Fan loyalty is the loyalty felt and expressed by a fan towards the object of his/her fanaticism. Allegiances can be strong or weak. The loyalties of sports fans have been studied by psychologists, who have determined several factors that create such loyalties. Fan loyalty can be threatened by team actions.
Fan loyalty, particularly with respect to team sports, is different from brand loyalty, in as much as if a consumer bought a product that was of lower quality than expected, he or she will usually abandon allegiance to the brand. However, fan loyalty continues even if the team that the fan supports continues to perform poorly year after year. Author Mark Conrad uses the Chicago Cubs as an example of a team with a loyal fan following, where fans spend their money in support of a poorly performing team that (as of 2010) had not won a pennant since 1945 or a World Series since 1908.
Several psychologists have studied fan loyalty, and what causes a person to be a loyal fan, that sticks with a team through adversity (win or lose), rather than a bandwagon fan or fairweather fan, that switches support to whatever teams happen to be successful at the time. These include Dan Wann, a psychologist at Murray State University, psychologist Robert Passikoff.
- entertainment value
- The entertainment value that a fan derives from spectating motivates him/her to remain a loyal fan. Entertainment value of team sports is also valuable to communities in general.
- This is described by Passikoff as "the acceptance of the game as real and meaningful".
- fan bonding
- Fan bonding is where a fan bonds with the players, identifying with them as individuals, and bonds with the team.
- team history and tradition
- Shank gives the Cincinnati Reds, all-professional baseball's oldest team, as an example of a team where a long team history and tradition is a motivator for fans in the Cincinnati area.
- group affiliation
- Fans receive personal validation of their support for a team from being surrounded by a group of fans who also support the same team.
- fairweather or bandwagon fans
- Fans who support the winning team, instead of supporting for the same team year after year.
- die-hard fans
- Fans who follow their team no matter if they are winning or losing.
Measurements and indices of fan loyalty
A Fan Loyalty Index was compiled from a survey of Major League Baseball fans in April 1997, and printed in the Forecast newsletter. Fans were asked to rate their hometown teams on each of four scales. The index ranged from the Chicago Cubs at the top, with a loyalty index of 132, to the Chicago White Sox at the bottom with a loyalty index of 73. The index was scaled such that the mean loyalty index was 100, as scored by both the Colorado Rockies and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Passikoff studied the loyalties of U.S. sports fans towards all Major League sports in the summer of 2000, finding that loyalty to Major League Baseball scored the highest, followed by the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League.
Threats to loyalty
Shank observes that fan loyalty in the U.S. is perhaps higher towards sports teams than any other form of consumer loyalty to goods and services. However, loyalty can be threatened. Fan loyalty towards professional-level sports is beginning to erode in the U.S. as a consequence of continual threats to uproot franchises and to move them to other cities. Shank considers that this is perhaps the reason behind the increased popularity of amateur athletics. School and college teams do not threaten to move away from the fans in order to obtain a better deal on their sports stadiums. Athletes in school and college athletics are not traded to and from other teams and do not move around in search of better contracts (although they do sometimes leave their schools and colleges early to transfer elsewhere or for professional contracts).
Some professional sports teams have taken measures to combat this erosion. The Nashville Predators employ customer relationship management techniques to collect information about the demographics and psychographics of their fans. Their loyalty program involves a loyalty card that is swiped through a card reader in kiosks at the entrances to team events. The team can gather data on the fans, and the fans are rewarded by collecting points that are redeemable against tickets, merchandise, and concessions. The vice president of ticket sales for the Predators, Scott Loft, is quoted by Shanks as observing that "90 percent of sports teams either don't care or don't bother to find out any information about their fan base", however.
- Mark Conrad (2006). "What Makes Sports a Unique Business?". The Business of Sports: A Primer for Journalists. Routledge. xxx–xxxi. ISBN 0-8058-5044-9.
- Matthew D. Shank (2004). Sports Marketing: A Strategic Perspective (2nd ed.). 清华大学出版社. pp. 274–275. ISBN 7-302-09016-5.
- B. King (2004-03-01). "What makes fans tick?". Street and Smith's Sportsbusiness Journal. pp. 25–41.
- Daniel L. Wann, Merrill J. Melnick, Gordon W. Russell, and Dale G. Pease (2001). SportFans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92463-4.
- Robert Passikoff (2000-11-06). "N.Y. Yankees aside, winning isn’t only key to fan loyalty". Brandweek 41 (43): 32.