Effects of Team Identification on Motives, Behavior Outcomes, and Perceived Service Quality

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1 Effects of Team Identification on Motives, Behavior Outcomes, and Perceived Service Quality LI-SHIUE GAU 1,*, JEFFREY D. JAMES 2 AND JONG-CHAE KIM 3 1 Department of Leisure and Recreation Management, Asia University, Taiwan 2 Department of Sport & Recreation Management, Recreation Management, and Physical Education, Florida State University, USA. 3 The Sport Management Program, Department of Health & Human Performance, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, University of Tennessee at Martin, USA ABSTRACT The current article comprehensively examines the affective, behavioral and cognitive effects of team identification. In the affective aspect, the influence of team identification regards motives driving people to attend games. The first hypothesis is that persons high in identification would be more likely to be motivated by Self-definitive motives than by Entertainment and Sociability. That is, persons low in identification would be more likely to be motivated by Entertainment and Sociability than by Self-definitive motives. With respect to the influence of team identification on behaviors, the second and third hypotheses are that highly identified fans consume more media and merchandise than people low in identification. Regarding the influence of team identification on cognition, the fourth hypothesis is that highly identified fans perceive higher service quality than people low in identification. The results support all of the hypotheses. Sport marketers may design marketing programs appealing to different segments with different levels of team identification. Key words: team identification, motive, media consumption, merchandise consumption, service quality. 1. INTRODUCTION Team identification is recognized as a phenomenon associated with sport consumption. Sport teams serve as an object with which consumers identify, evoking emotional attachment (Sutton, McDonald, Milne & Cimperman, 1997). Prior studies have focused on factors influencing the formation of team identification (Kolbe & James, 2000; Wann, Tucker & Schrader, 1996) and measuring team identification (Kwon & Armstrong, 2004; Wann & Branscombe, 1993). Additional work is needed examining the consequences of team identification in terms of affective, behavioral and cognitive influences on consumers. Regarding affective influences, the current study sought to examine the effect of team identification on six interest variables combined to represent enjoyment, sociability and self-definitional motives. With respect to behavioral influences, the present study examined the impact of team identification on media and merchandise consumption. With respect to cognitive influences, perceptions of service quality were examined relative to the level of team identification. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW * Corresponding author

2 Team identification is defined as the personal commitment and emotional involvement customers have with a sport [team] (Sutton et al., 1997, p. 15). According to social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981), identifying with a group enhances a person s self-esteem because of the personal meaning and value that comes from belonging to or associating with a particular group. Through team identification an individual forms a psychological connection with a team (Wann, 1997), thinks of himself or herself as part of a particular team and experiences vicarious achievement when his or her team performs well (Sloan, 1979). The primary purpose of the current study was to examine the influence of team identification on motives, consumption behaviors and perceived service quality. Figure 1 illustrates the framework of this research. Self-definition (High) Entertainment (Low) Sociability (Low) H1 Team identification High Low H4 H2 H3 Media consumption (High/Low) Merchandise consumption (High/Low) Perceived Service quality (High/Low) Figure 1. A framework of effects of team identification on motives, behavior outcomes, and perceived service quality. 1.1 Influence on Motives A stream of studies has examined fan motivation for spectator sports (e.g., James & Ross, 2004; Trail & James, 2001; Wann, 1995). Motives that have been examined primarily include team effort, team affiliation, vicarious achievement, entertainment, drama, physical skills, escape, aesthetics, social interaction and family. James and Ross (2004) divided the motives into sport-related motives (i.e., entertainment, skill, drama, and team effort), self-definitional motives (i.e., achievement, and team affiliation) and motives related to personal benefits (i.e., social interaction and family). However, according to American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), motive is the psychological feature (an emotion, desire or need) that acts as an incitement to action (c.f. Mahony, Makoto, Funk, James & Gladden, 2002). Drama and Physical Skills are not psychological features. While consumers probably enjoy and are interested in the drama that is part of a sporting event, and the physical skills demonstrated by players, the constructs are attributes of a sporting event, not motives per se. Similarly, Team Effort and Aesthetics are also game-related attributes, which may attract people for reasons related to Team Affiliation and Entertainment. Furthermore, when people watch sports they enjoyed the feeling of pleasure with fun and relief of boredom and tension (Zillman, Bryant & Sapolsky, 1989). Individuals would escape daily hassles and find pleasure in sporting events. Thus, 77

