitions was two to three times that of normal tourists; the travel consumption brought by conventions and exhibitions accounted for 30 percent of the total travel consumption (22). The Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) surveyed conference representatives. The survey results showed that 67% of the representatives participating in international conferences in Australia would revisit Australia in the next five years, showing that the MICE has enormous potential in promoting the development of the tourism industry (26).

Exhibition activities in the MICE have gradually transformed from the traditional “sample display,” provided by vendors and ordering services; however, more recently, the exhibition theme and format are further subdivided according to economic specialization (6). In 2009, Yin’s research (32) notes that an exhibition is regarded as a crucial instrument in marketing for information exchange and merchandise trade; an exhibition not only integrates the functions of advertisement, personal selling, sales promotion, and public relations, but also provides manufacturers and customers with abundant face-to-face opportunities. Furthermore, Breiter and Milman (2006) explain that most exhibitions held at convention centers are annual or circulating ones as well as consumers with positive experiences in attending exhibitions should increase their willingness to revisit these type of venues. Consequently, whether exhibition activities are held successfully depends on whether the marketing service techniques of the hosting organizations are good enough to attract people.

Presently, the economic consumption style of Taiwan has changed from the “Agricultural Economy” into the “Experiential Economy” (12). According to numerous studies, with the advancement of the experiential economy, the concept of marketing has become a heavily discussed issue among management scientists and economists (24,16,23). Hence, the marketing concept has gradually evolved from product-, sale-, society-, and relation-oriented into the experiential-oriented marketing as the primary core of business activities. In 1999, Schmitt (28) is the first person who integrates experiential marketing concepts and compares traditional marketing with experiential marketing comprehensively. He argues that the traditional marketing method, which focuses on the benefit and function of products, has not been appealing to customers; therefore, enterprises should focus on customers’ experiences. With the coming of the age of the experiential economy, not only marketing methods but also customers’ experiences should be emphasized; and entrepreneurs also need to consider experience as a crucial factor in running a successful brand. Differing from traditional marketing, which emphasizes the performance and function of products, experiential marketing focuses more on the function and efficiency of products and the brand image (7,24). Thus, the experiential method has become a popular trend in increasing the performance of various industries. Based on these findings, experiential marketing has a great influence on customers’ consumption behavior. If entrepreneurs can understand a customer’s reaction to experiential marketing through activities held by exhibitors and relevant research in experiential marketing, they should be able to enhance the performance in selling their products at exhibitions.

This research aims to understand differences in experiential marketing across different customers through participating in exhibitions as well as investigate whether customers’ feelings towards experiential marketing at exhibitions are helpful in managing and developing the Taiwanese sports bike industry. In 1991, Kotler (17) suggests that management should satisfy customer demands. He further encourages businesses to develop marketing strategies by looking from the viewpoint of its customers. The assumption is that if enterprises focus on what the customer wants, this form of marketing should increase customer purchase intention, and moreover, companies will obtain increased profits from these customers. A higher degree of customer satisfaction will lead to higher customer purchase intention, positive public praise, greater competitive advantages, and higher market share (1,10). Purchase intention means the likelihood that a consumer will buy a particular product; the higher the purchase intention, the greater the purchase probability (8,29). Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) confirmed that purchase intention can be used as a key index in predicting consumption behavior; it represents consumers’ subjective preferences for purchasing products and in recommending products to their family and friends. Furthermore, establishing a good relationship with customers to promote customer purchase intention is the most important task for industries in marketing (2). Through experiential marketing strategies, if customers actually experience products, their intent to actually purchase the exhibited products is usually also increased (12). Hence, selling products through experiential marketing not only enables customers to “understand” products on exhibition, but also maintains a suitable product value, and provides better sales performance (18,19). Through sensory and emotional experiences, consumers are both directly or indirectly influenced which, in turn, increases the likelihood of customer purchase intention. Customer satisfaction is the main factor influencing consumer behavior (30). To maintain sustainable development on the market, modern enterprises should increase their profits mainly by increasing customer purchase intention (10). Therefore, through the techniques, assessments and applications of experiential marketing, exhibitors can determine whether the real effect and performance of experiential marketing are helpful in promoting consumer purchase intention.

Several scholars, including Hsieh and Li (2008), Blackwell, R. D., Miniard, P. W., and Engel, J. F (2006), and Holbrook (2000) indicate that there is a positive correlation between experiential marketing and purchase intention. These findings show that through experiential marketing, customers attending bicycle product exhibitions can provide immediate feedback on the products on display at these venues. Having this “hands-on” experience allows the potential customer to immediately achieve full understanding of the functions, safety, and price of the sports bicycles and related products. Based on the literature review, experiential marketing can certainly establish an interactive relationship between customers and service personnel at exhibitions, and customers are more likely to have positive evaluations of these products. Consequently, this research sets out three hypotheses as follows:
Hypothesis 1: There is a significant difference in experiential marketing across different demographic variables.
Hypothesis 2: There is a significant correlation between experiential marketing and the purchase intention of customers participating in exhibitions.
Hypothesis 3: Experiential marketing has a significantly positive relationship and influence on purchase intention.

