Attitudinal Loyalty Definition Essay
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
List of Tables and Figures
1. Literature Review
1.1. The Harry Potter Phenomenon
1.2. Sense of Community
1.3. Attitudinal Loyalty
2. Conceptual model
2.1. The Problematic
2.2. The Hypotheses
2.3. The Final Model
3.1. Type of Research
3.2. A Quantitative Study
3.4. Data Analysis
4. Data Analysis
4.2. Frequency Analysis
4.3. Reliability Analysis
4.4. Multiple Regressions
5. Managerial implications
7. Further Research
Table of Contents
I would like to thank Professor Carlos M. Rodriguez for agreeing to be my thesis director, and for helping me throughout my work. His support and help were greatly useful from the beginning until the very end. He taught me to stay focused at all times and to surpass what was expected of me. I am thankful for the precious time he spent directing my steps, answering my questions, and advising me when in doubt. I consider myself truly lucky and grateful to have learned from such a competent Professor and to have had the privilege to be his student.
This research’s objective is to evaluate the impact of a person’s sense of community on his or her attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand.
Within the past decade, Harry Potter has become a multi-billion dollar brand with millions of fans all over the world. The fan base community has developed with the rise of the Internet and new means of interaction. They have had a real power of decision over the brand’s managers, and are a key element to the success of Harry Potter. This study will focus on people’s sense of community and on the existence of a relationship between this sense of community and people’s loyalty and purchase behaviors towards the Harry Potter brand.
The problematic to this study is “How does a person’s sense of community impact its attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand?”.
This question will be answered by adopting a quantitative research method that will comprise two phases. In the first phase, I will assess the relationship between people’s sense of community within their own personal community, and their attitudinal loyalty towards the Harry Potter brand. In the second phase, I will assess the relationship between people’s attitudinal loyalty and their purchase behavior, both regarding the Harry Potter brand. The dimensions measuring these variables will be drawn from the researches cited in the literature review.
The sample will be analyzed first in its entirety, and then divided into two groups (fans and non-fans of Harry Potter) in order to deepen the findings and look for nuances within the results. The analysis of the collected data from 602 respondents showed that in the first phase, only the Shared Emotional Connection dimension of Sense of Community positively impacts people’s Attitudinal Loyalty towards Harry Potter. The second phase indicated that all three Affective, Cognitive, and Behavioral dimensions of Attitudinal Loyalty impact Purchase in a different way depending on the group studied.
This research proved the existence of a relationship between a person’s sense of community and his or her attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior towards the Harry Potter brand, and identified the dimensions within those variables that have a significant impact in the relationship.
List of Abbreviations
illustration not visible in this excerpt
List of Tables and Figures
Figure 1 Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases
Figure 2 Measures of Sense of Community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986)
Figure 3 Measures of Attitudinal Loyalty (Rosenberg & Hovland, 1960)
Figure 4 Research Model
Figure 5 Research Steps for the Quantitative Study (Hermel, 1995)
Figure 6 Levels of Regression used in the study
Table 1 Studies conducted until 1986 on Psychological Sense of Community
Table 2 Division of the Likert Scale of Frequency between Non-Fans & Fans of HP
Table 3 Cronbach’s Alphas in the reliabilities of the Sense of Community variables
Table 4 Cronbach’s Alphas in the reliabilities of the Attitudinal Loyalty variables
Table 5 Cronbach’s Alpha in the reliability of the Purchase variable
Table 6 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Affect at the Aggregate Level
Table 7 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Affect at the Aggregate Level
Table 8 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Cognition at the Aggregate Level
Table 9 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Cognition at the Aggregate Level
Table 10 Coefficient Table of Force Entry Regression of Behavior at the Aggregate Level
Table 11 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Behavior at the Aggregate Level
Table 12 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Purchase at the Aggregate Level
Table 13 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Purchase at the Aggregate Level
Table 14 Summary Table of the Forced Entry Regressions at the Aggregate Level
Table 15 Summary Table of the Stepwise Regressions at the Aggregate Level
Table 16 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Affect for Non-Fans
Table 17 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Affect for Non-Fans
Table 18 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Affect for Fans
Table 19 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Affect for Fans
Table 20 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Cognition for Non-Fans
Table 21 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Cognition for Non-Fans
Table 22 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Cognition for Fans
Table 23 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Cognition for Fans
Table 24 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Behavior for Non-Fans
Table 25 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Behavior for Non-Fans
Table 26 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Behavior for Fans
Table 27 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Behavior for Fans
Table 28 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Purchase for Non-Fans
Table 29 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Purchase for Non-Fans
Table 30 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Purchase for Fans
Table 31 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Purchase for Fans
Table 32 Summary of the Forced Entry Regressions at the Group Level
Table 33 Summary of the Stepwise Regressions at the Group Level
In 1997, British author J.K. Rowling published the first book of a 7-volume fantasy series called Harry Potter. Little did she know that the spell she had just cast onto the world was the beginning of a unique success story.
As soon as the book came out in the United Kingdom, the buzz around the series started growing exponentially, and soon enough Harry Potter was part of an entire cultural and generational phenomenon. The fandom created among Harry Potter was exceptional, leading to a whole fan base universe. New vernacular such as “Pottermania” (the Harry Potter fan phenomenon), “Quidditch” (the official wizarding sports game), or “muggle” (non-magical people) are now used in everyday language and have even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003.
The Harry Potter books extended into eight movies, hundreds of online fans websites and forums, worldwide exhibitions, conventions, merchandises, video-games, and many other additions that transformed Harry Potter into a multi-billion dollar brand. Harry Potter broke dozens of records in the box-office like in the sales industry. And even though the series has ended, the phenomenon goes on and continuations of the brand keep the magic going.
