Rise of the Smart Fan: A Look Inside Today’s Sport Experience

Only recently have researchers started to consider the importance of team identification. While being a sports fan is not a new concept, what has changed are the ways in which we identify with and experience sport.

Trending developments like Social Media Sports (#SMSports) and virtual reality have become embedded as new pillars within the industry. The integration of social media has made fan engagement much more personal and intimate. Similarly, the promise of virtual reality aims to provide premium viewing and interactive experiences within live sporting events.

This emphasis in technology means that team identification is stimulated by new patterns of digital media consumption and active social media participation.

The acceleration of social and digital media technology has boosted the overall sport experience, amplifying the senses of community and connection. From western union telegram and am radio, to the first color tv broadcast and streaming NFL on Twitter – tracing patterns of media consumption will show that people want to get as immersed and connected to the media as possible.

The evolution of sports media consumption not only reflects the growth of technology, but also consumer behavior and fan identification.

The distribution of content must fit within the consumer lifestyle. On the go, always connected, looking to share…a convergence has occurred where people take media into their own hands. Thus emerges the rise of the Smart Fan – the contemporary, empowered user who lifelogs their fandom and always looks for more content. They want to participate in a way that adds to the overall experience because it builds efficacy and esteem. And they want it all to happen as rapidly as they can process it.

Within the sport experience, the Smart Fan thrives because of the nonstop activity within the industry’s traditional and social media channels. With this activity comes tracking, a way to follow along their journey and trace experiences with quantifiable and qualitative data from the user’s social media and fantasy feeds.

Sport has manifested into a digitally-mediated experience.

Consumers are able to boost their sport affiliation by having their needs satisfied through interacting with a digital medium, such as Twitter or Snapchat. To illustrate that modern-day fandom requires active involvement, a study was administered to measure the impact social media participation has on the components of commitment and the overall sport experience. Ultimately, high levels of social media use predict high levels of loyalty, group membership, well-being, and an obligation to promote one’s favorite team or player.


With the acceleration and adoption of media technology, consumers are able to extend the experience and spread their behaviors into the digital arena. We live in an age now where experiences are valued greater than goods and services. And consumers are now able to view sport not as just storytelling, but rather story living. 

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