Methods
Research Subjects
The subjects for this study consisted of the customers participating in the 2012 Taipei International Sports Cycle Show. The investigation of this study lasted for four days, from March 17th, 2012 to March 20th, 2012. The researcher stayed at the 2012 Taipei Sports International Cycle Show from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day for study. Then, the researcher conducted convenience sampling, selecting 650 questionnaires for research investigation.

Research Instruments
There were three research instruments used in this study. The first instrument was personal information including gender, age, marital status, education level, monthly income, residence, and so forth. The second one was an experiential marketing scale revised from Huang’s scale (11), which is based on Schmitt’s (27) experiential marketing scale. The experiential marketing scale of this study included 14 questions on five experiential attributes: emotional, thought, action, associative, and sensory experiences. The third instrument was a customer purchase intention scale revised from Hsu’s scale (15), which is based on Dodds, Monroe, and Grewal (8). Dodds, Monroe, and Grewal’s questionnaire on customer purchase intention and attitude toward recommending products to others. To ensure that the scales used in this study were consistent, efficient, and suitable, a validity and reliability analysis was implemented after the scales were gathered. Concerning the validity analysis, the questionnaires were created based on the theories and measurement instruments of Huang (11) and Hsu (15).

Then, the questionnaires were examined by scholars and experts, and a factor analysis was conducted to increase the efficiency of the content, thus building the content validity of the questionnaires. The factor analysis showed that the cumulative explained variance of both experiential marketing and purchase intention are up to 77.73 %. Hence, the measurement instruments used in this study meet the expected standards of validity. To analyze the reliability of the results, the Cronbach’s Alpha of purchase intention and experiential marketing scales were calculated for internal consistency. Both scales have an overall internal consistency up to .71, meaning they both have high reliability.

Number of Observations
This study adopted a more conservative method under the restriction of accuracy and reliability. Under the condition (α=.05, Cp=.05, and p=.5), the number of samples required was at least 384 (25). Based on the requirements for data analysis and the writing of the report, a return rate of at least 50 % as adequate, at least 60 % as good, and at least 70 % as very good (31). Thus, questionnaires were effectively gathered from 536 participants, return rate was 82%.

Results and Discussion
Differences in Experiential Marketing of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show across Different Demographic Variables

Differences in overall experiential marketing of potential consumer from different demographics were examined by an independent sample T test and a one-way ANOVA. The analysis showed that there was a significant difference in the variables of age and educational levels ( p<.005), while there was no significant difference in any other variables. Through a post hoc comparison, the researcher discovered that customers of 30 to 39 years of age had a stronger impression of “emotional experience” than those who were 40 years old or above. A post hoc comparison concerning the variable of education level showed that customers whose educational level was senior/vocational high school had a higher evaluation of experiential marketing activities than those with a college or graduate degree did. Furthermore, a one-way ANOVA was conducted to examine differences in all attributes of experiential marketing across customers with different backgrounds, as can be seen in the Table 1.

Table 1. Analysis of variance assessing differences in the five attributes of experiential marketing across customers with different backgrounds

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As can be seen from Table 1, differences in the five attributes of experiential marketing across customers of different ages, educational levels, and average monthly incomes reached a significant level ( p<.05), while there was no significant difference in any other variables. Furthermore, through a one-way ANOVA, the researcher discovered that there was a significant difference in the “emotional experience” attribute across customers of different ages ( p<.005). Based on the results of Scheffe’s post hoc test, compared to customers of 40 to 59 years of age, those 20 to 29 years old had a significantly higher perception of the “emotional experience” attribute; among customers with different education levels, compared to customers with a college degree, customers whose education level was senior/vocational high school had a significantly higher perception of the “thought experience” attribute ( p<.005); there was a significant difference in the “sensory experience” attribute across customers of different average monthly income ( p<.005). The results of Scheffe’s post hoc test also showed that compared to customers who have an average monthly income of $30,001 to 50,000 NTD, those who have an average monthly income of 5,000 NTD or below had a significantly higher perception of the “sensory experience” attribute; there was no significant difference in all attributes of experiential marketing of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show across customers of different marital status, gender, or residence.

Correlation Analysis between Experiential Marketing and Customer Purchase Intention
This study implemented a Pearson correlation coefficient to analyze the correlation among the averages of each variable. The overall correlation between experiential marketing and purchase intention reached a significant level, as can be seen in Table 2. There was a moderate positive correlation between most of the five attributes of experiential marketing and purchase intention, as can be seen in Table 3. Among all correlation coefficients, there was the highest degree of correlation between “customer purchase intention” and “action experience” – a correlation value of 0.667.

Table 2. Correlation between experiential marketing and purchase intention

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Table 3. Correlation between purchase intention and the five attributes of experiential marketing

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Table 3 showed that the higher the experiential evaluation those customers obtained from the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show, the higher their purchase intention would be. Customers gave a fairly high evaluation of the perception and reaction to this exhibition.

Regression Analysis of Purchase Intention on Experiential Marketing
This study aims to investigate whether an experiential marketing method will be transferred to customer purchase intention of a certain product. First, a regression analysis was conducted to investigate the influence of experiential marketing on customer purchase intention. The analysis resulted in an F-value of 339.272, a p-value of 0.000, and an adjusted R2 of 0.477, showing that the regression of purchase intention on experiential marketing reached a significant level, and had an explanatory power of 47.7 %.