The marketing surrounding the Harry Potter brand used new techniques to promote the brand worldwide, mainly benefiting from the rise of the Internet and new technologies, as well as the fan base community. This fan community played a key role in the development and promotion of the brand and in the decision process of the brand managers during the “Harry Potter decade”. The online buzz and word-of-mouth related to Harry Potter originated from its fans who used new technology to create websites and forums. These platforms allowed people from all over the world, of any age and any background, to participate in the Harry Potter adventure and become part of the phenomenon. Added to live and local activities such as Quidditch games, role-playing games or Harry Potter conferences, these gatherings – real and virtual – allowed the fans to interact between each other and develop the community by their own.
A lot of works have already been done on the elements that drove the Harry Potter brand to success. Whether it is the rise of the Internet, the story of the author, the teasing marketing techniques, the good story, or the fans involvement… dozens of reasons are part of the success of the brand. What I am interested in understanding here is the role of people’s sense of community in relation with their opinion of Harry Potter. We know that the community of Harry Potter grew larger and larger every year, but is there a relation between the sense of community within people and their loyalty to Harry Potter, and in consequence their purchase behaviors regarding Harry Potter?
This research’s goal is to answer the question “How does a person’s sense of community impact its attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand?” .
In order to do so, I will start by gathering secondary data into a literature review about the Harry Potter brand, Sense of Community, Attitudinal Loyalty, and Purchase. The literature review will define all the variables used in this study. It will explain the reasons behind the success of Harry Potter, and go into the details of the different dimensions of Sense of Community, Loyalty – and more specifically, Attitudinal Loyalty – and Purchase.
Then, I will conceptualize the model of this thesis and draw propositions and hypotheses from the problematic and the research questions. The model will be composed of two phases: a first phase will evaluate the relationship between people’s sense of community in general and their attitudinal loyalty towards the Harry Potter brand, and a second phase will evaluate the relationship between people’s attitudinal loyalty and their purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand.
The next chapter will cover the Research Methodology, which will take the form of a quantitative method using a questionnaire. This will allow primary data to be collected from a sample of respondents, and analyze the findings in the Data Analysis.
Finally, I will draw conclusions from the results of the data analysis in order to provide managerial recommendations.
1. Literature Review
1.1. The Harry Potter Phenomenon
1.1.1. An introduction to Harry Potter
The Harry Potter novels tell the story of a wizard teenager named Harry Potter. At age one, he became orphan when Lord Voldemort, the most powerful dark wizard of all times, killed his parents during his quest to conquer the world. However that same night, when trying to kill Harry, the curse backfired and Lord Voldemort vanished, making Harry Potter forever famous as the boy who survived against Lord Voldemort. He grew up with his muggle (non-magical people) aunt and uncle never knowing what he was. At age 11, Harry is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after discovering he was a wizard. New students are divided into the four houses of Hogwarts, each corresponding to a certain type of character. With his two best friends Ron and Hermione, Harry discovers the magical world of wizards, and leads his people against the inevitable return of Lord Voldemort.
The 7-book series was written by British writer J.K. Rowling. With its two main publishers Bloomsbury in Britain and Scholastic in the United States, the series sold over 450 000 million books, translated into 73 languages, and became bestsellers in more than 200 countries in the world. Three years after the first book was released, Warner Bros started adapting the story into 8 movies, which all together brought back almost $8 billion at the box office. Harry Potter has broken records over records, from fastest-selling DVD to becoming a best-seller only with the pre-orders of the last book (before its release), to second top grossing movie of all times.
The books and movies releases during the Harry Potter decade followed this order:
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 1: Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases
HP 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK)
HP 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
HP 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
HP 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
HP 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
HP 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
HP 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [part (1) and part (2)]
1.1.2. Harry Potter as a worldwide brand
Within the past few years, the definition of a brand evolved and has taken a more cultural approach. A brand is characterized by a name, a logo, and other features that differentiate its product from other seller’s products. Now we can see brands representing writers, schools, businesses, and even some States are their own brand (Brown, 2005). The gap between culture and business is smaller than ever. Today, brands are not just about the product they sell, but they have cultural traits such as symbols, indicators, and are topics of discussion.
Although Harry Potter started as a series of books, it has now become a brand on its own. In 2014, the Harry Potter brand was estimated to be worth $15 billion (Thompson, 2008).
Harry Potter is also a societal brand, which is a brand that “not only fulfills a need but also creates a relationship that can be experienced among groups of people within or across cultures” (Gunelius, 2008, p.39). Thanks to the Internet and new means of communication, the cultural aspect of the brand brought a whole generation together around one passion, overlooking race, religion, geographical location, and culture.
According to Gunelius (2008), branding is characterized into 3 main steps:
1- Definition: Defining the desired image that the brand will represent in the marketplace.
2- Communication: Communicating the message of the brand.
3- Persistence and consistency: Being persistent and consistent with the brand message and image.
The next chapters will demonstrate how these three steps covered the essential elements that transformed the Harry Potter series into a brand. The definition of the Harry Potter brand had been clearly defined from the beginning by its author J.K. Rowling. Then, the communication of the brand message is thoroughly conveyed by herself, the brand’s marketers, and in majority by the fans. At last, persistence and consistency played a key role in establishing long-lasting loyalty from the customers, and therefor creating the long-term success of the brand.
1.1.3. Reasons behind the success of Harry Potter
184.108.40.206. A good product
Behind any successful brand is a good product. Although we are discussing the unique marketing techniques that were used to promote the Harry Potter books and movies, it is important to stress the fact that none of it would have led the Harry Potter brand that far if it wasn’t a good product to begin with.
The financial success of the series and testimonials of millions of fans can attest the quality of the content of the story. Because it is a 7 book series, only a good story could enchant that many readers into being addictively drawn until the last page. But what makes a good story?
220.127.116.11.1. What Makes A Good Story?
According to Christopher Booker (2004), the 7 basic master plots that make any story successful, from gothic novels, grand opera, to video games, are: rags-to-riches, rebirth, the quest, overcoming the monster, tragedy, comedy, and voyage and return.
