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Comparing Rivalry in Professional Sports

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The purpose of our study is to compare how fans react to rivalry across different professional sports leagues. We surveyed a total of 4,247 fans of teams in Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), the NFL, and the National Hockey League (NHL) to measure dis-identification toward the top rival of respondent's favorite team, as well as prejudice, relationship discrimination, and schadenfreude toward that rival team's fans. We also measured the level of fan identification with each respondent's favorite team. The results reveal a strong pattern of greater animosity toward rivals among NFL fans compared with fans of other leagues.

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Comparing Rivalry in Professional Sports

  1. 1. Measuring Rivalry across Professional Leagues Is Animosity Consistent Across Sports? B. Daniel Sparks, Northern Kentucky University Joe Cobbs, Northern Kentucky University David Tyler, Western Carolina University Jennifer Gardner, Northern Kentucky University
  2. 2. Literature Review What is Rivalry? A rival is "a highly salient outgroup that poses an acute threat to the identity of the ingroup or to ingroup members' ability to make positive comparisons between their group and the outgroup" (Tyler & Cobbs, 2015, p. 230) • Social Identity Theory o People associate with others similar to self to reinforce self-image (Tajfel, 1974; Turner, 1975) • Schadenfreude o Pleasure in others’ misfortune (Dalakas & Melancon, 2012; Havard, 2014). • Bias in Relationships o Highly identified fans are more likely to commit acts of aggression (Wann et al., 2003; Wann et al., 1999).
  3. 3. Literature Review (Cont.) League Differences • Commercialization o NASCAR fans more accepting of commercialization compared to NFL fans (Levin et al., 2013) • Fan Motivation o Individual versus team, aggressive versus nonaggressive, and stylistic versus non-stylistic. (Wann et al., 2008) o Results: • Aesthetics in individual, nonaggressive, and stylistic sports. • Economic, eustress, group affiliation, entertainment, and family in team sports
  4. 4. Rivalry Hypothesis League Differences Hypothesis: Animosity toward rivals varies across professional leagues.
  5. 5. Method Sample • Qualtrics online survey • Respondents recruited from online message boards • Name favorite team • Who are the rivals of that team? • Asked (DV) questions about negative bias, relationship discrimination, schadenfreude, and dis- identification • N = 4,392 valid • 91% male; 22.4 years old • 194 message boards • Respondents Per League • NFL N = 1,566 • NHL N = 1,500 • MLB N = 853 • MLS N = 473
  6. 6. Results: MANOVA Differences exist on all four dependent variables DVs F-value (df) P-Value Negative Bias 30.21 (3223) <.01 Relationship Discrimination 10.84(3342) <.01 Schadenfreude 25.52 (3241) <.01 Disidentification 17.33 (4439) <.01
  7. 7. Results: Negative Bias NFL and NHL have similar negative bias against rivals League Sample Mean (SD) P-Value NFL 984 5.10 (1.50) - MLB 544 4.78 (1.62) <.01 MLS 305 4.29 (1.60) <.01 NHL 965 5.11 (1.46) 1.0 Bias against Rival Post Hoc Tests (vs. NFL) Level of significance < .05 Sample item: [Rival team]’s fans are more obnoxious than the fans of a typical team. (Disagree-Agree 7-point scale)
  8. 8. Results: Relationships NFL fans discriminate in relationships with rivals more than the other leagues League Sample Mean (SD) P-Value NFL 980 3.33 (1.34) - MLB 530 3.00 (1.28) <.01 MLS 297 2.98 (1.37) <.01 NHL 951 3.12 (1.28) <.01 Level of Significance <.05 Relationship Discrimination Post Hoc Test (vs. NFL) Assuming I were single, I would be willing to have an intimate relationship with a(n) [Rival Team]’s fan. (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995)
  9. 9. Results: Schadenfreude Schadenfreude toward rivals was significantly higher in NFL respondents League Sample Mean (SD) P-Value NFL 997 3.85 (1.72) - MLB 537 3.28 (1.63) <.01 MLS 310 3.54 (1.72) <.05 NHL 964 3.24 (1.65) <.01 Schadenfreude toward Rival Fans Post Hoc Test (vs. NFL) I will feel joy if a player from [Rival Team] gets suspended for a year, even if the suspension was not completely deserved. (Dalakas & Melancon, 2012)
  10. 10. Results: Dis-Identification NFL fans were more likely to Dis-identify with Rival teams League Sample Mean (SD) P-Value NFL 1424 4.11 (1.57) - MLB 781 3.70 (1.61) <.01 MLS 442 3.62(1.59) <.01 NHL 1403 3.86 (1.54) <.01 Fan Dis-Identification towards Rivals Post Hoc Test (vs. NFL) When someone criticizes the [Rival Team], it feels like a personal compliment. (Elsbach & Bhattacharya, 2001)
  11. 11. Additional Findings MLS Comparisons to Other Leagues MLS league differences League Negative Bias Relationship Discrimination Schadenfreude Dis-Identification MLS 4.29 (1.60) 2.99(1.37) 3.54 (1.72) 3.62 (1.59) NFL diff +0.80*** +0.35*** +0.31** +0.48*** NHL diff +0.81*** +0.13 -0.29* +0.24* MLB diff +0.48*** +0.02 -0.25 +0.08 *** p < .01 * p < .10** p < .05
  12. 12. Limitations • Exclusion of the NBA • Restricted to US/Canadian professional leagues • Sample Size variation amongst leagues • Highly male sample Future Research
  13. 13. Implications • Fan phenomenon varies by sporting context (Wann et al., 2008) • Marketers/Security must be cautious of generalizing assumptions of Rivalry across leagues

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