What draws a sports fan to a particular team? In many cases, geography is certainly a factor – but new research indicates that for international consumers, ethnicity and/or nationality might also play a role.
A study in Sport Management Review examined the 2012 “Linsanity” phenomenon, in which New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin became an NBA sensation after coming off the bench to lead his team to seven consecutive victories and set an individual scoring record. Lin, an Asian-American of Taiwanese descent, garnered considerable attention in Taiwan as well as the U.S., leading researchers to wonder how many of those fans he might have attracted based on shared cultural traits.
The study focused on the process of self-categorization – the extent to which a sports fan self-identifies with a particular team or sports league as an extension of themselves. The researchers deployed an online survey to a sample of Taiwanese college undergraduates and graduate students, as the demographic group most likely to engage in sports-related consumption and discussion. They found that international consumers might first become aware of a player due to his ethnic and/or national identity, and then transfer that attachment to the team for which he or she plays. Ultimately, the self-categorization can extend to the sports league itself.
“These findings have clear implications for the ability of a sports league to expand successfully into new international markets,” says co-author Joe Phua, assistant professor of marketing and advertising at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “For example, teams might consider recruiting players with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds and leverage those associations via strategic marketing activities, such as hosting sporting events in the foreign countries that identify most closely with those athletes.”
And whatever became of Jeremy Lin? It was a happy ending: On the strength of his record-setting performance, Lin earned a $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets. To view the full article, click here.
Kuan-Ju Chen, Joe Phua (2016). Self-categorization process in sport: An examination of the “Linsanity” phenomenon in Taiwan. Sport Management Review.