All of those plots have been depicted in the Harry Potter series with elements such as:
- Rags-to-riches: the very story of the author, J.K. Rowling, as well as the fate of Harry Potter from living in a closet under the staircases to being rich and famous (Rowling, 1997).
- Rebirth: Harry has to die in the last book in order for the villain to be weakened, and comes back to life to defeat him once and forever (Rowling, 2006).
- The quest: Harry needs to find the seven “horcruxes” (powerful magical objects) in order to defeat the Dark Lord (Rowling, 2005).
- Overcoming the monster: In each book, Harry and his friends fight all kinds of evil monsters.
- Tragedy: a lot of lives are lost in the story, starting with Harry’s parents (Rowling, 1997).
- Comedy: the books are written with pleasant British humor by J.K. Rowling and include humorous characters such as the Weasley twin brothers.
- Voyage and return: in the last books, Harry and his friends must go find the horcruxes somewhere in the world, and return back to the School to fight the final battle (Rowling, 2006).
Another study from Palmer (1991) claims that good novels are made of a mix between convention and invention. While bringing her own creativity into the story, J.K. Rowling was inspired by many conventional references and story-telling tools from (Smadja, 2001):
- Fairy tales themes (the death of one or both parents at the beginning of the story),
- Mythical stories and its creatures (giants, centaurs, elves…),
- Legends (Santa Claus’s legend represented through the chimney powder)
- Magical elements (flying brooms, owls messengers, sorcerer’s hats, wands…)
- Real history facts (the villain, Voldemort, has character traits of Adolf Hitler, wanting to exterminate everybody who does not characterizes as “pure blood”)
- Children’s books (obvious differentiation between good and evil)
Even if the author created a magical world, she always put reason above superstition, and education above any sign of obscurantism (Smadja, 2001), which made the books more “approachable” for anyone to read. The story was unique, and it appealed to both children and adults, which in consequence allowed the book to deal with a bigger market, and was one of the only books that could be appreciated by people of any age.
Therefore, by creating a whole new universe, and by using successful story-telling techniques, J.K. Rowling offered the world 7 bestsellers that would quickly become legendary.
18.104.22.168.2. The Secret Ingredient
The key element to its success is something that almost nobody had done previously. Something that isn’t related to the story nor the marketing or selling techniques. Something so simple, but that made the whole difference between any other series. And that secret is that the product ages with the consumer (Dalsace, Damay, Dubois, 2007; Dalsace, 2008).
Until now, almost all book series had their characters set in a defined age. Neither Hergé’s Tintin nor Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese grew old during their years of publishing. But in this case, seven books –each representing one year – would tell the story of Harry Potter from 11 years old to 18 years old. Each book represented one year of school, before graduating and becoming an adult. And the whole “Harry Potter generation” would grow up at the same time as the character in the book.
As we can see in the Figure 1: Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases in the previous chapter, the books were released fast enough so that the readers would grow up at the same pace as their hero (releasing one book or one movie a year, with the exception of some small breaks). Furthermore, each book became darker and more complicated, as to keep up with the evolution of its teenage readers. Even the writing style of J.K. Rowling evolved during the series, as to be understood by her growing audience.
This is also the reason of why it is called the “Harry Potter generation”. Although it is clear that the books can be appreciated by anybody at any age, the biggest part of the readers were the Y generation, because they could relate better to the hero and his friends, and because they could experience the same evolution within them during the decade it was made. This was one of the keys to customer’s eternal loyalty.
That fundamental secret in J.K. Rowling’s novels was so significant that many different brands after her considered adopting the same techniques. Frederic Dalsace published a paper in 2008 inviting brands of clothing to follow its customers’ needs throughout the decades, and change its style according to their evolution, rather than trying to attract new customers every decade. It is known that it is easier to retain a loyal customer than to gain a new one, so this tactic would ensure a lifelong loyalty from the customer to the brand.
22.214.171.124. The story behind the author
One of the several techniques marketers used to make the books more appealing to the population was the strategic use of the author’s image. The author J.K. Rowling not only knows how to tell a story, but she is a story by herself (Brown, 2005). It is very common today to promote the author of a book as part of the promotion of the book itself. We live in an era where celebrities are acclaimed and followed. Their fame has sometimes nothing – or almost nothing – to do with their actual job or action they are known for, but mostly with their lifestyle, their past stories, their opinions, and their personality.
Authors become more and more famous as celebrities rather than authors. The image that the author projects is very important when promoting his or her book, and their level of popularity among readers can be especially influential on their sales. Therefor, a good promotion of the person who writes the books is a good strategy to multiply sales.
126.96.36.199.1. A Rags-To-Riches Profile
In the case of J.K. Rowling, her story was bound to get successful. She had the exact rags-to-riches tale that consumers admire (Dietel, 2011). The press loved telling her story: a young, moneyless, and almost homeless single-mother with a baby would go to a bar in London every day for years in order to write the first Harry Potter novel, because she couldn’t afford the heater at her own place. After being rejected a dozen times by several of the best editing companies for over a year (including Penguin, Transworld, and Harper Collins), she finally got the attention of a literary agent called Christopher Little who worked for the – now famous – Bloomsbury Editions (Beahm, 2004).
J. K. Rowling is now the richest novelist of all times (Watson, 2004).
Although this “fairy tale” has been objected by J. K. Rowling herself, who stated in an interview that the press had overly exaggerated the facts and that she had done proper literature studies and wasn’t on the verge of being homeless, the story was too appealing for people to hear otherwise. Everybody loves an underdog. In any event, promoting the author as a former hopeless person who managed to become richer than the Queen of England is a story that sells. People need to dream, to hope, and to follow leaders who “were just like them” and became a success. Thanks to the right promotion of her own life story, J. K. Rowling became a role model and an influencer for millions of people throughout the world.