3 the motive Escape is considered part of the category construct, enjoyment. For personal benefits, spectator sports provide venues for sociability with family members, friends, business associates and bonding opportunities (Gau, 2007; Milne & McDonald, 1999). It seems that the label sociability is more accurate than personal benefits to include Social Interaction and Family. Consequently, three sets of motives were proposed: enjoyment motives (i.e., entertainment, and escape), self-definitional motives (i.e., achievement, and team affiliation) and sociability motives (social interaction, and family). Prior research has found significant correlations between sports fan motivation and team identification (e.g., Fink, Trail & Anderson, 2002; Hsu, 2003). However, a question to consider regarding the influence of team identification on motives is whether individuals with different levels of identification are motivated to attend games for different reasons. More specifically, are individuals at different levels of team identification influenced to attend games more by self-definitional motives or motives of enjoyment and sociability? Individuals with a high level of team identification probably view a team as an extension of their community (Sutton et al., 1997), and as a source of vicarious achievement relative to team performance. The value of the sport team and attending games comes from fulfilling a need for team affiliation and enhancing self-esteem relative to identification with the team. Therefore, for people high in team identification, attending games would more likely be motivated by self-definitional motives than by entertainment and sociability. By contrast, individuals characterized by a low level of team identification would have a weak or no psychological connection to a team (Funk & James, 2001). Such individuals would attend games based on motives of entertainment and sociability. Sutton and colleagues (1997) proposed that individuals with a low level of identification may be attracted purely by the entertainment value of the product (p. 17). People low in team identification probably attend games because they enjoy the drama of sports and appreciate the players skills. In addition, lowly identified attendants might be extrinsically motivated because attending games is treated as a means to an end, that is, to interact with others and obtain sociability values. Based on the preceding, the following hypothesis was proposed: H1: Individuals characterized by a high level of team identification are motivated more by Self-definitive motives than by motives of Enjoyment and Sociability, whereas individuals characterized by a low level of team identification are motivated more by Enjoyment and Sociability than by self-definitive motives. 2.2 Influence on Behavior With respect to the influence of team identification on behaviors, the current study examined whether there was a differential impact on merchandise and media consumption. Both Wann and Branscombe (1993) and Sutton et al. (1997) proposed that individuals characterized by high team identification would be more involved with a team. This involvement may be manifest as a greater number of years as a fan, higher attendance rates at games, high expectations for future consumption-related behaviors, and greater investment of time and money in following a team (Sutton et al., 1997). Sutton et al. (1997) proposed that highly 78

