Fanalytics Podcast: Fandom and Consumer Psychology

In some respects, sports “fandom” is no different than “brand loyalty” in traditional marketing categories.  We have preferences for teams just as we have preferences for soft drinks or cars.  But in other respects, fandom is something very different.  The level of engagement with sports brands tends to be off the charts relative to consumer goods.

If I look through my closet I have plenty of shirts that promote the Fighting Illini or the Chicago Bears.  I don’t have any clothing that projects my preferences for Pepsi or Lexus.  I will acknowledge that it’s really a continuum.  While it’s a rare individual that wants to wear a shirt that proudly identifies a favorite shampoo, I can easily imagine people promoting their favorite fashion brand or coffee shop.

Identification with brands is a key part of fandom. I report a lot of studies that focus on how fans behave in terms of attending or spending.  These “behaviors” are things that I can observe in the market place.  However, a lot of fandom happens between the ears.  In other words, a lot of fandom, such as identifying with a team, is about consumer psychology.

In the current episode of the Fanalytics podcast, I sit down with consumer psychologist Morgan Ward to talk about social identity theory.  Morgan is not a sports fan but she has amazing insights into how consumers use objects or associations to construct their identities.  I learned a lot from the conversation.

There is also an important “analytics” lesson in all this.  Sports Analytics is frequently about predicting human behavior or human performance.  When this is the case, we should start from the “human” part.  Don’t just jump into the data and start “mining” for insights.  Build the models based on how humans think and behave.

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