But of course, her past story is not enough to make her the role model that she is today. Her fans follow her because she conveys an exemplary lifestyle. She often donates generously to charitable associations to promote children literacy, and is a lead speaker and donator for multiple sclerosis associations, disease from which her mother died. She is also an influential speaker for other causes such as social protection or handicap children’s abuse (Brown, 2005).
188.8.131.52.2. J.K. Rowling As Brand Guardian
J. K. Rowling’s rise to the top was also determined by her smart managerial choices. She has stated herself guardian of the Harry Potter brand, which committed her to ensure that all communications and business activities would be done with consistency to the Harry Potter brand image (Brown, 2005). Every partnership related to the brand has to go through her agreement. She owns the rights to all her books (paper and electronic books), movies, and every derived product (Vanlerberghe, 2011).
This has allowed her to refuse financially attractive offers from different possible partners (such as McDonald’s or big movie studios), when she didn't think that her hero would be given the appropriate image (Gunelius, 2008). Harry Potter has only about 400 merchandising products in the whole world (compared to usually thousands of derived products in series such as Star Wars or Star Trek), consisting mostly of video games, Lego games, candies, stationary and clothing. Although it is a considerable low number compared to the importance of the brand, it accounted for already more than $7 billion sales in the year 2001 (during the release of the first movie) (Gonzales, 2009).
Coca-Cola Company was one of the few partners that J.K. Rowling accepted to be tied to her brand, but under strict conditions. Coca-Cola, who had won the right to be partnered with a bid of $150 million, agreed (on the author’s request) to donate $18 million to Reading is Fundamental (another association to help children literacy) as well as more money to other community groups. Furthermore, Coca-Cola was forbidden to use any Harry Potter image for its products, and no Coca-Cola product would be placed in the films (contrary to what is usually done with partnerships between films and other brands) (Gunelius, 2008).
As for the films, it wasn’t until two years of negotiations that she finally agreed with Warner Bros on the movie series they would make of her books. The same selective treatment was given to the cast of the movies, with J. K. Rowling rejecting famous directors such as Steven Spielberg for the first movie (she said that it he would “Americanize” the movie too much) (Brown, 2005).
In a certain way, J. K. Rowling did not just fulfill the mission of writing the famous series, but she stood out as a famous public figure and a smart decisional owner of the brand.
184.108.40.206. The marketing tools
Although we established in the previous chapter that Harry Potter was a good product by itself, no matter what the marketing tools were, it would be unreasonable not to mention the other contributors of its global success.
To make a good product a successful product, it is necessary to market it the right way. People will not know about a product if it is not presented to them directly. Harry Potter is an interesting example of using unordinary marketing practices that led the brand to the top.
220.127.116.11.1. Teasing And Scarcity
Teasing and scarcity were one of the major marketing techniques that the brand used to create more demand everyday. Teasing marketing consists in giving the minimum to the customer so to always leaving him wanting more. It is the opposite of traditional marketing where the supplier always tries to satisfy the consumer to the maximum. From the moment the author and her editors realized that Harry Potter was going to be big (during the 3rd book release), they changed their marketing techniques and acted like a luxurious brand. Therefor, at the release of the 4th book, a real teasing marketing campaign began and was successful.
Harry Potter marketers always made it so that people weren’t fully satisfied and were left with growing curiosity concerning the next events. Stephen Brown (2005) depicts the marketing technique of Harry Potter to be constituted of three elements: first, countdowns of the days and hours left until the release of the new book were posted on all the Harry Potter websites and bookstores, then rumors began spreading (for example the number of deaths in the new book), and finally an “incident” would occur a couple weeks before the release of the book (for example some copies of the book were stolen a couple of days before the release). Even J.K. Rowling’s website was filled with teasing messages. She would herself post enigmas, mysteries, fake clues, and riddles to play with her fans and give them something to hold onto before the next book was out.
The scarcity techniques that marketers used were inspired by luxurious brands. It is well known that people always want what they don’t have or what they can't get. By making the product unattainable and rare, it increased the demand and the desire to acquire it even more. Luxury brands only make short and rare appearances. If they are too much present in people’s lives, people will get bored of the brand rapidly. The more we see something, the less interested we become about that thing. So their technique was to appear rarely, but when they did, it was memorable. They proceeded that way for example with the author’s appearances and interviews. Giving her the most privacy they could under the circumstances and allowing the media to interview her only once in a while would always create an enormous buzz when those appearances happened. For instance, she only gave three or four official interviews of the upcoming book, and the night of the release of the 4th Harry Potter book, she made an unscheduled appearance at Waterstone’s bookstore in Edinburg, to sign copies of her new book (Brown, 2005).
Marketers used the same technique of teasing and scarcity when providing the public with new exclusive information. The title, the number of pages and the prices of each book were only publicly revealed two weeks before the release date (Gunelius, 2008). Contrary to the usual process of book release, no copy of the book were given to the press beforehand, and translators of other languages had to wait the same release date than the public to get a copy of the book and start translating it (Peras, 2007).
Extreme security measures were taken for the last books, to ensure that nobody could read it before the release, which made the product even more secret and therefor desirable. Distributors and booksellers had to sign strict confidentiality contracts, and some bookstores were allowed to showcase one copy of the book locked in a cage for a very short time period before the release. For the 7th book, security guards were put around the warehouses where the book was printed. Amazon was required to store its copies in secret and secure locations, while Bloomsbury didn't deliver the book until the day before its release, shipped in crates bound with steel chains. It was the first time in history that such caution measures were taken to release a book (Ahl & Guillot, 2007; Gunelius, 2008). And to add on the teasing bit, a television coverage would be aired one week before the release, showing the reinforced security trucks and therefor warning the customers that this next issue was going to be a big deal.