4 identified fans are more willing to invest money in a team they identify with, particularly in terms of purchasing team-related merchandise. Highly identified fans may also invest more time to follow their team through media consumption. In relation to the idea that individuals characterized by a high level of team identification are expected to spend greater amounts of money on merchandise and invest more time in media consumption in attempts to follow their team, the following hypotheses were proposed: H2: Individuals characterized by a high level of team identification report higher levels of media consumption than those characterized by a low level of team identification. H3: Individuals characterized by a high level of team identification report higher levels of merchandise consumption than those characterized by a low level of team identification. 2.3 Influence on Perceived Service Quality Prior studies have examined several aspects of the influence of team identification on cognition. Wann and Branscombe (1993) reported that people who strongly identified with a specific sports team displayed an internal attribution for the team s success, possessed positive expectations for the team s future performance, believed that fans of the team had special qualities, and tended to be more knowledgeable about their team and the sport. A number of studies have found support for the success/failure attributional bias among spectators who have a high level of identification with a team (Wann & Dolan, 1994a; Wann, Melnick, Russell & Pease, 2001; Wann, Morris, Peters & Suggs, 2002; Wann & Schrader, 2000). In addition, previous research (Wann & Dolan, 1994b; Wann et al., 2001) found that persons high in identification with a sports team were more biased in future team evaluation. Moreover, other studies (Wann & Branscombe, 1995; Wann & Dolan, 1994c; Wann et al., 2001) found that spectators high in identification with a team showed a bias toward their fellow group fans. Finally, highly identified fans have been found to be knowledgeable in factual information about basketball in general, its history, and the players on the team (Wann & Branscombe, 1995) and in performance-irrelevant information about their team (Wann et al., 2002). From a managerial perspective, service quality is an important controllable factor in the overall experience associated with attending a sporting event, but the service issue has not received sufficient attention in prior studies examining cognitive effects of team identification. There exists a lack of research investigating the relationship between team identification and perceived service quality. A notable exception is the work by Greenwell, Fink and Pastore (2002). Greenwell and colleagues (2002) found that highly identified customers rated physical facility more highly than did customers with low levels of team identification, but they found no significant relationship between team identification and perceived personnel service. The current research modified the content of service quality to include cleanliness of facility and concessions service. Because highly identified fans support a team, they may resist blaming the team for services perceived as poor. Based on attribution theory, because highly identified fans view themselves 79

5 as part of the team, they might adopt a self-serving bias to protect their public self-esteem (Wann et al., 2001). Therefore, a hypothesis was proposed that highly identified fans would be inclined to attribute negative perceptions of service quality to unavoidable and uncontrollable factors, and would have a higher level of perceived service quality. By contrast, those characterized by low team identification were expected to attribute negative perceptions of service quality to the sport organizations and have a lower level of perceived service quality. The fourth hypothesis was proposed as follows: H4: Individuals characterized by a high level of team identification perceive service quality to be higher than those characterized by a low level of team identification. 3. METHOD 3.1 Sample Questionnaires were distributed at three baseball and three softball games. Volunteers were recruited and trained to assist with the data collection. Following a prepared script, volunteers approached individuals sitting in randomly selected seats prior to the beginning of a game, explained the project and asked if they would be willing to participate. A total of 750 questionnaires were distributed at six events, 125 per game. Three hundred and fifty-four useable questionnaires were collected from those attending baseball games (94% return rate), and 301 useable questionnaires were collected from those attending softball games (80% return rate). Individuals declining to participate explained that they would not have time to complete the questionnaire before a particular game started. 3.2 Procedure Participants were asked to complete a four-page questionnaire assessing their reasons for following the respective teams and attending games, their identification with a respective team, the extent to which they purchased team-related merchandise and followed a team through various media, and perceptions of service quality at the respective facilities. Individual items were distributed throughout the survey to reduce order and other biases. Those responding were also asked to provide demographic information (age, gender, level of education completed, ethnicity, household income and marital status) so that a profile of people attending the two sports could be developed. 3.3 Measurement Team identification included four items extracted from James and Ross (2002) Psychological Connection to Team (PCT) scale. James and Ross s (2002) findings showed that loadings for the four items measuring identification were valid and reliable. The four items are shown in Table 1. Respondents rated the 80

6 items using seven-point Likert scales anchored by Strongly Disagree (1) and Strongly Agree (7). Using cluster analysis, participants were divided into the High-identification (n = 391) and Low-identification (n = 249) groups in terms of their responses to the four items. The sport consumer motives included six constructs drawn from previous research (James & Ross, 2002, 2004; Trail & James, 2001). Four out of nine factors in the Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC) (Trail & James, 2001) were utilized (i.e. Achievement, Escape, Family and Social). In addition, the study included two other factors: Team Affiliation, a desire to feel a connection to or an affiliation with a team, and Entertainment, the enjoyment of a sport as a source of entertainment (James & Ross, 2004). The six factors, each represented by three items, were evaluated by the respondents using seven-point Likert scales anchored by Strongly Disagree (1) and Strongly Agree (7) (see Table 3 for a list of the factors and individual items). The construct of media consumption was measured with three items (see Table 1), as was merchandise consumption (see Table 1) (James & Ross, 2004). Three items were developed to measure cleanliness of the facility and three additional items were developed to measure concessions service. These six items (see Table 1) were combined as a measure of Perceived Service Quality. The seven items for media and merchandise consumption and the six items assessing perceived service quality were evaluated by the respondents using seven-point Likert scales anchored by Strongly Disagree (1) and Strongly Agree (7). Table 1. Questionnaire Items Team Identification (4 items) Item1: The (team name) are my team. Item2: I consider myself a loyal fan of the (team name). Item3: Supporting the (sport) team is very important to me. Item4: I want others to know that the (team name) are my team. Media Consumption (3 items) Item 1: I watch sports broadcasts on the local TV news for information about the (team name). Item 2: I read about the (team name) in the daily sports pages. Item 3: I read about the (team name) on the web. Merchandise Consumption (4 items) Item 1: I purchase (team name) merchandise (non-clothing items). Item 2: I buy (team name) clothing (T-shirts, caps, etc.). Item 3: I wear (my team) apparel on a regular basis. Item 4: I wear (my team) clothing when I attend a game. Cleanliness of Stadium (3 items) Item 1: The restrooms at (team name) field were clean. Item 2: The concourse areas were clean and well maintained Item 3: The seating area was clean and well kept. Concessions Service (3 items) Item 1: Service at the concession stands was efficient. Item 2: The servers at the concession stands were friendly and courteous. Item 3: I did not have to wait long for service at the concession stand(s). 81

7 Table 2. Demographic Profile of Respondents (n=655) Category % Frequency Category % Frequency Gender Employment Female Employed full-time Male Self-employed 4 24 Household Income (US$) Employed part-time $25,000 and under Homemaker 4 26 $25,001 - $55, Retired $55,001 - $85, Not employed $85,001 and above Age Ethnicity 19 and under Black / African American Native American Hispanic White / Caucasian and above Asian / Pacific Islander 1 5 Children Other 1 4 Have Children Education Do Not Have Children Attended High School 2 14 Marital Status High School Graduate Single Attended College Married College Graduate Divorced 3 19 Prof / Graduate School Widowed RESULTS 4.1 Sample Characteristics The frequency and percentage of responses for the demographic measures are reported in Table 2. The majority of respondents recruited from the baseball games were male (59%), 43% were between 20 and 34 years old, 55% were single, 95% were Caucasian, and most were well educated (i.e., 45% had completed at least an undergraduate degree). Those recruited from the softball games were closely split by gender (49% female and 51% male), 33% were between 20 and 34 years old, 49% were married, 91% were Caucasian, and most were well educated (i.e., 53% had completed at least an undergraduate degree). 4.2 Reliability and Validity A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was computed using the RAMONA Covariance Structure Modeling technique (available in the SYSTAT 9.0 (1999) statistical package) to verify the internal consistency and the construct validity of the sport consumption motives. The results reported in Table 3 indicate that the five of the six factors showed good internal consistency and construct reliability. The construct reliabilities for the six motives ranged from.74 to.85, which exceed the minimum level (.70) recommended by Nunnally and Bernstein (1994). Regarding individual item loadings, Team Affiliation had one item that did not load at the recommended.707 level (Fornell & Larcker, 1981). Two of the Escape items did not load at the recommended level. The measures of average variance extracted 82

8 (AVE) for five of the motives indicated that the amount of variance explained by the constructs was greater than the variance explained by measurement error, including the construct that had one item loading below.707. The measure of AVE for Escape indicated that the amount of variance explained by the construct (AVE=0.49) was less than the variance explained by measurement error. The Escape factor was deemed unreliable and consequently was not included in the subsequent data analysis. The category of self-definitive motives included Achievement, and Team Affiliation. The reliability of self-definitive motives was The score exceeded the minimally acceptable standard of.70 (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). The category of sociability motives included Social Interaction and Family. The reliability measure for sociability motives was The score did not exceed the minimally acceptable standard of.70 (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). Hence, Social Interaction and Family were examined individually to evaluate Hypothesis 1. The reliability among the four team identification items was The reliability among the four merchandise consumption items was The overall reliability of six items assessing Perceived Service Quality was All of these scores exceeded the minimally acceptable standard of.70 (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). The reliability among the three media consumption items was Closer examination of the individual items indicated that the mean score for the third item, I read about the (name of sport) team on the web, was The mean score of this item for the High-identification group was only These results indicated that reading about either team on the web was not popular. Moreover, the correlations between this third item and the first item (.32) and the second item (.28) were moderate. The squared-multiple correlation value of this item was weak (.12). Based on these criteria, it was concluded that the item was not an appropriate measure of Media consumption. The decision was made to drop the item. Rather than using a two-item factor the decision was made to evaluate Hypothesis 3 by examining the two items individually. 4.3 Tests of Hypotheses As reported in Table 4, those characterized by a high level of team identification reported stronger agreement with all motives than those characterized by a low level of team identification. This confirmed the results reported by previous research (e.g., Fink, Trail, & Anderson, 2002; Hsu, 2003). For testing Hypothesis 1, individuals who rated a composite motivation score higher than 4.5 were considered as having the motive to attend games. Frequencies for each motive between the High- and Low-identification groups were summarized in Table 5. Utilizing Chi-square test, the results showed that participants in the High-identification group were more likely to be motivated by self-definitive motives than by Entertainment (Chi-square=43.477, p<.001), Social interaction (Chi-square=27.174, p<.001) and Family (Chi-square=24.238, p<.001) (Table 6). That is, participants in the Low-identification group were more likely to be motivated by Entertainment (Chi-square=43.477, p<.001) and Sociability (Social interaction: Chi-square=27.174, p<.001; Family: Chi-square=24.238, p<.001) than by self-definitive motives. Hypothesis 1 was supported. 83

9 Table 3. Confirmatory factor analysis for the sport consumer motivations: Item Loadings (β), Confidence Intervals (CI), Standard Errors (SE), t-values (t), Construct Reliability (CR) and Average Variance Explained (AVE) Factor and Items β CI SE t CR AVE Social Interaction I enjoy team name games/matches because they provide an opportunity to be with my friends. Wanting to spend time with my friends is one reason I go to sport games. Having a chance to see friends is one thing I enjoy about sport games. Family Being with my family is why I enjoy sport games. The opportunity to spend time with my family is something I like about attending games. I enjoy team name games because they are a good family activity. Entertainment The main reason I like team name games is because sport is good entertainment. I like going to team name games because watching sport is fun. Team name games are a fun way to spend my time. Team Affiliation I want to feel like I am a(n) team name It is important for me to feel connected to the team name. I come to sport games so that I will feel like part of the team. Achievement When the team name win I feel like I have won. I feel a personal sense of achievement when the team does well. I feel proud when the team plays really well. Escape For me, sport games are an escape from my day-to-day activities. I enjoy team name games because they are a great change from what I regularly do. I like going to games because when I m there I forget about all my troubles and cares. Note. Measured on a scale using 1 = Strongly Disagree and 7 = Strongly Agree. 84

10 Table 4. A Comparison of Entertainment, Sociability, Self-definitive motives, Media and Merchandise Consumption, and Perceived Service Quality by Levels of Identification: Means (Standard Deviations), Reliability, F-Statistics, and p-value Levels of Identification High Group (n=391) Low Group (n=249) Reliability F-Statistics p-value Entertainment (0.71) (1.19) NA <.001 Sociability Social interaction (1.16) (1.28) NA <.001 Family (1.33) (1.41) NA <.001 Social-definition (0.94) (1.06) <.001 Media Consumption (on TV) (Item 1) (1.60) (1.76) NA <.001 Media Consumption (Read) (Item 2) (1.64) (1.92) NA <.001 Merchandise Consumption (1.22) (1.47) <.001 Perceived Service Quality (0.74) (0.91) <.001 Note. Measured on a scale using 1 = Strongly Disagree and 7 = Strongly Agree. Table 5. Frequencies for Each Motive between the High- and Low-Identification Groups Levels of Identification High Group (n=391) Low Group (n=249) Entertainment Sociability Social interaction Family Self-definition Table 6. Chi-square tests between Entertainment, Social interaction, Family, and Self-definitive motives Levels of Identification High Group (n=391) Low Group (n=249) Entertainment 381 (expected=424) 185 (expected=142) Self-definition 315 (expected=272) 49 (expected=92) Chi-square = , p <.001 Sociability Social interaction 284 (expected=314) 116 (expected=86) Self-definition 315 (expected=285) 49 (expected=79) Chi-square = , p <.001 Sociability Family 267 (expected=294) 105 (expected=78) Self-definition 315 (expected=288) 49 (expected=76) Chi-square = , p <

11 The results supported Hypotheses H2, H3 and H4 (see Table 4). Individuals characterized by a high level of team identification reported greater levels of Media (TV: Mean of the high group =5.23 > Mean of the low group = 3.05, F=184.12, p<.001; Read: Mean of the high group = 5.69 > Mean of the low group = 3.82, F=122.79, p<.001) and Merchandise consumption (Mean of the high group = 5.62 > Mean of the low group = 3.71, F=226.48, p<.001) and perceived higher levels of service quality (Mean of the high group = 5.94 > Mean of the low group = 5.13, F=106.81, p<.001) than those with a low level of team identification. 5. DISCUSSION The results from the current study highlight the importance of understanding the impact of team identification as one dimension of why individuals are interested in attending sporting events, and the differential impact of identification on media and merchandise consumption and on perceptions of service quality. The present research incorporated five separate-but-related constructs: team identification, consumer motives (Entertainment, Sociability, and Self-definition), media consumption, merchandise consumption and perceived service quality. Among the motives, Entertainment was the most important motive to all fans. However, fans with high levels of team identification differ from low identified fans in terms of motives to attend a game, media and merchandise consumption and perceived service quality. The results indicated that highly identified fans showed high levels of motives, were more likely to participate in consuming for media (TV and newspapers) and more willing to spend their money purchasing merchandise products provided by the team, perceived higher service quality, and finally were more likely to be motivated by Self-definitive motives than by Entertainment and Sociability. The results showed that 61% of respondents were characterized by high team identification and 39% were characterized by low team identification. Consequently, the results provide more information about those reporting high levels of team identification. Among those in the low team identification group, the scores for motives of Entertainment and Sociability were higher than 5.0 and 4.0 but the score for Self-definitive motives was lower than 4.0. This implies that Entertainment and Sociability are more likely to drive low identified people to attend games than Self-definitive motives. This suggested that sport marketers might use different marketing activities to appeal to the different segments. The purpose of the current study was to ascertain the influence of team identification on consumers affection, cognition and behavior. The findings indicated that consumers with a high level of team identification were more likely to be motivated, perceived better service quality and consumed more media and merchandize products. This revealed that the level of team identification played a very important role in managing sport teams. On the one hand, sport marketers have to maintain highly identified fans and manage them as valuable assets. On the other hand, sport marketers have to design programs to increase the level of team identification of low identified spectators. The current study provides important 86

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