Date of Award

2-2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Degree Program

Global Leadership - with a specialization in Corporate and Organizational Management

Department

College of Business and Management

First Advisor

Eldon Bernstein

Second Advisor

Mary L. Tebes

Third Advisor

Robert D. Green

Abstract

Factors influencing Major League Baseball fans' brand loyalty is important because these fans bring significant financial benefits to the industry every year, and stimulate economic growth in the United States. An intercept and quota sampling plan resulted in a sample of 285 Florida Marlins fans and 213 Tampa Bay Devil Rays fans for this comparative and correlational study. The purpose was to test for an explanatory relationship among fans' characteristics, influencing factors, and the loyalty of fans to a winning team and to a losing team. Comparative and multiple regression analyses tested hypothesized relationships among fan characteristics, brand association attributes, benefits, and attitudes and brand loyalty using the Team Association Questionnaire (Gladden & Funk, 2002). Cronbach's alphas and exploratory factor analyses estimated reliability and established validity of the measures for this study.

Three dimensions of brand association (attributes, benefits, and attitudes) were significant explanatory variables of brand loyalty. However, fan characteristics did not influence fans loyalty. Attitudes influenced fans associating with a team, suggesting short term strategies for this rational component of sports fans' behavior. However, "implementing short-term tactics does not necessarily guarantee long-term and consistent revenue streams" (Gladden & Milne, 1999, p. 21). Fans might support a team because the team has a winning record, super star players, a renowned head coach, or an attractive stadium. However, this dimension is insufficient to explain why the fans also strongly support a team when these factors are not present.

Findings supported the dimension of "benefits" and how it plays a role in explaining irrational sport fans' behavior and the loyalties of fans of both winning and losing teams. Sports provide fans with a temporary escape from their daily routines. Sport teams also provide a platform for fans to identify with the team, to associate themselves with the same peer groups, or to share memories with one other. For the dimension of attitudes, the affective reaction of fans was also an important factor influencing brand loyalty. Structural equation modeling in future studies may further clarify relationships in hypothesized models involving fan characteristics, brand association attributes, benefits, and attitudes and brand loyalty.

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