18.104.22.168.2. Word-Of-Mouth And Online Buzz
Word-of-mouth was probably the main marketing tool that propelled Harry Potter to the top. Whether on the web or face-to-face, the fans didn't miss an opportunity to praise the series and to convince everyone to try it out. Their level of loyalty was uniquely high, and they were said to try to “convert” non-Harry-Potter-readers into reading the books and becoming addicted too (Brown & Patterson, 2010).
As we will see in the next Chapter on the role of the Internet and the power of fans, marketers used this new means of communication (the Internet) to promote the books and movies, not only by feeding information themselves to the customers, but by simply letting the customers express themselves and nourish the buzz. Likewise, distributors such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the books’ publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic, created platforms on their websites such as forums, comments sections and “chats” in order to facilitate interaction between readers, and encouraged them to give their free opinion and ratings about the books (Blake, 2002). That way, the customer was even more convinced of the quality of the book because he had read the testimonials of real readers and knew they weren’t influenced by any marketing strategy. This simple and costless process of creating more room on the website for the customer to give its opinion, multiplied the sales of their online products and increased the fandom community of Harry Potter.
The movies benefitted as well from the Internet buzz. David Heyman, who produced all the eight Harry Potter movies, stated that until now, the press would play a capital role in the promotion of a movie. However today, the best means to promote any movie is the online media, because it is online that the audience is found (Gonzales, 2009).
22.214.171.124.3. Brand Consistency
Brand consistency is very important today for the survival of a brand. It is key to a customer’s loyalty. Because there are more marketing means than ever before, a brand is represented on many different platforms, from social networks and paper magazines to apps and websites. The brand message must be clear and coherent over time. Even more for a brand such as Harry Potter that was already bound to last over a decade (with 7 books and 8 movies), it was crucial to stay faithful to its message. A clear and steady message gives the consumer something to hold onto and a brand to stay loyal to forever (or at least for the time we want them to stay loyal).
Harry Potter can be considered as a relationship brand because it relies on experience (Gunelius, 2008). By giving the opportunity for the customer to experience the product (Harry Potter book or movie) on an individual level, they can develop their own feelings and emotional involvement to it. Because J.K. Rowling was the brand guardian and was ensuring the consistency of the brand message, the readers would feel secure enough with the brand to let themselves attach emotionally and to develop their brand loyalty, thereby giving the brand value.
According to Gunelius (2008), the 3 “S”s of customer loyalty are defined as:
1- “Stability: Customers are driven to emotional involvement in a product when that product (or brand) sends a consistent message.
2- Sustainability: Customers are driven to emotional involvement in a product when they expect that product to be with them for a long time or at least a specific amount of time with a clear end.
3- Security: Customers are driven to emotional involvement in as product when that product gives them a feeling of comfort or peace of mind.” (Gunelius, 2008)
The three stability, sustainability and security attributes were met when J.K. Rowling announced from the beginning that Harry Potter was a series of 7 books (the customer knew in advance for how long he or she should expect to be involved with the brand), and stayed true to her values and message throughout the entire decade of Harry Potter.
The time period in which the brand was developed was also part of the consistency of the brand image, since the books and movies were released more or less with even breaks in between (see Figure 1: Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases in Chapter 1.1.1). The first 4 books were released each year from 1997 to 2000, so to hook the customer better. Because the first 3 books are more “childish” than the rest of the series (the hero is 11 to 13 years old), it is the 4th book that really catches adults’ attention with a much darker turn of events in the plot, and makes readers extremely interested in the outcome of the story. During the break between books 4 and 5, the movies start coming out each year, to satisfy customers’ greed for “more Harry Potter” while waiting for the next book. This allowed a greater part of the population (those who watched the movies) to become interested in the book series and therefor to keep the sales going. After that, the last books and movies releases were a series of evident successes. The consistency of knowing that each year, a new Harry Potter book or movie would be released kept customers’ loyalty to the highest.
Meanwhile, by becoming brand guardian, the author made sure that the brand, her characters, her story, and her message were delivered to the world by her standards, from the beginning to the end. This consistency in the brand message and values are the reason why fans stayed loyal to Harry Potter. They knew what to expect, so they couldn't be disappointed. Furthermore, brand consistency made it easier for the fans to participate in the promotion of the product (Harry Potter). Because they came to know it well over the years, they knew exactly how to represent it and to sell it to others. By “selling”, I mean convincing others to be part of the adventure, to discover the series, by communicating to them the same message that the author expressed.
It is interesting to notice too that not only did the message and values J.K. Rowling was promoting for her brand were kept consistent, but the message and values inside her books also were consistent. From the first to seventh book, the main characters value the same things, even though they have grown up and faced terrible endeavors on their path. The hero and his friends fight selflessly for the good to win and evil to lose, for family and friendship to prevail, and for the “right thing to be done”. Despite the many temptations to do bad, which most of the time is the easiest path to success, they will stay true to their commitments until the end. The same can be said about their author, who stayed true to her values and commitments until the end of the series. Although she became the richest novelist on Earth and gained incredible success, she kept fighting for the same causes she used to (adding some along the way), by helping children to literacy and donating to health charities, but most of all by staying the same genuine person she was at the beginning, and protecting her brand from any dilution along the way.
Therefor, the marketing tools used to promote the Harry Potter series and gain customers loyalty consisted mainly in using teasing and scarcity techniques to make customers always want more, take advantage of the online buzz and word-of mouth to gain their trust, and establish a consistent message and values that allowed fans to stay loyal on the long term.
126.96.36.199. The role of the Internet and other technologies
188.8.131.52.1. A Perfect Timing
Some say that one of the reasons of the success of Harry Potter was its perfect timing with the rise of the Internet and other technologies in the world (Anelli, 2008; Beuth, 2007; Gunelius, 2008). With the first book released in 1997 and the first movie in 2001, it was a happy coincidence that the Internet got popularized during that same time period. It allowed fans websites and forums to spread, and on-line social networks to feed information about the series. It also helped the brand to spread its message to the rest of the world quickly and easily. Without the Internet, fan communities would probably not have been as big and would not represent a vast diversity of cultural backgrounds.
