Towards engagement: a comparison of fan groups in the context of a major South African football club
Stander, Frederick W.
De Beer, Leon T.
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Orientation: The commercial growth of sport clubs is often a direct consequence of the level of engagement of its fans. However, limited research has been done to understand how the engagement experience of these fans could be enhanced. Research purpose: The objective of this research was to evaluate whether differences exist amongst groups of sport fans in terms of their levels of engagement. This is conducted on the basis of customer engagement - relationship marketing - and market segmentation theories,and in an effort to inform practical strategies that could be used to leverage engagement. By establishing that differences do exist between segments of sport fans, practical strategies could be developed based on such differences. Research approach, design and method: A cross-sectional, quantitative design was utilised in this study. A convenience sample of 430 adult fans of one of South Africa's largest and best supported professional football clubs participated in the study. Two fan groupings were compared, namely fans who belonged to a formal supporters' branch of the club versus fans who did not, and fans who frequented the social media platforms of such club versus fans who did not. Multi group confirmatory factor analysis and latent variable modelling were implemented to compare groups of fans in terms of sport fan engagement. Measurement invariance was reviewed to compare the equivalence of measurement between the groups. Main findings: Statistical analysis revealed greater levels of fan engagement amongst fans that form part of formal supporters' branches as well as amongst fans who regularly visit the sport club's social media platforms. Practical/managerial implications: By making use of supporters' branches and social media,practical engagement strategies are available to professional sport clubs that seek to enhance the engagement experience of their fans. These strategies could assist clubs in developing customised intervention programmes specifically for this purpose. Contribution/value-add: The study puts forward practical suggestions with regards to engagement strategies that professional sport clubs can consider in their efforts to enhance the commercial performance of their teams through greater engagement.