Prior value studies in sport settings have been focused on participation rather than spectatorship. This study is an initial step in examining the values associated with spectator sports. Interviews and focus groups were utilized in this qualitative study within four progressive phases for triangulation, transferability, and constant comparative assessment. A total of 54 individuals participated in the study. Because values were subjectively perceived at the highest level of abstraction reflecting desirable preference experiences, the interviews were designed to include seven categories of questions: Three categories dealt with observed behaviors and implied metaphors, and four categories including questions comparing spectator sports and sport participation, religion, other leisure activities, and substitutes. Grounded data techniques guided the coding procedure. Using the transcriptions and notes from 26 interviews and three focus groups, five coders were used to provide evidence of interrater reliability. Based on the results of the data analyses, a 10-value-type framework was developed in relation to spectator sports: (a) Enjoyment (pleasure and satisfaction), (b) Sociability (social interaction through sport spectating), (c) Identity (enhancing self-esteem), (d) Status (pursuing social recognition), (e) Moral, (f) Spirituality (inner peace, strength, meaning, and purpose in life), (g) Epistemic, (h) Aesthetics, (i) Ritual (sports spectating becomes a series of formal and serious acts followed regularly and invariably as end-experience), and (j) no or negative values. Different from Kahle’s (1983), Maslow’s (1970a), and Schwartz’ (1992) value theories, the framework was specifically associated with spectator sports and is expected to better predict spectator sport behavior than does a scale measuring motivations of sports fans.
- spectator sport
- watching sport
- personal value
- value type
The value concept has been considered crucial and “should occupy a central position across all the social sciences” (Rokeach, 1973, p. 3). Although many scholars across disciplines have discussed values, there has been a dearth of research attention on the value of spectator sports. The major purpose of this research was to explore consumer values in relation to spectator sports. A better understanding of the values that individuals associate with spectator sports will be helpful for sports managers and advance research endeavors in the marketing domain.
Researchers studying spectator sports have investigated motivation for watching sports rather than the general values associated with spectator sports. Researchers have examined the motives people have for attending games (e.g., James & Ross, 2004; Trail & James, 2001; Wann, 1995), but such work does not necessarily provide insight into the values people associate with spectator sports. Although motives may be temporal or situation-specific, values extend over time and are more basic in stimulating motivation for a behavioral response (Vinson, Scott, & Lamont, 1977). Thus, understanding values associated with watching sports may provide a better understanding of spectator sport consumption.
Sport sociologists have suggested that sport is a microcosm of society (Eitzen, 2005; Snyder & Spreizter, 1974). Through a sport socialization process, people learn sport values such as honor, glory, nobility, courage, strength, wit, and wisdom (Sage, 1970); acceptance of authority, obedience to rules, and self-discipline (Snyder & Spreizter, 1989). These values reflect general societal values and focus more on moral values associated with sport participation (Florenthal & Shoham, 2000; M. J. Lee, Whitehead, & Balchin, 2000; Wankel & Berger, 1990), but they neglect other psychological, sociological, and religious values associated with spectator sports (Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001).
This study is exploratory, uses interviews and focus groups, and attempts to provide a more comprehensive examination of values associated with spectator sports. With reference to value theories (Kahle, 1983; Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1992, 1994), motives for attending games (Milne & McDonald, 1999; Trail & James, 2001; Wann, 1995), and applications of values in sport-based research (Kahle, Duncan, Dalakas, & Aiken, 2001; Shao, 2002), this study adopted grounded data techniques to identify values in relation to sport spectatorship.
Values have been defined in many different ways, for example, values people hold, values people learn (e.g., through espoused organizational values, through societal beliefs), the value of something tangible (e.g., money), intangible (e.g., friendship), instrumental and terminal values (i.e., Rokeach, 1973), and others. However, values can simply be thought of as a guiding principle a person (or a subject, a consumer) holds for daily living, or thought of as values an object has (e.g., a product, an activity of watching sports; Alicke, 1983; Holbrook, 2006). In this sense, values involve the interactive experiences between the person and an object (e.g., spectator sports; Holbrook, 2006). As such, values can be considered as perceived goals (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 1999; Schwartz, 1994) of a cognizing subject and can be expressed in preference experiences associated with an object (such as spectator sport in the current study) by the subject’s apprehension (Alicke, 1983; Holbrook, 2006). This section applies the theory of personal life values (Kluckhohn, 1951; Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1994; Williams, 1968) to provide a definition of value; further clarifies the relationships among needs, values, and motivations; and discusses the limited applications of values in spectator sports.
Definitions of Values
It is important to define “value” at the outset for three reasons. The definition of value provides ideas for the initial questions included in the interviews and focus groups, plays a role in deciding which data are relevant in the data analysis stage, and serves as a core criterion ensuring the interpretation is relevant at the stage of interpreting the results. The concept of value is defined in terms of five dimensions: source, construct, characteristics, constraint, and function (Gau, 2007). The source of value stems from desires and needs (Kluckhohn, 1951; Williams, 1968). At its core, a value is a construct derived from individual beliefs and goals (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 1999; Schwartz, 1994) with enduring characteristics (Rokeach, 1973) under the constraints of a person’s personality and societal demands (Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1994; Williams, 1968). Use of the term goals as a construct of value echoes Schwartz’ (1994) later definition of value as “desirable trans-situational goals” (p. 21), and is at the highest level of abstraction in a customer value hierarchy (Parasuraman, 1997; Woodruff, 1997).
Values are referred to as desirable needs, pleasures, interests, likes, and preferences (Kluckhohn, 1951; Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987; Williams, 1968). From a biological perspective, human needs might be implicit impulses within values. Meanwhile, values are conceived as goals associated to a greater extent with cognition than intuition and/or emotion (Kluckhohn, 1951), indicating that values have enduring rather than whimsical or short-term characteristics (Rokeach, 1973). Values also contain the requirements of an individual’s personality (Williams, 1968) and consider societal demands (Rokeach, 1973) for a whole society’s welfare and survival (Schwartz, 1994).
The functional dimension of values is associated with the idea that values govern people’s behavior (Gutman, 1982; Rokeach, 1973), affect the selection of particular actions (Kluckhohn, 1951), and can explain consumption (Kahle, 1996; Vinson et al., 1977). Building from the proffered dimensions, the guiding definition of values for individuals watching spectator sports in this study is the conceived desirable goals in accord with the requirements of an individual’s personality and societal demands (Kluckhohn, 1951; Perry, 1926; Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1994; Williams, 1968). The next section further clarifies the differences in needs, values, and motivations.
Relationships Among Needs, Values, and Motivations
Distinctions exist between needs, values, and motivation; at the same time, the constructs affect one another (Figure 1). People need water and shelter to survive. People also have strong desires for friends, self-esteem, recreation and perhaps knowledge, aesthetics, and self-actualization (Kotler, 2003; Maslow, 1970a). Needs are the basic human requirement (Kotler, 2003) and serve as original sources of values and motivations.
Rokeach (1973) argues that values possess some attributes that needs do not. Values are the cognitive representations and transformations not only of individual needs but also of societal and institutional demands (Rokeach, 1973). Thus, it seems that values may be representations of needs but are also constrained in accord with the requirements of societal demands (Rokeach, 1973; Williams, 1968).
Values and motivations stem from needs. When a need is aroused to a sufficient level of intensity to drive a person to act, the need becomes a motive (Kotler & Keller, 2009). Motivations are needs aroused and are more situational than values. Motivations vary in different use situations, and are fluctuating, complex, and never ending (Maslow, 1970a). For example, using the Internet at home is motivated by fun, whereas using the Internet at an office is motivated by work responsibilities. By contrast, values are centrally held and more enduring at a more abstract level of cognition than motivations, and may influence motivations. Values can give an action direction (Schwartz, 1994) and guide motivation for a behavioral response (Gutman, 1982; Vinson et al., 1977). This study attempts to advance our knowledge of values in spectator sports and is expected to aid in our better understanding of motives for consuming (or not) sporting events.
Applications of Values in Sports
Various researchers have investigated motivations for attending sporting events (Milne & McDonald, 1999; Trail & James, 2001; Wann, 1995) rather than general values with spectator sports. Prior studies of values in sport settings have been focused on sport participation (i.e., playing sports) rather than sport spectatorship (i.e., watching sports; for example, Florenthal & Shoham, 2000; M. J. Lee et al., 2000; Simmons & Dickinson, 1986; Wankel & Berger, 1990), and researchers have treated values as functions (e.g., Zhang, Pease, & Hui, 1996), economic utilities (e.g., Westerbeek & Shilbury, 2003), and ethical norms (e.g., McNamee et al., 2007). In this work, values are defined as personal beliefs and goals to explore their associations with spectator sports.
In the field of spectator sports, previous studies (Baba, 2003; Kahle et al., 2001; Shao, 2002) have utilized the List of Values (LOV; Kahle, 1983, 1996) to examine the extent to which personal values predicted spectator sport consumption. Findings which have been reported demonstrate that values significantly differed between male and female fan segments (Kahle et al., 2001), and that the LOV partially predicted spectator sport consumption (Baba, 2003; Shao, 2002). A concern with some of the previous research is a presumption that the LOV includes all values associated with spectator sports. This presumption had not been justified. The LOV primarily assesses values more related to individual interests but omits values for collective interests such as universalism, benevolence, tradition, and conformity (Gau, 2007; Schwartz, 1996). Kahle’s (1983) value system might not be extensive enough to cover values associated with spectator sport consumption (D. Lee & Trail, 2011). A goal of the current study is to provide more comprehensive information with respect to which values are associated with spectator sports.
There were four progressive phases for data construction. The first phase included 15 interviews from which an initial understanding of the values people associate with spectator sports was derived. The second phase included two focus groups from which additional information was acquired, and which provided more information for data triangulation. In the third phase, 11 interviews were conducted to examine whether the interpretation of value types from the initial interviews and focus groups achieved saturation and redundancy. The fourth phase included one focus group with pictorial devices (i.e., photo elicitation), which was utilized to confirm the value types identified through the previous three phases (Table 1).
As sports are prevalent in society, it is expected that most adults have some experiences with spectator sports, either through live event attendance, some media outlets such as television, the Internet, radio, and newspapers, or in discussion with others. Even if some people are not frequent viewers of sports, they can still report their observations about values associated with spectator sports. They can either think of values associated with spectator sports or what they hold as values when they watch spectator sports, considering values at a group level or values they hold as an individual (e.g., personal values). In this sense, convenience sampling was deemed appropriate. The participants for the four phases were recruited from full-time, part-time students and their nonstudent friends at a large southeastern university in the United States.
Ethical approval was granted for this study by an institutional review board. No incentives were offered. Participants were volunteers and willingly contributed their thoughts and ideas to the research. The total number of participants was 54 (see Table 1) with 27 (50%) males, and 39 (72 %) participants identifying the United States as their home country. It was presumed that adults, even young adults, had the relevant knowledge and ability to reflect on their personal values.
Heterogeneity sampling was used. Participants included not only those who liked sports spectating but also those who self-reported indifference toward or even disliked spectator sports. Heterogeneous group members could provide different thoughts and create positive conflicts in conversations to provoke unexpected themes. In addition, the sample was ethnically diverse with participants from 10 different countries (see Table 1). Thirteen American participants had Hispanic roots. Seven American participants reported cultural experiences in other countries, including Turkey (n = 1), Germany (n = 2), Jamaica (n = 1), Italy (n = 1), Spain (n = 1), and Europe (n = 1). The ethnic backgrounds and cultural experiences could provide diverse perspectives and observations.
Because values are subjectively perceived by a cognizing subject (Alicke, 1983; Holbrook, 2006) at the highest level of abstraction (Parasuraman, 1997; Woodruff, 1997), three categories of questions were designed in the interviews to ask observed behaviors and implied metaphors. As values cannot be directly observed (Ubbelohde & Fraenkel, 1976), they might be inferred from spectators’ behavior in terms of consumption time, money, and outlets (watching on TV or live attendance). Similarly, because people might not be cognitively aware of their values, interviewees can choose a metaphor (like a value-indicator) to describe their feelings about watching sports and imply values associated with spectator sports. Furthermore, people might be sensitive about their own subjective values and avoid talking about their personal values. For this reason, participants were asked to describe their observations about other people’s values for spectating sports. Particularly, if participants had experiences in different countries, they were asked to discuss whether spectator sport values differed in other countries.
In addition, because values in this study were expressed by the desirable preference experiences (Alicke, 1983; Holbrook, 2006) in spectator sports, four categories of comparison questions were designed to explore interviewees’ ideas and thoughts about the differences and relative importance between spectator sports and sport participation, religion and other leisure substitutes. Because values associated with participation in sports were commonly discussed (e.g., Florenthal & Shoham, 2000; M. J. Lee et al., 2000; Simmons & Dickinson, 1986; Wankel & Berger, 1990) and might be easily recalled, interviewees were asked to compare values associated with participation in sports and values associated with watching sports. This might help interviewees think about whether they associated similar or different values with watching sports.
Next, interviewees were asked to compare the similarities and differences between religion and spectator sports to reflect on spectator sport values. Sport could provide followers something comparable to religion (Vance, 1984) and in general has become the newest religion (Prebish, 1993). Sport consumers may sacralize their consumption (Belk, Wallendorf, & Sherry, 1989; Ohl, 2005); sport events are held in stadiums and have rituals, sport teams have mascots, games evoke intense emotions and give meaning to lives, and there is a quest for perfection and flow or peak experience in sports (Coakley, 2009). It seemed reasonable to include this comparison question to stir thoughts about spectator sport values.
Participants were also asked to recall what activities they and other people participated in through their spare time, and what activities might be substituted for watching spectator sports and why. People’s values for spectator sports might be reflected from the values of the substitutes. The final question category asked about the values that might be more important than spectator sport values. Participants described their values associated with watching sports, compared such values with the values of academic performance, and recalled whether value conflicts existed due to time constraints. Because values can be representations of preference experiences (Holbrook, 2006) associated with spectator sports by the participant’s apprehension, the comparison can make interviewees think of the priority of the spectator sport values.
The seven categories of questions were used as a basic guide to elicit responses in the semistructured interviews. Based on different interviews and answers, questions and their sequences were adjusted in each situation. For example, in one situation, the authors might ask, “Since you mentioned . . . do you mind telling me your opinion about the differences between sport and religion?” In another situation, the authors might ask, “So, how do you compare sport and religion?” That is, interview questions differed based on the participants and their answers.
There were four phases in the data construction process. At each phase, data analysis was conducted. Interview notes or transcriptions from the individual interviews and the focus groups were analyzed. This approach was used in an attempt to provide cross-context testing for transferability, one type of constant comparative method. In addition, triangulation and confirmability were used to validate the data interpretation.
Grounded data techniques were used to guide the coding procedure. Grounded data analyses emphasize systematic analyses to handle masses of raw data for the task of theory construction or verification by inductive strategies (Patton, 2002). According to Auerbach and Silverstein (2003), the procedure in grounded data coding has six steps. The coding process was followed for each phase.
The first step was to get the raw text (i.e., the notes and transcriptions). The second step was to attain relevant text. With research concerns about personal values in mind, the researchers discarded the portion of transcriptions considered irrelevant. The judgment of irrelevance was inevitably subjective. For example, some participants mentioned that important events such as the Olympic Games, and the World Cup, and play-off events were more attractive. This information was relevant to product attributes for consumption satisfaction but irrelevant to personal values.
The third step was to find repeating ideas. In this step, content from each interview transcript was separated into meaningful units (in general, one or two sentences as a unit), and each unit was given a code. The code represented the meaning of the unit and was related to the research concerns about value patterns. For example, for the unit, “Unless some of the players are my friends, . . . I do not watch games frequently,” the researcher assigned the code, Support Players. Although respondents were asked about spectator sport metaphors and their sport consumption background, the coding of repeating ideas focused on their major relevance to the definition of values in this study. The first phase produced 50 repeating ideas, the second phase produced 56, the third phase produced 42, and the fourth phase had 39 repeating ideas.
The fourth step was to organize the repeating ideas into groups that expressed different themes (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003). For example, participants mentioned that they went to games because of players they know, players coming from their home, or famous players. These three ideas were repeating ideas and similar. They were combined as a theme, Player identification. Repeating ideas were further organized into 20 themes in Phase 1; 22 themes in Phase 2; 23 themes in Phase 3; and 20 themes in Phase 4.
The fifth step was to organize the themes into more abstract ideas. The abstract grouping of themes was referred to as theoretical constructs, or value types. In this stage, relevant literatures (Kahle, 1983; Maslow, 1970a, 1970b; Schwartz, 1992, 1994; Trail & James, 2001; Table 2) were referenced to help interpret and label each construct, indicating broader categories of values. The value types were extracted from the themes. For example, the value type, Enjoyment, was extracted from four themes: Entertainment, Excited, Feelings of pleasure from vicarious aggression, and Regulated war. Themes were organized into nine theoretical constructs (value types) in Phase 1; 9 value types in Phase 2; 10 value types in Phase 3; and 9 value types in Phase 4.
The final step was to create a theoretical narrative for each construct. The narrative provided the bridge between research concerns and participants’ subjective experience (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003). Representative portions of notes and transcripts were selected to support each value type. In short, the coding process had six sequential steps. However, the process was not linear movement from Step 1 to Step 6 (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003). The process went back and forth between steps.
Trustworthiness and Credibility
Lincoln and Guba (1985) wrote that “the degree of transferability is a direct function of the similarity between the two contexts, what we shall call ‘fittingness’” (p. 124). That is, tests for transferability refer to whether conclusions from one context are transferable to other contexts. This study compared the coding results in the four different phases. The comparisons were primarily sequential “with each succeeding context acting as a check on the interpretation supported by preceding ones” (Belk et al., 1989, p. 5) to check the credibility of an interpretation.
Constant Comparative Method
When applying this method, the analyst validates his or her interpretations through constantly comparing one piece of data with another (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), avoiding a potential bias in data interpretations. Based on the constant comparative method, this study tested transferability by sequentially analyzing contexts. That is, interpretations were revised “in successive comparisons with new data until saturation and redundancy were achieved” (Belk et al., 1989, p. 5). A constant comparative method also refers to an analytic process between literature and data interpretation. The successive comparisons in data analyses prompted library research; the reading of existing literature helped shape and reflect the data interpretation (Belk et al., 1989).
Triangulation relates to different data sources to validate and support the emerging themes. Different methods in this study including individual interviews, focus groups, and pictorial devices were used to collect data for data triangulation.
The researchers (four from a Sport Management department and two from a Communication department) did the coding based on the transcriptions and notes from interviews and focus groups. The coding results were compared in an effort to provide rater reliability across the six coders.
The hypothesized framework of spectator sport values was proposed based on the results from the first three phases. The framework was then confirmed by data from the fourth phase. A technique involving a Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was developed to evaluate confirmability. Pictorial devices were descendants of a TAT (Churchill & Iacobucci, 2005), which assumed that the pictorial devices might provoke more responses consciously and unconsciously than written definitions in a handout.
In Phase 4, pictures without any literal explanations were shown to the focus group participants on a screen using PowerPoint slides. Ten value types found from the previous three phases were manifested by groups of 23 pictures chosen by the researchers. When the participants viewed the pictures on a screen, they were asked to explain their feelings and any thoughts. Follow-up questions were asked to clarify whether the responses referred to particular value types. After all the pictures were discussed, the focus group moderator proceeded to write down the value types that emerged from the discussion on a blackboard for further clarification by the participants. The discussion was recorded and coded. The coding results were compared with findings from the previous three phases to evaluate the confirmability.
The first phase identified 9 value types: Enjoyment, Sociability, Identity, Status, Spirituality, Moral, Epistemic, Ritual, and No or negative values. Compared with the first phase, 9 value types also emerged from the second phase, which, however, did not include the moral value but included a new construct, aesthetic value. The results of the third phase produced 10 value types, which repeated those 10 constructs derived from the first two phases. This provided some evidence that a level of saturation and redundancy had been achieved. The 10 value types provided a basis for a hypothesized framework for selecting pictures used in the fourth Phase to test confirmability.
The major purpose of the fourth phase was to confirm the value types from the previous three phases. Participants in the focus group were shown pictures that implied the value types. The results showed that all the value types except for Aesthetic value were confirmed and that no new value types emerged. It seemed that none of the chosen pictures in Phase 4 demonstrated well the aesthetic value associated with spectator sports. As a consequence, the aesthetic value was not mentioned in Phase 4 when respondents saw the pictures. Nevertheless, because aesthetic value did appear in Phases 2 and 3, this value type was retained in the final judgment.
Coding results from one of the six coders had only two constructs, which were considered too broad to be effective and were discarded. The other five coders proposed value types similar to the 10-value-type framework, providing some evidence of rater reliability. The 10-value-type version was therefore considered to be consistent with the rater evaluations. In short, when all of the coding results were combined together, 10 value types emerged. The following provides detailed interpretation for each value type by using an analytic process between the literature review and data interpretation.
One common response from participants was that watching games was like watching a drama and enjoying the success and failure. Many respondents mentioned they watched sporting events for fun and relaxation: “With cheers and jeers, it [an exciting game] is a lot fun”; “taking a break to watch sports, I just want to divert from my daily routine”; “it’s like a movie that you think one team is going to win but turns out to be a loser because something magic happens.” Zillman, Bryant, and Sapolsky (1989) identified a recreational value of sport spectatorship based on a boredom-relieving function (i.e., entertainment) and relief of tension (i.e., escape). Enjoyment from watching sport contests came from the drama in sports, the unpredictability of an event, the uncertainty about the outcome (Zillman et al., 1989), and perhaps simply the atmosphere. One Taiwanese participant mentioned “nei hang kan men dau, wai hang kan re nau (內行看門道，外行看熱鬧).” He explained:
While the connoisseur recognizes the artistry, the layman simply enjoys the show. Although I am not expert knowing what is going on there, I just love the atmosphere. When I am in the huge football stadium surrounded by the crowd, it is just exciting and fun.
The release of tension is one symbolic dimension of spectator sports (Duncan, 1983). Sport spectating provides a means for people to release their rebellious sentiments against modern impersonal society and provides an opportunity for citizens to vent hostile and aggressive sentiments (Duncan, 1983) in a regulated war. In short, the value Enjoyment means that people achieve the goal of pleasure and satisfaction. Enjoyment may come from entertainment, excitement, and feelings of pleasure from a release of tension or stress.
Some representative responses that indicate participants’ associating sociability with spectator sports are “Watching sports creates camaraderie” and “It is more about friendship.” The data indicate that sociability can cover at least three situations, social interaction with friends, family members, and new encounters. Spectator sports create good venues for sociability bonding opportunities when people spend their leisure time watching sports together. Spectator sports may also provide a chance for sociability in a less intimate form than traditional institutions such as family, workplace, and neighborhoods. Because of technology, individualism, and geographical mobility, the family and the workplace no longer satisfy people’s social needs (Anderson & Stone, 1981; Melnick, 1993). Instead, spectator sports provide a new locale which is alive with communal possibility for the satisfaction of sociability. Sport spectators may share a quasi-intimacy and social connectedness (Wann et al., 2001). Sociability implies that people pursue a goal of social interaction through sport spectating. This is the social aspect of value in spectator sports.
The idea of identity value response was reflected in statements like, “You have a passion for the team of your city.” Some respondents said that it is more interesting to watch sports if they know some of the players. They watch sports with players they know on the team, or they watch the team from their home state or country.
Sport teams serve as an object with which consumers identify, evoking emotional attachment (Sutton, McDonald, Milne, & Cimperman, 1997). According to social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981), identifying with a group enhances a person’s self-esteem because of the personal meaning that comes from belonging to or associating with a particular group. Sport can also serve as a collective representation of a country (Wann et al., 2001). People who identify with the country would cheer for a national team that represents the country and meet a goal to satisfy their identity needs. Similarly, when sports teams or players represent a school, community, or city, the team or players tend to foster sentiments of identification (Anderson & Stone, 1981). Furthermore, a team can be a source of parental pride (Anderson & Stone, 1981), sibling pride, peer pride, or hero admiration when one or more players on the team are associated and supported. This can contribute to enhancing peoples’ self-esteem no matter whether they are aware of their propensity to support or admire one or some of a team’s players. All these elements including team and player identification, nationalism, parental and peer pride, and hero admiration may relate to the value Identity.
Like identity value, status value also serves to enhance self-esteem. Because sport is important in a society and has a communicative power, a person who can talk authoritatively about sport may be perceived as fashionable and knowledgeable through being “up-to-date” on important sporting events, as illustrated by the following comment by a woman who came from Haiti where soccer was popular: “Because of the peer pressure thing . . . because when I go to work the next day, every one would talk about the game. Soccer, you got to know what is going on.” In other words, a person may watch sports to attain or maintain a level of status or recognition (e.g., recognized as being fashionable and knowledgeable about sports).
Some respondents from other countries mentioned that watching football in the United States was like a cultural fashion they had to experience. In addition, as sport is a microcosm of society, people may use sport spectatorship as a conspicuous consumption to demonstrate their social status. Luxury boxes and premium seats are a status symbol; a person who can afford an expensive ticket sitting in a luxury box or premium seat for a professional sporting event demonstrates his or her social position. In short, the value Status means pursuing a goal of social recognition through the perception of being “fashionable” or through conspicuous consumption.
Different from Identity value and Status value, spirituality is fulfilling, self-satisfying, with self-acceptance and aspiration. It seems that people can pursue a goal of experiencing something spiritual in spectating sports, as indicated in the excerpt from the field notes: “When watching billiards, I liked to imagine the flow experience in which I balanced the mind and muscle so well that the pool cue would become part of my body and follow my mind.” Similarities between sports and spirituality exist (Burleson, 1997). “Like religion, spectator sports contain mystical elements” (Duncan, 1983, p. 33) such as the rituals, charisma, flow, spirit, and momentum. Sport may be seen as a humanistic religion (Duncan, 1983; Dunning, 1986) in which spectators may worship star players and their achievements (Wann et al., 2001).
The vicarious achievement through witnessing the flow of movement may further become a peak experience. The vicarious experience of achievement through feeling the intangible quality of spirit demonstrated by players or a team may suggest unfettered human potential. This potential shows illimitable possibilities for a person to experience transcendence beyond the realities of everyday life (Duncan, 1983). The peak experiences and transcendence provide a way in which spectators express themselves (Duncan, 1983) and affirm who they are (Richins, 2005). If spectator sports did not touch human spiritual nerves, it might not have been so pervasive (Stevenson, 1974) and might have otherwise perished.
Games evoke intense emotions and give meaning to lives and urge a quest for perfection and flow or peak experience in sports (Coakley, 2009). The peak experience and transcendence and prior-, during-, and after-game rituals further contribute to a blissful and meaningful feeling of ultimate existentialism. Peak experiences, transcendence, and existentialism might be a revelation, an insight, enlightenment beyond normal experiences, reassurance of the continued personal existence and reaffirmation of personal importance in the social structure (Stevenson, 1974). People may feel inner peace, strength, meaning and purpose in life (Greenwald & Harder, 2003) through spectating sports.
A game is like life, a version of life, as illustrated in this comment: “There are some [moral] values [in sports] I can apply to my life.” Typical responses indicating moral values with spectator sports included: “I like the team to play fairly and the players to be law abiding citizens” and “Integrity is the most important personality trait in every single manner in sports.” A value of Moral means learning what is good and right through watching sports. Some morals can be taught and socialized through sports, for example, “a sense of fairness” (Zillman et al., 1989). Morals are produced by meeting requirements of societal demands. Because “the language of sport finds its way into almost every aspect of life” (Zillman et al., 1989, p. 183), it is probable that parents, teachers, and educators can use sport metaphors or anecdotes to communicate moral lessons after witnessing sporting events.
Like moral lessons learned from reading a fable, the moral values such as sportsmanship, empathy (Values in Sports, 1963), discipline (Edwards, 1973; Snyder & Spreizter, 1989), dedication, integrity, fairness, and courage (Simon, 2004) can be demonstrated in playing sports and learned from watching sports. It is probable that when parents and children watch sports together, one of the goals for parents is to show children the importance of the values of fair play, teamwork, obedience, diligence, and spirit. In short, because “sport has the potential to model several values regarded as crucial to a . . . society” (Wann et al., 2001, p. 190), such moral values could be transmitted through sports.
In spectator sports, skills, strategies, techniques, tactics, rules, records, statistics, and team histories are probably appreciated for their own sake. Techniques, strategies, and the knowledge acquired from watching sports, can also be emulated (Simon, 1985). Sport spectating provides a goal for some individuals to pursue knowledge as end-experience and satisfaction. This was supported by a comment from a Japanese female athlete in a separate interview:
Every time when I watch sports, I need energy . . . I don’t want to miss any moment and any play. Watching sports is serious for me. I pay attention to the technique, strategy, and statistics, and sometimes I do take notes.
Maslow (1970b) pointed out that people are “attracted to the mysterious, to the unknown, to the chaotic, unorganized, and unexplained . . . These areas are in themselves and of their own right interesting” (p. 49). Without institutionalization, people tend to be curious and enjoy asking a lot of questions. Myths and legends might partly result from the needs to explore and to explain. “The gratification of the cognitive impulses is subjectively satisfying and yields end-experience” (Maslow, 1970b, p. 50). Pelletier et al. (1995) also mentioned an “epistemic need to know” (p. 36). Learning, exploring, and trying to understand something new is per se a pleasurable and satisfactory experience (Pelletier et al., 1995).
Some respondents pointed out: “I am fond of sporting events like diving, figure skating, and synchronized swimming because of their beauty and grace.” Sporting events are seen as a form of art by some fans (Duncan, 1983; Sloan, 1989; Wann, 1995). The beauty, grace, or other artistic characteristics in sports (Trail, Anderson, & Fink, 2000; Willis & Campbell, 1992) such as figure skating, synchronized swimming, and gymnastics (Milne & McDonald, 1999) may be greatly appreciated for their own sake in watching sports. “The trinity of canonized values, known as ‘the True, the Beautiful and the Good’” (Perry, 1926, p. 693), suggests that beauty (aesthetic value) has its own intrinsic values. Maslow (1970a) contended that “in some individuals there is a truly basic aesthetic need” (p. 51). Thus, in some individuals, it is probable that Aesthetics is a value type associated with spectator sports.
Some loyal sports fans stated as follows: “Like brushing my teeth, consuming sports is part of my daily routine;” “like we wear clothes every day, I would feel uncomfortable if I missed watching sports for a day.” Those who perform the rituals would find meanings and values in these rituals themselves although they may not be consciously aware of this psychological transformation and dependence on the rituals.
Like a festival, a sporting event may create ritual values in some people’s daily lives. Because ritual acts have an expressive or symbolic element (Grund, 1993; Radcliffe-Brown, 1952), ritual activity in pursuit of ritual value is an end in itself (Durkheim, 1971; Grund, 1993; Malinowski, 1948) without direct purpose. When people sacralize (Belk et al., 1989) and ritualize their consumption for spectator sports, sport spectating becomes a ritual activity and can be pursued for its own sake. Once sport spectating is sacralized and ritualized, it would be conditioned in daily lives or in a season or annual cycle, becoming a daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal or yearly routine ritual.
Ritual value means that sports spectating becomes a series of formal and serious acts followed regularly and invariably as end-experience and satisfaction. Some respondents mentioned that they liked to go to ceremonial types of sporting events such as college football games. The ritual activities, for example, tailgating, parties, and booster events, are looked forward to as much as the sports event itself. Being a spectator at a football game may become a ritual activity. Some people may participate in this ritual on a yearly basis and look forward to it in the same way religious people look forward to a religious festival.
No Value or Negative Value
A few respondents mentioned: “Watching sports is a waste of time.” For some people, spectator sports could be something they have never thought to consume or they ignore because they are not interested in it and they do not want it, as vividly illustrated by a metaphor: “Watching sports is like living in a jail—I hoped it would end sooner.”
Watching spectator sports, some people may see that players practice the same movement, fight for the same ball, and follow the same rules. The rules, technique, and style may be viewed as repetitive and set in stone. People may not find uniqueness and imagination in spectator sports, and feel bored watching them. For some people, watching sports may have negative connotation and would contaminate a mind due to the violent and aggressive nature of sports (Arms, Russell, & Sandilands, 1979; Goldstein & Arms, 1971; Sipes, 1973). Some sports spectacles might be viewed as barbaric and bloody and associated with negative values.
Meanwhile, when scandals like athletes using steroids or performance-enhancing supplements occurred, immoral actions might be associated with spectator sports. Thus, people who see the dark side of spectator sports might, therefore, have negative value for spectating sports. These people may not only discourage others from watching sports but also feel that sports should not hold such importance in our society.
The current research proposes a value framework specifically associated with spectator sports. Previous studies in needs and personal values might not be appropriate to be directly applied to spectator sports. The 10-value-type framework associated with spectator sports is different from Maslow’s (1970a) needs theory, Schwartz’ (1992) value types, Kahle’s (1983) LOV, and Trail and James’ (2001) Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC). Physiological needs (Maslow, 1970a) are less relevant to spectator sports. Physical attraction, drama, and physical skills (Trail & James, 2001) should be regarded as product attributes and viewed as irrelevant to this study.
Maslow’s (1970a) needs theory does not include moral and ritual values associated with spectator sports; Kahle’s (1983) LOV does not include extensive value types. Although some motivational factors for spectator sports (Milne & McDonald, 1999; Trail & James, 2001; Wann, 1995) were the same as some of the identified value dimensions in this study (e.g., entertainment, social, achievement, knowledge, aesthetics; Table 2), the motivational scale was not associated with four value types: ritual, spirituality, status, and moral.
Although Schwartz’ (1992, 1994, 1996) value types might somehow reflect all values associated with spectator sports, each of Schwartz’ value types did not match each of spectator sport value types. Because Schwartz’ value system was primarily for personal lives, it could contain spectator sport values in general, but only the proposed value framework by the current study explained specific detailed value types associated with spectator sports. Further research is required to provide an empirical comparison between Schwartz’ value system and this proposed spectator-sport-value framework. Table 2 summarizes the comparisons among the four theories and the proposed value framework associated with spectator sports by the current study.
This study is an initial step to explore the values individuals associate with spectator sports. Based on the value types, scales of value-based attitudes toward spectator sports can be further developed. Value-based attitudes toward spectator sports are different from fan motivation scales, and may be better at predicting spectator sport consumption behavior. For example, because his or her friend was asking, a person could be motivated to watch sports to enjoy friendship. It is quite true for this person that “wanting to spend time with friends is the reason why I watch sports” (an item measuring a sociability motive; James & Ross, 2004; Milne & McDonald, 1999; Trail & James, 2001; Wann, 1995). However, this does not necessarily mean the person associates the value of sociability with spectator sports. In a place where spectator sports are not popular, residents may be more likely to associate sociability with having dinner together than with watching sports.
In addition to the more traditional demographic variables, the 10-value-type framework related to sport spectatorship provides efficient variables to achieve greater effectiveness in market analysis and precision in market segmentation (Vinson et al., 1977) for the industry of spectator sports. For public policy, knowledge of values may help policy makers improve their decisions (Vinson et al., 1977). For example, big events such as the Olympic Games might be interested in whether enjoyment, morality, or spirituality is the best theme in marketing activities. In future research, different value types can be further compared among different modes of sport consumptions such as live event attendance and watching sport events via media outlets.
With a better understanding of the spectator sport values, governments may make a better decision about whether to build a stadium. In addition to calculating utilitarian values such as the income a stadium can produce, decision makers might also pay attention to symbolic values such as identity values that may be affected by a stadium project.
Linking values to behavior, the means-end chain model (Gutman, 1982, 1997; Parasuraman, 1997; Woodruff, 1997; Young & Feigin, 1975) explains a decision-making process. People choose to watch sports as a means fulfilling their values. Given the values that participants associate with spectator sports, sport managers can emphasize attributes in spectator sports which can produce desired consequences. Building values into communication programs creates the potential to more closely target spectator sports with desired attributes to valued states (Gutman, 1982). Educators can also use spectator sports to teach students morals in socialization through sports (Coakley, 2009). Future research can build on the results of the current study by investigating attractive attributes of spectator sports and helping managers design sporting events. By appealing to centrally held values connected to the attributes, a promotion activity can reinforce preference (Vinson et al., 1977) to sports spectating.
Based on the results of the study, we are able to develop a framework comprised of 10 value types. However, most participants in this study were college students from one university located in the southeastern United States. One could argue that the level of student population relevance might not be representative of general sports consumers. This would be a limitation of the current study and there should be a caution not to overgeneralize the research findings. In the future, we recommend conducting a larger empirical study with a more diverse sample involving consumers of various segments of spectator sports, such as professional sports, interscholastic sports, Olympic sports, and recreational sports, and recruiting consumers from more regions (e.g., urban, suburban, college towns) and sport conferences to provide more justification for the value framework.
With reference to needs theory, personal life value theory, and previous studies in spectator sport motives, this qualitative study proposed a value framework in relation to spectator sports. The 10-value-type framework is different from Maslow’s (1970a, 1970b), Schwartz’ (1992, 1994, 1996) and Kahle’s (1983) value theories and specifically associated with spectator sports. The framework is expected to better predict consumption of spectator sports than a fan motivational scale. Each of the 10 sport values in the framework was carefully labeled at an appropriate level of abstraction, reflecting values specific to spectator sports. Except for no value or the negative value, the 9 positive values represent a parsimonious set that is within a human’s capacity to hold in memory (Miller, 1956).
The value Enjoyment means that people achieve the goal of pleasure and satisfaction, Sociability implies that people pursue a goal of social interaction, and Identity value means the enhancement of peoples’ self-esteem, through sport spectating. The value Status means pursuing a goal of social recognition, Spirituality means inner peace, strength, meaning, and purpose in life, and Moral values can be transmitted, through spectator sports. Epistemic, Aesthetic, and Ritual are three intrinsic values as end-experiences in spectating sports. Finally, some people seek no or even negative values in spectator sports.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.
- © The Author(s) 2013
Li-Shiue Gau, PhD, received MBA from National Taiwan University and PhD in sport management from Florida State University. He is currently an associate professor in the Department of Leisure and Recreation Management at Asia University, Taiwan. His research interest is in sport consumer psychology and behavior with specific focuses on self-esteem experiences in spectator sports, team identification, sport attitudes, motivations, spectator sport values, the asymmetrical analyses of the attributes impacts, the relationships between sport participation and spectatorship, and the examination of contradictory leisure consumption and behaviors.
Jeffrey D. James is a professor of sport management in the Department of Sport Management at Florida State University. His research focuses on the psychological connection people form with sport objects, whether that is a particular sport, team, athlete, or other sport object. Particular research interests include the processes by which individuals form a psychological connection to a sports team, and the cognitive and behavior consequences of such connections.