Another advantage that the popularization of Internet and technologies offered at that moment was creating a competition-free market for the Harry Potter books (Gunelius, 2008). Because the late 1990s – early 2000s were characterized by the increase of video games, computer games, and the rise of the Internet, children were no longer interested in reading books. Although it could have played a negative role in selling the books, it actually made it easier for the author to rise among all. Because marketers were busy developing customers’ interest for new technologies, they weren’t advertising books like before. Only Harry Potter and some other few series benefited from this change of trends to demark themselves and profited from less competition from other authors. And instead of resisting changing and rejecting technology, Harry Potter marketers used that same technology to their advantage. They turned an obstacle (the rise of technology against old books) into an asset.
Today, more than 330 million results come up on Google when typing “Harry Potter” (when only 128 million results appear for “The Lord of the Rings”, a similar generational science-fiction series that has been around for many more decades and which movies were released at the same time than the Harry Potter movies). On Facebook, hundreds of Harry Potter fan groups have been created, and dozens of Harry Potter fan websites exist on the web.
As we will see in the next chapter on the power of fans, the fan websites and J.K. Rowling’s personal website played an immense role in the marketing of the brand.
184.108.40.206.2. Technology For Marketing Tools
While the Internet provided a useful means of communication, other technology media were used as marketing tools as well. Indeed, people started using mobile phones a lot more during the 2000s, which led marketers to use these tools of communication to gather information about customers and to promote new products.
For example, as part of the first Harry Potter movie campaign in 2001, Warner Village Cinemas worked with Flytxt and Ignition Marketing Group to launch an “SMS campaign” to influence people to go see the movie (Tran, 2003). The goal was also to gather a database of moviegoers for future campaigns. Contestants could win tickets for the preview screening of Harry Potter or an annual pass if they pre-booked the tickets over the phone. The SMS medium was more attractive to teenagers, which were the targeted population for that campaign. However, parents and siblings were also invited to text-in for free tickets, which turned the campaign into a family experience.
Also in the cellphone business, Electronic Arts partnered with the Harry Potter brand, bringing all sorts of downloads to cellphones customers, such as wallpapers, voice and ring tones, and mobile games associated with the brand (Warner, 2007).
Six years later, to promote the 6th Harry Potter movie, Warner Bros partnered with Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, launching an exclusive online website, “Competish”, on MSN UK (Gunelius, 2008). This website hosted a contest where fans would answer a series of questions about the 5th Harry Potter book every week from November to December 2007. The winner would receive a walk-on role in the new Harry Potter movie.
Many games and competitions like those were created by the Harry Potter brand while partnering up with technological groups in order to attract more customers with new and exciting means of communications.
220.127.116.11.3. Piracy And Other Limits
Since the start of the Internet and illegal downloads, piracy has cost the movie industry to lose a considerable amount of money, representing about $6 billion of loss per year in 2008 (Gunelius, 2008).
China was by far the country generating the most loss to piracy for the Harry Potter brand. Not only did they download the movies illegally at an impressive rate, but they also had to deal with trouble concerning the books. Indeed, during the wait between the 4th and 5th Harry Potter book, a Chinese author took advantage on fans impatience by publishing a fake 5th Harry Potter book, entirely written by himself. Even though people knew it wasn't the real deal, and despite the warnings from J.K. Rowling, the book sold quickly and in large numbers on the street markets, generating more fake Harry Potter volumes (including “Harry Potter and the Leopard Walk-Up-To-Dragon”, or “Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll”) (Brown, 2005).
Because they couldn’t control nor forbid the illegal downloads of the 4th Harry Potter movie, distributors decided to release the DVD two weeks earlier in China than the official North American release date, and they reduced its price as well. That way they could hope for a better chance for Chinese people to buy the legal DVD.
The book industry also suffered from piracy, although less than the movie industry. Because today people read more and more on electronic devices such as e-readers or smart tablets, the electronic version of the books faced considerable piracy. In France, the last book was completely downloadable (illegally) on the Internet only 12 hours after its release in the stores (Martin, 2007).
The rise of the Internet in the early 2000s and the new technological means of communications helped the Harry Potter marketing to spread faster worldwide. Piracy was the origin of big financial losses, but contributed to the popularization of the brand as well.
18.104.22.168. The power of fans
The community of fans that was created around Harry Potter played an important and unusual role when promoting the brand. Indeed, contrary to other communities of fandom, the Harry Potter one was a lead actor in its promotion. Calling themselves “potterheads” or “pottermaniacs”, the members were pro-active and took initiatives to create by themselves events, website, forums, clubs, conferences, and other types of activities to feed the fandom world of Harry Potter and to spread an even bigger buzz worldwide.
22.214.171.124.1. The Online Community
The first Harry Potter fan websites were created with the rise of the Internet around 1997-1998 by teenagers around 12 years old who were reading the books. The websites got more and more popular when the first movie came out in 2001, and there are now hundreds of fan websites around the globe, of which the most famous are The Leaky Cauldron, Mugglenet, and Harry Potter Lexicon (a Harry Potter encyclopedia). In 2005, Mugglenet.com, the most famous one, was already attracting over 27 million visitors from 183 countries (Gunelius, 2008).
These unofficial websites would offer news about upcoming Harry Potter books or movies, and would discuss rumors about them. Forums were created in order to communicate within the fan community and share their opinions. These forums were very popular – and still are – among fans, who would discuss their preferences about the story and the characters, share their opinions about the books or movies, create podcasts about Harry Potter (mugglecast, pottercast …), share their drawings or novels inspired by Harry Potter, and debate about future storylines of the book (Frankel, 2012).
At first, these online forums and websites created conflicts between fans and the distributors. Warner Bros, J.K. Rowling, and both editors Scholastic and Bloomsbury, initially objected to these sites in order to preserve copyrights (Brown, 2005). They started suing some of those websites in court, but quickly realized their mistake. The lawsuits made the fans angry and rebellious, which was not a good strategy for the popularity of the brand. So they decided to adapt and adopt their communication means, and to use forums as a costless means to collect data about the fans, to keep them posted on upcoming events, and to feed the on-line word-of-mouth buzz. Warner even invited the webmasters to visit the set of the Harry Potter movie they were shooting, so they could publish on their websites pictures, interviews, and other elements that would contribute to the teasing marketing tactics already observed. Rather than creating needs for the customer and convincing them to buy, marketers could benefit freely from online commentaries in order to adapt to the already existing demand among fans. They were dealing with pull marketing, which was much easier and cheaper than push marketing.
From that day, J. K. Rowling has been supporting those fan sites too. She created her own website in 2004, a few years after the beginning of the online buzz, well aware of the importance of such means of communication. Eight weeks after the launch, her website had received 220 million visits. She stated that she takes into account the things said in these forums, and sometimes even participate in them. Since 2004, she even announced a “Fan Site Award” on her official web site, which she would give to the most exceptional Harry Potter fan site (Anelli, 2008).
126.96.36.199.2. Other Pottermania Activities
We have described the important fan base online community of Harry Potter. But what about real life interactions? Is Harry Potter exclusively a virtual community or does it extend to other forms of communal loyalty? It is certain that the Harry Potter brand benefited mainly from its activity on the web, and enabled fans to gather among online forums and websites to nourish the buzz. That permitted a bigger international aspect of the community and easier information spreading. However, local physical communities also formed, expanding the fandom to more real-life activities. From role-playing games to sports clubs in Colleges or annual conventions, fans of any age could participate in Harry Potter-related activities.
In 2005, a College in Vermont started playing “Muggle Quidditch” (“muggle” being the term used to qualify non-magical people and “Quidditch” is the official sport of wizards). This team sport, supposed to be played while flying on broomsticks and throwing balls in three hoops while seeking for the “golden snitch”, a flying golden small ball, had its rules revisited to match “muggle” abilities. The players run on the ground with brooms between their legs, pass the balls between players of the same team (a bit like handball), and score by throwing it through three hoops installed above the ground. The golden snitch is represented by a live person dressed in golden costume with a tail. He hides during the game and appears at one point, and players have to catch his tail to end the game and earn points (Hack, 2013).
This activity started to play in several Colleges throughout Canada and America, and soon enough spread to the world (Frankel, 2012). It is now governed by the International Quidditch Association (IQA), who holds the Quidditch World Cup. In 2014, the IQA counted more than 200 registered College teams and 4000 members, including Colleges such as Cornell, McGill, UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, etc. Muggle Quidditch is played among adults in Colleges or even some company sports teams, and a modified version of the game (softer) called Kidditch has been invented for younger people to play.
By inventing a new sport, J.K. Rowling opened new horizons and enabled a fan-fiction community to gather around a common sport. It brings together all kinds of people, and disregards religion, race, and gender. Because it is a team sport played against other teams, it involves high levels of team membership, and over all high sense of community. It strengthens the relationship among players, all gathered because of their one passion (Quidditch, and therefor Harry Potter). But like any other competitive sport, it also allows them to meet, interact, and compete against other teams from different States and different countries around the world. This is a great way to form a worldwide community based on mutual respect, gender equality, and “Quidditch love” (also called “quove”).
Conventions and conferences
Fan conventions and conferences were another way to consolidate the Harry Potter fan community, and to expand its fantasy world. Several conventions are held every year, including the most famous ones: Prophecy, LeakyCon, Infinitus, Asciendo and Azkatraz. They offer all kinds of activities such as academic conferences with professional keynote speakers or members of the Harry Potter cast, interactive games (wizarding chess, Quidditch games…), podcasts, Harry Potter bands concerts, etc… Most of the conventions are a fun way to meet other fans from different cultures, which is a great way to exchange information and create relationships within this community. Some other conventions such as Lumos in 2006 (a 3-day convention with more than 100 conferences) have a more serious tone to them and are strictly reserved for adults (Cadwalladr, 2007). The talks tackle subjects like political views on Harry Potter or relationships between characters.
In any event, whether the goal is just to have fun with peers or to reflect more deeply about a Harry Potter related matter, these types of gathering play a big part in the expansion of the Harry Potter fandom community.
During the early 2000s, rock bands associated with Harry Potter started to appear. They are called wizard rock, or “wrock”. It originated in Massachusetts with a now famous band called Harry and the Potters, and has now grown internationally (Pyne, 2011). They usually dress as Harry Potter characters and sing lyrics from the point of view of that character. There are now more than a hundred wrock bands, many of which released more than two albums and performed worldwide at numerous concerts and conventions, attracting even listeners outside of the Harry Potter fan base.
188.8.131.52.3. Fans As Marketers, Influencers, Sellers And Buyers
Online websites and forums created by the fans fed the buzz in so many ways, from communicating new information to allowing fans to create and share their own fan-fiction stories. Meanwhile, outdoors activities such as Quidditch games, conventions, role-playing sessions, or concerts, enabled the community to meet and to strengthen the bonds between fans from all over the world. All of those contributed to the financial success of the brand. In November 2006, What will happen in Harry Potter 7: Who lives, who dies, who falls in love and how will the adventures finally end, a collection of predictions of fans from the website Mugglenet.com was published, selling 300,000 copies (Schoen, Spartz & Gordon, 2006; Gunelius, 2008).
