About five years ago Simon Wardle, vice president of research at Octagon (a marketing firm that specializes in sports), began constructing a massive database of fan data. The motivation was to discover the reasons why fans followed sports, and then be better able to influence their behavior as consumers. The result was Passion Drivers, a collection of data pulled from over 40,000 avid fans.
In creating this database, Wardle realized it was necessary to split fans from each sport into subgroups. For example, in baseball there were three such groups: Field of Dreamers (“typical” fans, age 55-64), Team Obsessors (more die-hard in nature, age 25-34), and Family Connectors (skewed female, generally mothers of middle income families). Basketball, for its part, had twelve groups and Wardle had a much harder time determining common motives among the groups. Fans of NASCAR on the other hand, had similar desires across the board, making them a regular cake-walk for advertisers.
Daniel Wann, the Murray State professor that we’ve come to know well on this blog, has determined eight basic motives behind sports fandom: entertainment, escape, economics (gambling), aesthetics, family, group affiliation, self-esteem, and eustress (we’ve seen this term before, basically it means fretting over the success of your team, then witnessing its victory). Interestingly, these motives appear to be unevenly distributed among different sports. Fans of basketball, for example, are driven more by aesthetics (the grace, ability, and athleticism displayed by players), whereas fans of auto racing are driven more by group affiliation.
Check out the graph below for more interesting stats and read more observations in the full article.