Table 4. Regression of purchase intention on experiential marketing

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Table 4 showed that experiential marketing had a significantly positive influence on customer purchase intention (t = 18.335, p = 0.000, Beta coefficient = 0.9270>0). Therefore, if enterprises can emphasize experiential marketing activities at exhibitions, customer purchase intention of a certain product on exhibition can be promoted.
Second, another regression analysis was conducted to investigate the influence of the attributes of sensory, emotional, thought, action, and associative experiences on customer loyalty. The analysis result produced an F value of 81.591, a p-value of 0.000, and an adjusted R2 of 0.526, showing that the regression of customer purchase intention on the five attributes of experiential marketing reached a significant level, and had an explanatory power of 52.6 %.

Table 5. Regression of purchase intention on five attributes of experiential marketing

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Table 5 showed that the attributes of sensory, emotional, thought, and action experiences had a significant positive influence on customer purchase intention (t = 2.693, 3.006, 2.381, 9.550, respectively; p = 0.007, 0.003, 0.018, 0.000, respectively; and the standardized Beta coefficient = 0.121, 0.145, 0.133, 0.471, respectively). Among all five attributes of experiential marketing, only “associative experience” had no significant influence on purchase intention (t = -0.353; p = 0.721; standardized Beta coefficient = -0.017).

Consequently, if exhibitors at the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show can emphasize sensory, emotional, thought, and action experiences, this will help stimulate customer purchase activity at the exhibition.

CONCLUSIONS
The main purposes of this study are to investigate the degree of influence of experiential marketing of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show on customer purchase intention as well as to assess differences in experiential marketing across different demographic variables. The results show that there is a significant difference in experiential marketing at the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show across different demographic variables including age, education level, and average monthly income. There was a significant difference in “emotional experience” across customers of different ages. Among all age groups, customers 20 to 29 years old had higher perception of emotional experience than those 40 to 59 years old. Consumers in the age bracket of 20 to 29 years old placed more emphasis on “emotional experience.” Therefore, exhibitors should properly control the overall atmosphere of exhibitions, and maintain a sincere and professional attitude among service personnel. Moreover, exhibitors need to improve the cleanliness of their exhibition halls to enhance customer comfort and foster their “emotional experience” at the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show. Additionally, the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show appealed a lot of enthusiastic cyclists; hence, exhibitors should attempt to establish a relationship with customers to exchange information even after the exhibition is over. Compared to customers with a college degree, those who have a vocational or senior high school level of education have a significantly higher perception of the “thought experience” attribute. The researcher believes that customers who have an education level of college or above have a higher quality of cognitive ability than those with a general education degree; thus, they are more sensitive to the marketing necessity of exhibitions. There was a significant difference in the “sensory experience” between customers of different average monthly incomes. Through a post hoc comparison, the researcher discovered that compared to customers who had an average monthly income of$30,001 to 50,000 NTD, those who had an average monthly income of 5,000 NTD or below had a significantly higher perception of the “sensory experience” attribute.

There was a significant correlation between customer purchase intention and all attributes of experiential marketing. The experiential marketing of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show is effective in predicting customer purchase intention. From the study results, it is known that experiential marketing is certainly helpful in increasing customer purchase intention. Customers are profoundly influenced by the attributes of emotional, thought, action, associative, and sensory experiences, and show a positive evaluation of products. Among all attributes of experiential marketing, the highest degree of correlation is between “customer purchase intention” and “action experience” – a correlation value of 0.667 according to Table 3. Hence, exhibitors can bring in more experiential marketing activities for promoting customer purchase intention.

Examining the influence of customer experiential value of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show on customer purchase intention from viewpoint of marketing, the study results showed that all attributes of experiential marketing had a significant positive influence on purchase intention (t = 18.335; Beta Coefficient = 0.927). This result confirmed that past experiential marketing is a fairly crucial factor for impacting customer purchase intention. Furthermore, as the research supports the idea that purchase intention is influenced by experiential marketing, the creation of experiential marketing can be emphasized in marketing strategies. Experiential value can be created through experiential marketing including emotional, thought, action, associative, and sensory experiences. Through suitable experiential mediums, unique experiences can be passed onto customers to create high experiential value, which can be useful for further research. Enterprises can utilize experiential marketing, while paying close attention to whether the experience provided its customers is both holistic and irreplaceable. Moreover, enterprises can relate unique experiences with marketing strategies to offer customers a holistic experience to facilitate their future purchase decisions.

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2014-02-03T15:50:07-06:00January 31st, 2014|Contemporary Sports Issues, General, Sports Marketing|Comments Off on A Study of the Effect of Experiential Marketing on Customer Purchase Intention: Case Study of the Taipei International Sports Cycle Show

The Role of Psychological Commitment and Attitudinal Loyalty on The Relationship Between Involvement and Behavioral Loyalty of Sport Fans

Submitted by Tzetzis George and Tachis Stavros

ABSTRACT

Despite the recent rapid spread of leisure involvement and loyalty research, very little attention has been given to the conceptualization of the nature of involvement’s relationship with loyalty of sport fans. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty intervene in the relationship between sport fans’ involvement and their behavioral loyalty to a soccer team. The participants were 880 soccer fans. Regression equations were estimated to assess the role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty as mediators. Inter-correlations among the constructs did not suggest extreme multi-collinearity and indicated an adequate amount of discriminant validity. The results indicate that psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty intervene in the relationship between sport fans’ involvement and their behavioral loyalty to the soccer teams. It is suggested that marketing strategies may be developed to strengthen psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty in order to maximize behavioral loyalty.

