To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Idolizing sport celebrities: a gateway to psychopathology?

Michael R. Hyman (Stan Fulton Chair of Marketing at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA)
Jeremy J. Sierra (Assistant Professor at McCoy College of Business Administration, Department of Marketing, Texas State University – San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas, USA)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 31 August 2010




Sport celebrities often endorse their team, their sport, and non‐sports‐related products. Increased idolizing of sport celebrities by adolescents is one artifact of this promotional practice. Although seemingly innocuous, adolescents who idolize sport celebrities may, as adults, come to worship such celebrities; this unhealthy obsession may afflict 10 percent or more of adults. If adolescent hero worship of sport celebrities is a gateway to this adult psychopathology, then alerting parents, as well as encouraging social responsibility among advertisers and sport teams/leagues, is critical. This paper aims to address the issues.


After a brief review of the literature on adolescent hero worship, the literature on the determinants and effects of celebrity worship are explored.


Once parents, advertisers, sport team/leagues are sensitized to the problem, adolescent hero worship of sport celebrities can be mitigated as a likely gateway to many adults' unhealthy obsession with celebrities.

Research limitations/implications

Directions for future sport celebrity worship research are suggested.

Practical implications

The incidence of a potentially psychologically damaging affliction can be reduced without harm to advertisers, sport teams/leagues, and athletes.

Social implications

Ways to reduce promotion‐induced sport celebrity worship – without eliminating sport promotion per se – are suggested. Recommendations are targeted for sport‐related and non‐sport‐related products as well as teams and leagues/conferences.


This paper is the first to suggest a link between adolescent hero worship of sport celebrities and psychologically dangerous celebrity worship by adults.



Hyman, M.R. and Sierra, J.J. (2010), "Idolizing sport celebrities: a gateway to psychopathology?", Young Consumers, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 226-238.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles