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The impact of special events and fan–player bonding on identified fan consumption – a study of professional soccer in the USA

Diego Gutierrez (Helzberg School of Management, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
James J. Zboja (Heider College of Business, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
Kristie Briggs (Heider College of Business, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
Kathleen M. Sheehan (Heider College of Business, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 19 July 2022

Issue publication date: 24 February 2023

277

Abstract

Purpose

The primary purpose of this study is to examine how fan attendance at team special events and player appearances impact fan consumption (as measured by merchandise sales). Insights obtained could shed light on opportunities for professional soccer teams to expand revenues through enhanced fan consumption of goods and services.

Design/methodology/approach

A sample of 499 season ticket holders were used to assess fan consumption by measuring merchandise sales. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions were run for merchandise sales as the dependent variable of fan consumption. The control variables were age, gender (male = 1, 0 otherwise), and whether an individual has children.

Findings

The key independent variables of attending special events and fan–player bonding were both found to have a statistically significant impact on merchandise sales. Results show that each additional special event attended generates up to $33.71 in merchandise sales for the club. Similarly, each fan–player bonding experience attended also has a direct impact, increasing merchandise consumption by $23.00.

Social implications

The results of this study provide insights that can help fan consumption grow within the professional United States soccer industry and better allow team managers to make decisions about the possible benefits of holding more special events and fan–player bonding experiences. The findings also confirm the impact personal relationships with fans can have on the bottom line of sport franchises.

Originality/value

Though this study adds to the body of literature by expanding previous work on fan consumption, there are limited studies on the social aspects of consumption which are examined and analyzed within this study, particularly of note is the study of merchandise sales as proxy for fan consumption.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Note: This manuscript is derived from a doctoral dissertation.

The authors would like to thank Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City and analytics firm Fan360 for providing data.

Citation

Gutierrez, D., Zboja, J.J., Briggs, K. and Sheehan, K.M. (2023), "The impact of special events and fan–player bonding on identified fan consumption – a study of professional soccer in the USA", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 141-160. https://doi.org/10.1108/SBM-11-2021-0140

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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