INTRODUCTION

Sports organizations are seeking ways to understand the underlying factors of sport spectator loyalty in order to positively influence their behavioral intentions and to increase attendance. Consumer loyalty has long been recognized as a key factor for customer retention. Loyalty in the context of consumption is a “deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatronise a preferred product/service consistently in the future” (Oliver, 1999, p.34). The researchers have demonstrated that increases in consumer retention lead to greater profit (Reicheld & Sasser, 1990) and that the costs of customer retention are substantially less than the costs of new customer acquisition (Fornell & Wernerfelt, 1987).

While the importance of the loyalty construct is widely recognized, the conditions and variables that foster consumer loyalty for a specific product or service may vary. Oliver (1999) asserted that loyalty in the context of sports consumption may be different from loyalty towards a brand, vendor or store. Research in leisure settings proposed the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty because consumer loyalty is a key consideration for customer retention (Bennett & Bove 2002). While the importance of the loyalty construct is widely recognized, the variables that influence consumer loyalty for different sport environments may vary. Understanding the variables that influence loyalty may assist sports organizations in their management of spectator attendance and retention. Soccer attendance is probably the most popular leisure activity among European sport fans, generating huge economic revenues (Andreff, 2007; Ascari & Gagnepain, 2006; Frick & Prinz, 2006). The challenge for sport marketers is to retain, or increase the attendance.

The aim of this research was to explore variables that influence behavioral loyalty towards team sports, specifically professional soccer teams. This study extends prior sports marketing research by examining the role of fan involvement with their team and commitment on loyalty. Furthermore, fan’s loyalty was examined as attitudinal loyalty (resistance to change) and behavioral loyalty (past and future behaviors). Specifically, this study proposes that psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty mediate the effect of involvement on behavioral loyalty in a professional sports context.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT

Many researchers examined the concepts of involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty of consumers in leisure (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998, 2004; Kyle, Absher, Norman, Hammitt & Jodice, 2007; Kyle, Graefe, Manning & Bacon, 2003) and spectator sport settings (Funk, Beaton & Alexandris, 2012; Funk, Filo, Beaton & Pritchard, 2009; Funk & James 2001, 2006; Kim, James & Kim, 2012; Mahony, Madrigal & Howard, 2000). However, the relationship between involvement and loyalty in the context of sport fans is not well established.

Involvement

Involvement has been defined as ‘a person’s perceived relevance of the object based on inherent needs, values, and interests’ (Zaichkowsky, 1985, p. 342). Leisure involvement refers to an unobservable state of motivation, arousal or interest toward a recreational activity or associated product that is evoked by a particular or stimulus that possesses drive properties (Havitz & Howard, 1995; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998). This definition has been adapted recently to examine involvement of sport fans and spectators (Funk & James, 2001; Funk, Ridinger & Moorman, 2004). A variety of research dealing with involvement measurement has been conducted in leisure and sport settings (Dimanche, Havitz & Howard, 1993; Kerstetter & Kovich, 1997). The vast majority of researchers have approached involvement from multidimensional perspective and the last years adapted the model that measures involvement as consisting of three dimensions: attraction, centrality and self-expression (Kyle, Graefe, Manning & Bacon, 2004a, Kyle, Graefe, Manning & Bacon, 2004b; Kyle, Bricker, Graefe & Wickham, 2004; Kyle & Mowen, 2005). McIntyre and Pigram (1992) stated that the attraction facet is a combination of importance and pleasure. Self-expression is a dimension similar to sign and refers to self-representation, the impression of oneself that the consumers wish to convey to other people through their consumption. Centrality refers to the centrality of an activity in terms of the consumer’s lifestyle. An activity is considered central if other aspects of consumer’s life are organized around the activity (Kyle, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon 2003).

Although, involvement is a widely used construct in leisure settings, its application to the spectator sport has not given considerable attention and there has been limited empirical research on the relationship between involvement and commitment and loyalty in the context of sport fans, although this relationship was proposed in Iwasaki and Havitz’s (2004) theoretical model.

Psychological Commitment

Psychological commitment, in psychology and sociology, was used to explain consumer behavior (Crosby & Taylor, 1983). Many researchers have suggested that commitment to a sport team reflects an attitude (Funk & James, 2001; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998; Pritchard, Havitz & Howard, 1999). Heere and Dickson (2008) mentioned that in current marketing research there is a conceptual confusion and overlap between the attitudinal constructs of commitment and loyalty. Heere and Dickson (2008) suggested two different definitions for psychological commitment (as affective) and attitudinal loyalty in order to create a valid attitudinal loyalty scale. They defined commitment as “an internal psychological state of mind an individual has toward an object” (p. 230) and Wann, Melnick, Rusell and Pease (2001), as a consequence of consumers’ ability to satisfy their motivations through the consumption of that product or service. Heere and Dickson (2008) differentiated commitment from attitudinal loyalty that is defined as “the result of the interaction between negative external changes and the internal psychological connection” (p.230). In this study the mediating role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty for loyalty was examined as different constructs.

Loyalty

In sport team settings, loyalty has been characterized as a commitment to a team that persists, resists to changes and has an impact on the cognitive thoughts and behavior (Funk & James, 2006; Funk & Pastore, 2000). In order to create long term relationships, sport teams should enhance their strategies and identify the factors that affect sport fans’ loyalty. It’s important to create a loyal fan base but is also difficult because of the heterogeneous nature of the service and because the organization depends on the performance of the team (Funk & Pastore, 2000; Mahony et al., 2000; Heere & Dickson, 2008). From a marketing perspective past studies have shown that there is no universally accepted definition of loyalty (Cheng, 2011; Dick and Basu, 1994; Park and Kim, 2000). Instead, it is often conceptualized in two ways: a) loyalty as primarily an attitude that leads to a relationship with the brand and b) loyalty as an expression of revealed behavior (i.e. the pattern of previous or past purchases).

Attitudinal Loyalty To measure fan loyalty, it is necessary to understand why fans become loyal to a team. A broad range of research has focused on consumer motives for becoming involved with a sport team (Wann et al., 2001; Funk & Pastore, 2000). Attitudinal loyalty was defined by several researchers as affective commitment or affective loyalty (Kwon & Trail, 2003). Heere and Dickson (2008) suggested an alternative approach that uses items strictly chosen to measure the resistance to commitment change for the testing of attitudinal loyalty concept. Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer and Exler (2008) asserted that the attitudinal dimension of fan loyalty comprises the inner relatedness of fans to their team and distinguishes between spurious loyalty and “true” loyalty. In this study attitudinal loyalty was examined as resistance to change according to Heere and Dickson (2008) suggestion, because we argue that loyalty is best considered the individual’s resistance to change the strength of commitment rather than commitment itself (Pritchard, Havitz, & Howard 1999). Our argument proposes that commitment is an internal psychological state of mind an individual has toward an object. In contrast, attitudinal loyalty is a result of the interaction between negative external changes and the internal psychological connection.

Behavioral Loyalty Models of behavioral loyalty were primarily defined by patterns of brand allegiance or the expenditure of purchases towards a brand over a period of time (Worthington, Russell-Bennett, & Hartel 2010). Although behavioral patterns such as repeat attendance to sporting events may be the most evident manifestation of an individual’s attachment to a team, it ignores the actual behavior. Consequently, researchers have recently developed both attitudinal and both attitude and behavior measures of fan loyalty (e.g., Gladden & Funk, 2001; Hill & Green, 2000; Mahony, Madrigal, & Howard 2000; Pritchard, Havitz, & Howard, 1999). Bauer., Stokburger-Sauer, & Exler (2008) mentioned that behavioral loyalty represents past behavior and behavioral intentions. Past behavior comprises past purchasing behavior and past positive word-of-mouth. The intentional dimension represents the positive and persistent future behavior of the fan. It embraces intended loyal behavior and positive word-of-mouth, as well as cross-buying intentions (Homburg & Giering, 1999). In this study attitudinal and behavioral loyalty were both measured and behavioral loyalty was measured as the difference between past behavior and future intentions.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INVOLVEMENT, PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMITMENT, ATTITUDINAL AND BEHAVIORAL LOYALTY

The relationship between involvement, psychological commitment, attitudinal and behavioral loyalty of sport fans is consistent with the belief-attitude-behavior hierarchy that has been established (Ajzen, 1991; 2000). It has been proposed in the past that beliefs play a crucial role in attitude theory and Madrigal (2001) suggested that beliefs provide the groundwork upon which attitudes are constructed and lead to behaviors. Analyzing the relationship of the constructs, involvement refers to individuals’ beliefs about a brand (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997), psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty reflect to their attitude toward the brand of service and behavioral loyalty refers to their behavior (Pritchard et al., 1999; Pritchard & Howard, 1997). Understanding the relationship between these constructs may assist sport managers in their strategies for fans attendance and development of a loyal fan base.

In leisure settings, Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) proposed a theoretical model that individuals go through psychological processes to become loyal participants including the formation of high levels of involvement, the development of psychological commitment and the maintenance of strong attitudes toward resistance to change preferences. Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) extended their model with fitness participants proposing that psychological commitment and resistance to change have a mediator role in the relationship between involvement and behavioral loyalty of participants in leisure activities. In spectator area, several researchers suggested the relationship between involvement and fans attendance, watching games on television or listening on radio and reading team news in the newspapers (Kerstetter & Kovich 1997; Shank & Beasley 1998; Funk et al. 2004). In a recent study, Bee and Havitz (2010) examined the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment, resistance to change and behavioral loyalty among spectators of individual sport (tennis). The results indicated that psychological commitment and resistance to change mediate the relationship between involvement and loyalty of spectators.

The present study replicates and extends previous findings (Iwasaki & Havitz, 2004; Madrigal, 2001; Pritchard et al, 1999) by considering the different measurement approach of commitment, attitudinal and behavioral loyalty of sport fans by conceptualizing a behavioral component of loyalty with past and future behavior, as well as fan involvement with the team. It is expected that psychological commitment will act as a mediator where involvement will positively influence psychological commitment, which will subsequently increase attitudinal loyalty. Based on previous research, it is also expected that attitudinal loyalty will act as a mediator between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty. It is also proposed that attitudinal loyalty will mediate the effect of psychological commitment and positively influence behavioral loyalty, (past and future behavior) and frequency of attendance. As attitudinal loyalty increases, behavioral loyalty should also be strengthened.

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The purpose of the study was to test the applicability of the proposed model of the relationship between sport fans’ involvement and behavioral loyalty considering the mediating role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty for sport fans of professional teams. The resulting model would provide a better understanding of what drives to the final behavior of sport fans.

HYPOTHESIS

H1: Involvement will have a direct positive effect on psychological commitment.
H2: Psychological commitment will mediate the effect of involvement on attitudinal loyalty.
H3: Attitudinal loyalty will mediate the effect of psychological commitment on behavioral loyalty.

METHODOLOGY
Participants

Using a stratified sampling design, the sample for this study was composed of 880 fans of Greek soccer teams. The teams participate in the major soccer Greek League (Super League). They filled questionnaires that were administered prior to the beginning of soccer games. The research took place in the stadiums of the teams.

Measures
Involvement

The involvement scale proposed by Kyle, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon (2003), was used to measure fans’ involvement with the team. This scale was evaluated by reliability and validity criteria in the past (Kyle et al., 2003; 2004a; 2004b; Kyle et al., 2004; Kyle & Mowen, 2005). Involvement was measured by eleven (11) questions. The involvement construct was evaluated by three (3) dimensions: a) the “attraction” dimension including five (5) questions, e.g. “I really enjoy participating in my favorite team activities”, b) the “centrality” dimension including three (3) questions, e.g. “My favorite team has a central role in my life” and c) the “self-expression” dimension including three (3) questions, e.g. “When I participate in my favorite team activities others see me the way I want them to see me”.

Psychological Commitment
To measure psychological commitment of the fans the uni-dimensional scale of Funk, Filo, Beaton, and Pritchard (2009) was used since it was found that it was a valid and reliable instrument (Neale & Funk, 2006; Funk, Ridinger & Moorman 2003). Psychological commitment was measured by three (3) questions, “i.e., I am a committed fan of my favorite team; I am a loyal supporter of my favorite team; Win, lose or draw I’m a loyal fan of my favorite team”.

Attitudinal Loyalty
Attitudinal Loyalty to Team Scale (ALTS) of Heere and Dickson (2008) was used to measure fans’ attitudinal loyalty. The construct of attitudinal loyalty was measured by four (4) questions “i.e., I could never switch my loyalty from my favorite team even if my close friends were fans of another team; It would be difficult to change my beliefs about my favorite team; I would still be committed to my favorite team regardless of the luck of any star players; I would still be committed to my favorite team regardless of the lack of physical skill among the players”.

Behavioral loyalty
For the measurement of behavioral loyalty, ten (10) questions were used that consider both past and future behaviors, e.g. “I have often attended games of my favorite team live in the stadium/ I will often attend games of my favorite team live in the stadium” (Homburg & Giering, 1999; Fink, Trail & Anderson, 2003; Bauer et al., 2008) and as Bauer et al. (2008) suggested an average score for the past and future behavior of the item scores was calculated in order to reduce the complexity of the construct.

Demographic questions including gender, age, profession, education, income, nationality were also included into the questionnaire.

Procedure
A questionnaire distributed to spectators prior to the beginning of the soccer games. Specialized personnel distributed and selected the questionnaires in all stadiums gates giving some information about the questionnaire and the purpose of the study. The procedure lasted for two (2) months.

RESULTS

880 fans of Greek soccer teams participated in the study. The strong majority of the fans were Greek (98.8%) and male (93%). Almost 74% of the fans were between 20-39 years old. Also, there is a significant percentage (9.7%) of unemployed fans. Regarding to their level of education, a grand percentage (38.7%) of the participants has a high school degree. In addition, 42.7% of the fans were married and 31.2% of them had income less than 500€. Descriptive statistics are depicted in table 1.

Demographic Data
Age 8% < 19 30.7% 20-29

Table 1 Demographic data
Age <19
8% 20-29
30.7% 30-39
30.7%, 40-49
24.5% >50
6.1%
Gender Male
93% Female
7%
Marital Status Not married
54.3% Married
42.7% Divorced
2.5% Widow
0.5%
Professional Status Students
20% Employee
64,2% Entrepreneurs
4.8% Unemployed
9.7% Retired
1.3%
Education Elementary School
0.9% High School

38.7% Graduate

49.8% Post Graduate

10.6%
Income <500€
31.2% 500-1000€
28.9% 1000-1700€
26.9% >1.700€
13%
Ethnicity Greek
98.8% Other
1.2%

Analysis was conducted on means for all survey items, including each standardized scale and subscale. Descriptive statistics, reliabilities and inter-correlations for the variables assessed in this study are presented in table 2.

