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Fan identification, Schadenfreude toward hated rivals, and the mediating effects of Importance of Winning Index (IWIN)

Vassilis Dalakas (Department of Management and Marketing, California State University San Marcos, San Marcos, California, USA)
Joanna Phillips Melancon (Department of Marketing and Sales, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 17 February 2012




The purpose of this paper is to explore potential negative outcomes of high fan identification as well as to identify the causal mechanism or mediator by which high identification may result in such negative responses.


A scale development process was used to develop a new mediating construct for the fan identification literature, the Importance of Winning Index (IWIN). Structural equations modeling was used to analyze the surveys.


The IWIN construct represents a new and distinct construct from fan identification. Additionally, IWIN mediates the relationship between fan identification and negative outcome behaviors, thus serving as an explanatory mechanism of when fan identification can produce negative behaviors (in this study Schadenfreude, or wishing ill/harm on rivals).

Research limitations/implications

A student sample and limitation to one context of negative outcomes leaves opportunities for future research to assess the generalizability of these results across various populations and contexts.

Practical implications

Schadenfreude is manifested toward a variety of targets associated with a rival team, including the team's sponsors. Companies should be cautious when selecting what teams they sponsor so that they do not alienate potential consumers who are fans of rival teams. Moreover, the study raises important ethical and social responsibility issues with broader implications suggesting that sports organizations need to promote strong identification among their fans in a responsible manner.


This article is one of few studies that addresses the adverse effects of a highly identified fan/customer base and extends the identification literature by introducing a new variable (IWIN) that mediates the relationship between identification and negative outcomes.



Dalakas, V. and Phillips Melancon, J. (2012), "Fan identification, Schadenfreude toward hated rivals, and the mediating effects of Importance of Winning Index (IWIN)", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 51-59.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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