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.

REFERENCES
1. Ajzen, I. (2000). Nature and operation of attitudes. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 27-58.
2. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.
3. Alexandris, K., Kouthouris, C., Funk, D., & Chatzigianni, E. (2008). Examining the relationships between leisure constraints, involvement and attitudinal loyalty among Greek recreational skiers. European Sport Management Quarterly, 8(3), 247-264.
4. Andreff, W. (2007). French football: A financial crisis rooted in weak governance. Journal of Sports Economics, 8(6), 652–661.
5. Ascari, G., & Gagnepain, P. (2006). Spanish football. Journal of Sports Economics, 7(1), 76–89.
6. Baron, R.M., & Kenny, D.A. (1986) The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51(6), 1173-1182.
7. Bauer, H., Stokburger-Sauer, N., & Exler, S. (2008). Brand Image and Fan Loyalty in Professional Team Sport: A Refined Model and Empirical Assessment, Journal of Sport Management, 22(2), 205–226.
8. Bee, C.C., & Havitz, E.M. (2010). Exploring the relationship between involvement, fan attraction, psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty in a sports spectator context. International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 11(2), 140-157.
9. Bennett, R., & Bove, L. (2002). Identifying the key issues for measuring loyalty. Australasian Journal of Market Research, 9(2), 27-44.
10. Cheng, S. (2011). Comparisons of Competing Models Between Attitudinal Loyalty and Behavioural Loyalty, International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(10), 149-166.
11. Crosby, L.A., & Taylor, J.R. (1983). Psychological commitment and its effects on post decision evaluation and preference stability among voters. Journal of Consumer Research, 9(4), 413-431.
12. Dick, A., & Basu, K. (1994). Customer Loyalty: Toward an Integrated Conceptual Framework, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 22(2), 99-113.
13. Dimanche, F., Havitz, M.E., & Howard, D.R. (1993). Consumer involvement profiles as a tourism segmentation tool. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 1(4), 33–52.
14. Fink, J.S., Trail, G.T., & Anderson, D.F. (2003). Environmental factors associated with spectator attendance and sport consumption behavior: Gender and team differences. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 11(1), 8–19.
15. Fornell, C., & Wernerfelt, B. (1987) Defensive marketing strategy by customer complaint management: a theoretical analysis, Journal of Marketing Research 24(4), 337-47.
16. Frick, B., & Prinz, J. (2006). Crisis? What crisis? Football in Germany. Journal of Sports Economics, 7(1), 60-75.
17. Funk, D.C., Beaton, A., & Alexandris, K. (2012). Sport consumer motivation: Autonomy and control orientations that regulate fan behaviours. Sport Management Review, 15(3), 355-367.
18. Funk, D.C., Filo, K., Beaton, A.A., & Pritchard, M. (2009). Measuring the motives of sport event attendance: Bridging the academic-practitioner divide to understanding behavior. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 18(3), 126–138.
19. Funk, D., & James, J. (2006). Consumer Loyalty: The Meaning of Attachment in the Development of Sport Team Allegiance, Journal of Sport Management, 20(2), 189–217.
20. Funk, D.C., & James, J. (2001). The Psychological Continuum Model: A conceptual framework for understanding an individual’s psychological connection to sport. Sport Management Review, 4(2), 119-150.
21. Funk, D.C., & Pastore, D.L. (2000). Equating attitudes to allegiance: The usefulness of selected attitudinal information in segmenting loyalty to professional sports teams. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 9(4), 175–184.
22. Funk, D.C., Ridinger, L.L., & Moorman, A.M. (2004). Exploring origins of involvement: Understanding the relationship between consumer motives and involvement with professional sport teams. Leisure Sciences, 26(1), 35-61.
23. Funk, D.C., Ridinger, L.L., & Moorman, A.M. (2003). Understanding consumer support: Extending the Sport Interest Inventory (SII) to examine individual differences among women’s professional sport consumers. Sport Management Review, 6, 1-32.
24. Gladden J.M., & Funk, D.C. (2001). Understanding brand loyalty in professional sport: Examining the link between brand association and brand loyalty. International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 3(1), 67-94.
25. Havitz, M.E., & Dimanche, F. (1997). Leisure involvement revisited: Conceptual conundrums and measurement advances. Journal of Leisure Research, 29(3), 245-278.
26. Havitz, M.E., & Howard, D.R. (1995). How enduring in enduring involvement? A seasonal examination of three recreational activities. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 4(3), 255–276.
27. Heere, B., & Dickson, G. (2008). Measuring Attitudinal Loyalty: Separating the Terms of Affective Commitment and Attitudinal Loyalty, Journal of Sport Management, 22(2), 227–239.
28. Hill, B., & Green, B.C. (2000). Repeat attendance as function of involvement, loyalty and the sportscape across three football contexts. Sport Management Review, 3(2), 145-162.
29. Homburg, C., & Giering, A. (1999). Messung von Markenzufriedenheit und Markenloyalitδt [The measurement of brand satisfaction and brand loyalty]. In F-R. Esch (Ed.), Moderne Markenführung: Grundlagen—innovative Ansätze —praktische Umsetzungen [Modern brand management: Fundamentals, new approaches, implementations] (pp. 1089–1100). Wiesbaden, Germany: Gabler.
