Sport consumption is one of the most pervasive leisure roles in modem society. It pervades all aspects of human life and has worldwide appeal. Indeed, sport speaks to all people of all ages across all cultural and national boundaries. The global trends of increased personal wealth, higher sedentary lifestyles, and increased mechanisation have resulted in an increased reliance and relevance of leisure activities in everyday life (Arnaudon 1993; Pitts & Stotlar 1996; Shoham & Kahle 1996). Sport is seen by many as an integral part of not only their daily life, but also their heritage and history. The increase in the importance of sport consumption is evidenced by millions of dollars spent annually on new, improved and larger sporting facilities as well as on media coverage and sponsorship of sporting superstars.
This program of research examines the why of sport spectating consumption in both its direct and indirect forms by developing and testing models of sport consumption and of sport spectating preference. The research was conducted in three stages. The first stage was based on a review of the literature in both the traditional consumer decision-making and hedonic consumption paradigms. From this, a study investigating the existence and dimensions of a construct labelled Sport Enthusiasm were undertaken. This first study confirmed that Sport Enthusiasm was a valid predictor of Sport Consumption and of Sport Spectating Preference, and that this construct was a more useful and powerful predictor of both Sport Consumption and of Sport Spectating Preference than either age or gender. In addition, the measure's factorial validity in terms of age and gender within the Australian sample was also confirmed.
Following on from this, a qualitative study was undertaken that explored the relationships of the constructs of Emotion in Sport and Self-Concept in relation to Sport Consumption and Sport Spectating Preference. This study provided a richness of context for sport consumption and allowed the researcher to develop a deeper understanding of the dependent variables. Sport Consumption and Sport Spectating Preference, and also the variables proposed to predict them. From the results of these two exploratory studies conceptual models for both Sport Consumption and Sport Spectating Preference were developed with a corresponding number of research hypotheses that were tested in the final stage of the research, Study 3.
The third stage of the research was a large quantitative study that collected data from an Australian sample to test the models for prediction of Sport Consumption and Sport Spectating Preference proposed at the completion of studies 1 and 2. In this study it was shown that Sport Enthusiasm was the main predictor of both Sport Consumption and Sport Spectating Preference. It also identified the group self concept construct of Sporting Team Association, and the construct, Commitment to Sport, as playing mediating roles in the prediction of Sport Consumption. Further, it found that the individual expressions of self-concept (Arena Sporting Self- Expression) and Emotion in Sport were not significant contributors to the prediction of Sport Consumption particularly when the other variables in the model were included. In relation to the prediction of Sport Spectating Preference however, Sport Enthusiasm, Emotion in Sport and Commitment to Sport were shown to play significant roles, whilst the self-concept constructs of Sporting Team Association and Arena Sporting Self-Expression did not.
This thesis makes several important contributions to both theory and practice. Specifically; (1) it has empirically tested models of consumer behaviour in relation to sport consumption and sport spectating preference not previously attempted; (2) it has discovered a number of constructs that aid in the prediction of both Sport Consumption and of Sport Spectating Preference; (3) it has developed a valid and reliable measure of Sport Enthusiasm which was shown to be the main predictor of Sport Consumption and of Sport Spectating Preference; (4) it has confirmed the factorial consistency of the Sport Enthusiasm measure with age and gender, which has never before been attempted; and (5) it has provided future researchers with a sampling methodology that provides large national samples that can be used with confidence in future sport research.
In addition to these theoretical contributions, the thesis provides valuable results for sport marketers in terms of gaining a better understanding of why sport consumers may make the choices they do. In particular, it provides a valid and reliable measure of Sport Enthusiasm, which should aid in strategic marketing decisions relating to segmentation, product development and promotional strategies. Further, the results indicate that prediction of indirect sport consumption is a particularly problematic area for sport marketers with neither age nor Sport Enthusiasm predicting it with any degree of confidence and gender having no predictive ability at all. Sport marketers may need to rethink how they appeal to and attract this important and growing segment of the market.
Further, the results of this research have shown that whilst Sport Consumption and Sport Enthusiasm both vary with age and gender, that in the prediction of Sport Consumptino, the effect of gender is subsumed by the effect of Sport Enthusiasm. This has major strategic implications for sport marketers in that they may need to re-examine some of their traditional premises about sport consumption particularly in relation to gender differences. Indeed, it would seem from this research that the variation in sport spectating consumption for men and women is not based on variation in their levels of enthusiasm for sport. That is, whilst there is variation in sport consumption between men and women that it is the variation in their levels of enthusiasm that are more important in predicting their likely consumption levels.
Future research can build on this thesis by considering this methodology in relation to other hedonic consumption contexts, for example, the arts, extreme sports or perhaps the pop music industry. These areas all exhibit similar situational and experiential contexts for consumers to sport consumption and all are consumed in highly emotional group settings. Similarly whilst the main predictor variable in this model was shown to be consistent across age and gender, no studies to date have examined either sport spectating consumption or its predictors across national boundaries. The exploration of the behaviour of sport spectating consumption and its predictors in this manner would provide considerable theoretical and practical contributions. Finally, the main limitation of this study lies in the cross-sectional nature of the methodology adopted. A study, which incorporates a more longitudinal methodology, would allow more confident causal predictions to be made about the behaviour and relationships with behaviour and other important variables.