You’re sitting in a public auditorium “watching” a Kansas vs Missouri college football game. How?
You’re waiting for the guy whose job it is to take a series of play by play western union telegrams and update the board where a mechanical representation of the game stood on stage.
Now that…is patience.
But even more than patience, it’s dedication. A passion and devotion for something that means more than just wins and losses.
Culture. Geography. Vocation. Ethnicity. Gender. These are but a few of the extensions represented through sport, offering sources of connection for people to identify with. What results is a multidimensional sport experience that is valued greater than any individual game itself.
People have been fans of sport since the beginning of time. That has never changed. What has changed however are the ways in which we consume sport.
From telegrams, radio, television, high def, to streaming, 360, virtual and augmented reality…fans today have demanded full immersion, personalization, and an all-access pass to the events that they have embroidered their identity with.
In sport, there’s a game behind the game…something personal going on beyond the surface. Beneath be the actual ___ vs ___, the real game is more psychological. As in, “how much can I emotionally take from this event before I fill completely satisfied? What does that say about my identity? What, and how much, do I need?”
Sport fans are more than simple spectators. Highly affiliated consumers show an attitudinal and behavioral commitment that stems from a series of emotional benefits.
Increased social connection. Basking in the reflected glory of others. High esteem and sense of personal well-being. Sport is more than a mere box score; it represents an extension of self. And that emotional gridiron is where the mental game begins. This Self-Sport connection reflects three main areas founded in organizational psychology – affective, continuance, and normative.
- Affective: (want)
For example, “I want to tailgate to be around other fans and share the experience” or “I want to donate to Waterboys.org because my favorite player supports this charity.”
- Continuance: (need)
For example, “I need to watch the game because my team is playing,” or “I need to go to Timmy Nolan’s bar to be around other Manchester United fans.”
- Normative: (ought/should)
For example, ” I should watch the game because I feel obligated to my team,” or “I ought to attend at least 1 home game live every season.”
Diving into these components of commitment sheds light on the multidimensional nature of the sport experience. Branding, marketing, social advocacy, personal needs, social requirements – each of these are important dynamics of the sport experience, and each have been positively boosted by social and digital media.
While technology continues to adapt and entitle fans to more content and access, the fundamentals of human behavior and emotion remain the same. We’ll always long for connection, belonging, and the opportunity to revel in our favorite team/player’s performance.
For every generation, a new form of expression is revealed. New methods of consuming sport will surface. And regardless of the technology, when passion and tech collide – the experience surrounding sport is amplified to a degree not even a futurist can predict.