30. Iwasaki, Y., & Havitz, M.E. (2004). Examining relationships between leisure involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty to a recreation agency. Journal of Leisure Research, 36(1), 45-72.
31. Iwasaki, Y., & Havitz, M.E. (1998). A path analytic model of the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty. Journal of Leisure Research, 19(2), 256-280.
32. Kerstetter, D., & Kovich, G.M. (1997). The involvement profiles of Division I women’s basketball spectators. Journal of Sport Management, 11(3), 234-249.
33. Kyle, G., Absher, J., Norman, W., Hammitt, W., & Jodice, L. (2007). A Modified Involvement Scale. Taylor & Francis Leisure Studies, 26(4), 399-427.
34. Kyle, G.T., Bricker, K.S., Graefe, A.R., & Wickham, T. D. (2004). An examination of recreationists’ relationships with activities and settings. Leisure Sciences, 26(2), 123-142.
35. Kyle, G.T., Graefe, A.R., Manning, R.E., & Bacon, J. (2004a). Predictors of behavioral loyalty among hikers along the Appalachian trail. Leisure Sciences, 26(1), 99-118.
36. Kyle, G.T., Graefe, A.R., Manning, R.E., & Bacon, J. (2004b). Effect of activity involvement and place attachment on recreationists’ perceptions of setting density. Journal of Leisure Research, 36(2), 209-231.
37. Kyle, G.T., Graefe A.R., Manning R.E., & Bacon, J. (2003). An examination of the relationship between leisure activity involvement and place attachment among hikers along the Appalachian Trail. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(3), 249-273.
38. Kyle, G.T., & Mowen, A.J. (2005). An examination of the leisure involvement – agency commitment relationship. Journal of Leisure Research, 37(3), 342-363.
39. Kim, J.W, James, F., & Kim, K.U. (2012). A model of the relationship among sport consumer motives, spectator commitment and behavioral intentions. Sport Management Review, (in press).
40. Kim, S.S., Scott, D., & Crompton, J.L. (1997). An exploration of the relationships among social psychological involvement, behavioral involvement, commitment and future intentions in the context of bird watching. Journal of Leisure Research, 29(3), 320-341.
41. Kwon, H.H., & Trail, G.T. (2003). A reexamination of the construct and concurrent validity of the psychological commitment to team scale. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 12(2), 88-93.
42. Laurent, G., & Kapferer, J.N. (1985). Measuring consumer involvement profiles. Journal of Marketing Research, 22(1), 41–53.
43. Madrigal, R. (2001). Social identity effects in a belief-attitude-intensions hierarchy: Implications for corporate sponsorship. Psychology and Marketing, 18(2), 145-165.
44. Mahony, D.F., Madrigal, R., & Howard, D.R. (2000). Using the psychological commitment to team (PCT) scale to segment sport consumers based on loyalty. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 9(1), 15-25.
45. McIntyre, N., & Pigram, J.J. (1992). Recreation specialization reexamined: The case of vehicle based campers. Leisure Sciences, 14, 3-15.
46. Neale, L., & Funk, D.C. (2006). Investigating Motivation, Attitudinal Loyalty and Attendance Behavior with Fans of Australian Football. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 7(4), 307-317.
47. Oliver, R.L. (1999) Whence consumer loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 63, (Special Issue), 33-44.
48. Park, S.H. (1996). Relationship between involvement and attitudinal loyalty constructs in adult fitness programs. Journal of Leisure Research, 28(4), 233-250.
49. Park, S., & Kim, Y. (2000). Conceptualizing and Measuring the Attitudinal Loyalty Construct in Recreational Sport Contexts, Journal of Sport Management, 14(3), 197-207.
50. Pritchard, M.P., Havitz, M.E., & Howard, D.R. (1999). Analyzing the commitment loyalty link in service contexts. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(3), 333-348.
51. Pritchard, M.P., Havitz, M.E., & Howard, D.R. (1997). The psychological processes of commitment: Understanding customer commitment to a brand. Manuscript submitted for publication consideration.
52. Pritchard, M.P., & Howard, D.R. (1997). The loyal traveler: Examining a typology of service patronage. Journal of Travel Research, 35(4), 2-10.
53. Reicheld, F.F., & Sasser Jr., W.E. (1990) Zero defections: quality comes to services, Harvard Business Review 68 (September/October), 105-11.
54. Shank, M.D., & Beasley, F.M. (1998). Fan or fanatic: Refining a measure of sports involvement. Journal of Sport Behavior, 21(4), 435-443.
55. Wann, D.L., Melnick, M.J., Russell, G.W., & Pease, D.G. (2001). Sport fans: The psychology and social impact of spectators. New York: Routledge.
56. Worthington, S., Russell-Bennett, R., & Hartel, C. (2010). A Tri-dimensional Approach for Auditing Brand Loyalty, Journal of Brand Management, 17(4), 243-253.
57. Zaichkowsky, J.L. (1985). Measuring the involvement construct. Journal of Consumer Research, 12(3), 341-352.