Table 2 Descriptive and alpha reliability of the involvement, psychological commitment, attitudinal and behavioral loyalty
Factors Mean S.D. (Cronbach a) Items
Involvement 8
Attraction 6.13 1.06 0.81 3
Centrality 5.27 1.38 0.89 3
Self-expression 4.38 1.78 0.79 2
Psychological Commitment 6.61 0.70 0.82 3
Attitudinal Loyalty 6.72 0.55 0.73 4
Behavioral Loyalty 5.96 0.85 10
Past Behavior 5.84 0.89 0.69 5
Future Behavior 6.08 0.89 0.71 5

The reliability analysis indicated good values of alpha ranging from .69 to .89. In terms of the descriptive statistics, the results indicated high mean scores for all the involvement dimensions, for psychological commitment, for attitudinal and behavioral loyalty. Inter-correlations among the constructs, ranging from .26 to .50, did not suggest extreme multi-collinearity and indicated an adequate amount of discriminant validity (Table 3).

Table 3 Inter-correlations among constructs
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6
Behavioral Loyalty
Attitudinal Loyalty .38**
Psychological Commitment .49** .26**
Involvement Attraction .38** .26** .36**
Involvement Centrality .50** .32** .41** .40**
Involvement Self expression .33** .32** .41** .33** .46**
** Correlation is significant at the .001 level**

To test for mediation, a series of regression equations were performed. Specifically, the analyses followed the test for mediation as discussed in Baron and Kenny (1986). First, the mediator was regressed on the independent variable(s). Second, the dependent variable was regressed on the independent variable(s). Third, the dependent variable was regressed on the independent variable(s) and the mediator. This procedure was conducted to test for mediation with both psychological commitment and resistance to change acting as mediators. Overall, the results support the hypothesized model with both psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty acting as mediators. Three multiple regression equations were estimated to assess the role of psychological commitment as a mediator (Table 4).

Table 4 Psychological commitment as a mediator
PATH R2 Estimates T-Value (p)
Independent variables -> Mediator .21
Involvement (attraction) -> Psychological commitment .24 6.82 (p< .001)
Involvement (centrality) -> Psychological commitment .31 8.43 (p< .001)
Involvement (self-expression) -> Psychological commitment .01 .44 (p>.05)
Independent variables -> Dependent variable .12
Involvement (attraction) ->Psychological commitment .14 4.02 (p< .001)
Involvement (centrality) -> Psychological commitment .23 6.05 (p< .001)
Involvement (self-expression) -> Attitudinal loyalty .05 1.37 (p>.05)
Independent variables & Mediator -> Dependent variable .37
Psychological commitment -> Attitudinal loyalty .55 17.59 (p< .001)
Involvement (attraction) -> Attitudinal loyalty .02 .48 (p>.05)
Involvement (centrality) -> Attitudinal loyalty .06 1.82 (p>.05)
Involvement (self-expression)
-> Attitudinal loyalty .04 1.33 (p>.05)

In support of H1 the first regression analysis indicated that both dimensions of involvement “attraction” (b=.24, t=6.82, p< .001) and “centrality” (b=.31, t=8.43, p<.001) had a positive and significant influence on the mediator, psychological commitment but not the dimension “self-expression” (b=.01, t=.44, p>.05). Initial support for H2 was found when both dimensions of involvement “attraction” (b=.14, t=4.02, p< .001) and “centrality” (b=.23, t=6.05, p<.001) had a positive and significant influence on the dependent variable attitudinal loyalty but not the dimension “self-expression” (b=.05, t=1.37, p>.05). Finally, when the dimensions of involvement and psychological commitment were entered as predictors of the dependent variable, attitudinal loyalty, only the relationship between the mediator, psychological commitment (b=.55, t=17.59, p< .001) and the dependent variable, attitudinal loyalty was significant. The relationship between the dimensions of involvement and attitudinal loyalty were not significant for both “attraction” (b=.02, t=.48, p>.05), and “centrality” (b=.06, t=1.82, p>.05) as well as “self-expression” (b=.04, t=1.33, p>.05). The above results support H2 and suggest that psychological commitment mediates the influence of involvement on attitudinal loyalty. Three multiple regression equations were estimated to assess the role of attitudinal loyalty as a mediator (Table 4).

Table 4 Attitudinal loyalty as a mediator
Path R2 Estimates T-value (p)
Independent variables -> Mediator .36
Psychological commitment -> Attitudinal loyalty .60 21.29 (p< .001)
Independent variables -> Dependent variable .24
Psychological commitment -> Behavioral loyalty .49 16.00 p< .001)
Independent variables & Mediator -> Dependent variable .24
Psychological commitment -> Behavioral loyalty .05 1.33 (p>.05)
Attitudinal loyalty -> Behavioral loyalty .46 12.01 (p< .001)

The results of the second set of regression analyses support the proposed relationship that attitudinal loyalty mediates the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty measured as the difference between past and future behavior. The relationship between psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty was significant (b=.60, t=21.29, p<.001). The relationship between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty was also significant (b=.49, t=16.00, p=.001). The final step provided evidence of mediation, where attitudinal loyalty (b=.46, t=12.01, p<.001) was significantly related to behavioral loyalty, but psychological commitment was not (b=-.05, t=-1.33, p>.05). These results support H3 and provide an indication that the influence of psychological commitment on behavioral loyalty was mediated by the inclusion of attitudinal loyalty.

DISCUSSION
The purpose of the present study was to examine the application of a model proposed in leisure and recreation settings (fitness) to spectator professional sports. The study aimed to confirm the importance of underlying factors, as involvement, psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty in the development of behavioral loyalty among soccer fans.

From the results of the study it was found that for professional soccer spectators behavioral loyalty (past and future behavior) is better explained by the direct effect of attitudinal loyalty and the indirect effects of psychological commitment and involvement. This builds on previous research in this area by including three dimensions of involvement (“attraction”, “centrality”, “self-expression”), a two dimensional component of behavioral loyalty by including past and future behaviors and an attitudinal component of loyalty (resistance to change), specifying the relationships among variables, and examining a professional team sport.

The results indicated that self-expression was not a significant predictor of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty and are in line with other researches (Alexandris, Kouthouris, Funk & Chatzigianni, 2008). Probably, a spectator’s involvement with the team is not an expression of his self-concept in relation to his status in society. More attention and further examination for self-expression needs to be directed.

From the results of this study it was found that a spectator’s involvement with the team is important in the development of psychological commitment. Attitudinal loyalty is also important in the development of behavioral loyalty. Finally, psychological commitment has a direct effect on attitudinal loyalty.

From the mediation results it was found that psychological commitment is a mediating variable between involvement and behavioral loyalty. Additionally, attitudinal loyalty is a mediating factor that facilitates the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty. It seems that not all highly involved spectators become loyal to their team, although higher levels of enduring involvement seem to be an important precursor to behavioral loyalty. Higher levels of psychological commitment, in which attitudinal loyalty is a crucial element, appear essential for the development of spectators’ behavioral loyalty to a team. The development of spectators’ behavioral loyalty appears to be best explained as a progressive process in which the formation of high involvement seems to be a precondition for becoming a committed spectator of a team. When people develop attitudinal loyalty in terms of resistance to change they become loyal to their team. Pritchard et al. (1999) also supported that behavioral loyalty is an outcome of attitudinal loyalty and plays a mediating role whereby psychological commitment has an indirect effect on behavioral loyalty for tourism industry. The above results agree with the initial model in fitness participation context of Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) that proposed the mediating role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty between involvement and behavioral intentions. These findings are consistent with past studies on involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty (Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998; Kim, Scott & Crompton, 1997; Park, 1996; Pritchard et al., 1999). Although the original model of the involvement measurement was used extensively in leisure settings (Kyle et al., 2003; 2004a; 2004b; Kyle et al., 2004; Kyle & Mowen, 2005), this model was found to be applicable in professional sport spectator settings.

Managerial Implications
From this study it was found that the relationship between involvement and behavioral loyalty is complex since other variables mediate this relationship. The understanding of the relationship among the variables is important for managers and professionals since it explains the processes for the development of behavioral loyalty. The proposed model could help sport managers to understand clearly the behavior of sport fans and to enhance marketing strategies in order to develop and retain a loyal fan base. Marketers can potentially influence behavioral loyalty by capitalizing on any or all of the variables examined by the proposed model.

Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) proposed that loyalty is a developmental process. From this study it was found that high involved soccer spectators and specifically those who were attracted to the team and the team plays a central role to their life, have the potential to develop into high committed fans who demonstrate high levels of behavioral loyalty. Attitudinal loyalty is important for the development of behavioral loyalty but it can also be developed by maximizing psychological commitment and involvement.
In conclusion, sport managers should comprehend the procedures developing fans’ behavioral loyalty to their teams. It’s proposed the application of new strategies and the reinforcement of fans’ psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty in order to control the process that fans become loyal.

Limitations of the Study
Several limitations are acknowledged in the present study. First, the conceptual model was developed primarily in the context of professional soccer teams, in Greece. It is important to test the psychometric properties of the proposed scale of involvement in other sport spectator settings in order to examine the adequacy of the scale in the measurement of sport fans’ involvement with their teams. Second, the psychometric properties of the measurement scale have been verified with only a limited sample. Third from the relative bibliography indicated that there are many factors contributing the development of sport fans loyalty. The proposed model should take into account all these factors. Finally, the sample of the research was limited, as we examined only fans that attend games. It’s useful to focus in other samples of sport fans, such as fans that watch only their favorite teams on television or internet.

Future Research
The model of the relationship among these constructs focused on soccer fans. A recommendation for future studies would be to segment participants and evaluate the effect of different strategies in developing behavioral loyalty. High, medium or low involvement sport consumers may develop brand loyalty in a different way and this seems like an interesting option for research.

The generalizability of the model must be examined using various population groups. Research in other spectator sports is an interesting topic that may result to new different findings. Also, the grand majority of the participants were male. The examination of the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty among female sport fans should contribute to consumer behavior research, especially in European spectator sport settings.

Another recommendation for a future study would be to test for factors that precede involvement and identify reasons for becoming involved or not. For example motives and other constraints would probably complete the explanation of sport consumers behavioral involvement and loyalty model.

This study can be used as a foundation for further sport spectator research. However future research should include more factors in order to understand spectators in other applied settings. We could then be more confident for the success of organizing the sport events.

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2016-10-12T15:06:53-05:00December 24th, 2013|Sports Management, Sports Marketing|Comments Off on The Role of Psychological Commitment and Attitudinal Loyalty on The Relationship Between Involvement and Behavioral Loyalty of Sport Fans