Fans of Harry Potter were also big consumers as well as sellers of on-line Harry Potter merchandises. Harry Potter fans are among the biggest buyers and sellers on the website eBay (Brown, 2005). Everyday, thousands of Harry Potter products are put on sale by fans on that website, and almost as many products are bought every day. Indeed, the fan community sells as much as they buy, and therefor are considered to be an integral part of the brand’s business.
The potterheads go beyond selling, buying and participating in events. They are also great influencers on the decisional processes of distributors of the brand. As we’ve established earlier, marketers were not creating demand for the Harry Potter brand, but created products in response to the needs of the customers. Likewise, distributors were very aware of fans needs and requests (awareness gained again with the online circles), and more than once had to revise their decisions in order to fit fan’s demands. For example, the release of the 5th Harry Potter movie in Australia was due on the 6 September 2007, two months after its release in North America. Only 2000 signatures from disappointed Australian fans were sufficient enough for Warner Bros to move the date to July 11th 2007 (the same date as the American release) (Gunelius, 2008).
The Harry Potter fan community rose with the Internet and contributed to the development and the promotion of the Harry Potter brand. Online interactions within forums and websites as well as outdoor activities such as Quidditch games or Harry Potter conventions strengthened the bond between Harry Potter followers. They became leaders in the marketing strategies of the brand and influenced decision-making concerning future steps.
1.1.4. Harry Potter today
Because most of the buzz around Harry Potter was done online through the fans and the author’s websites, should we expect, now that the series have been all released, to see the phenomenon continuing on the World Wide Web, or have other means been implemented to secure the future of the brand?
Fans websites, online groups and forums have indeed continued to feed the Harry Potter phenomenon. In 2015, four years after the last movie was released, websites such as Mugglenet.com, Harry Potter subreddits on Reddit.com, and Facebook groups about Harry Potter keep posting information every day. They follow closely the career and personal life of the cast of Harry Potter, discuss issues of the books or movies, and continue praising their hero.
But the main attractions after the Harry Potter decade are the new website called Pottermore.com, created two years ago, and the Harry Potter themed-parks.
In 2012, J.K. Rowling and Sony launched a website called pottermore.com, which would be the official website dedicated to Harry Potter (Witt, 2011). It is an interactive website where visitors create a unique account in their name, and go through the Harry Potter books (in chronological order) by playing on the website, and unlocking each chapter. They collect all sorts of elements during their quest, get sorted into one of the 4 Houses, and compete against each other for the House Cup. When unlocking new chapters, J.K. Rowling unveils new and untold content about the story. She also explains her creative process on different aspects of her books.
Pottermore is the only platform in which to order the Harry Potter e-books and audiobooks today (Vanlerberghe, 2011). The website has been translated into 6 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese). Like she did for the marketing of her books and movies, J.K. Rowling uses teasing techniques, by uploading very slowly each part of her books onto the website, and revealing little secrets from time to time, to keep her readers on the edge, coming back everyday to unlock more of the story.
Pottermore’s interface is a sort of continuation of the Harry Potter books, giving the fans more to read, allowing them to shop in the “Pottermore shop” section, keeping them posted on news and keeping the community within a single website. The Harry Potter story started with books, then movies, and this is the third means on which to rediscover the story.
184.108.40.206. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
In 2010, Universal and Warner Bros opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a Harry Potter-themed expansion from the Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, where people could walk into the Harry Potter universe (Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, shops, and Harry Potter-related roller-coasters). In 2014, Universal opened another Harry Potter-themed area at Universal Studios Florida, adding different rides, including the famous train (The Hogwarts Express) fully functioning, and Kings Cross Station. That same year, they opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, and are planning on opening a 4th Harry Potter themed park at the Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California in 2016.
These themed-parks are a great way to keep the universe of Harry Potter flourishing forever. It is something that they hadn’t done during the Harry Potter decade: bringing the world of Harry Potter to life in real size landscapes, where fans could come and physically experience the magical universe. They are able to enter the same shops their hero went into, drink the same drinks he does in the books, buy wands for themselves, etc… It is another level of reaching emotional involvement within the customer. They are no longer viewers, readers, or a member of the audience, but they are actors themselves. The universe they were watching or reading has materialized for them to be part of as well.
220.127.116.11. Other continuations
More events have been created since the end of the Harry Potter decade, including exhibitions, studio tours, and even new magical school camps.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition, is an exhibition of the props, landscapes and costumes created and used for the Harry Potter movies. The exhibition started in Chicago in 2009 and has since travelled the world, stopping at locations such as Boston, Toronto, Seattle, New-York, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo, and Paris in 2015. Outside London, in Leavesden, a Studio Tour brings tourists to the set of the Harry Potter films, where they can wander inside the streets and through magical world of Harry Potter. Recently, children themed summer camps in Britain include a Harry Potter theme where kids role play scenes of the book and stay in castles, wearing Hogwarts wizard robes. As for grown-ups, they can now enroll at the Czocha College of Wizardry in Poland where they practice live-action role play (Khan, 2014), stay at the Czocha Castle and reincarnate their favorite heroes by becoming students at this school and attending classes such as Fighting the Dark Arts or Training as a Healer. Students over 18 come from all over the world to this new school and once again strengthen the bonds within the Harry Potter worldwide fan community.
The Harry Potter phenomenon did not stop after the end of the releases of the books and movies. Until today and for many years to come, the author as well as the fans continue to create gatherings, activities and new means to rediscover the Harry Potter series and live in the magical world of Harry Potter.
Now that I have established the foundations surrounding the Harry Potter phenomenon, I will continue to deepen this literature review on the topics of Sense of community, Attitudinal Loyalty and Purchase.
1.2. Sense of Community
1.2.1. Early studies
The concept of Sense of Community was first introduced by the psychologist Seymour B. Sarason in 1974. He is known to be one of the first leaders of the community psychology movement, and he presented the key concept of what he called “Psychological Sense of Community” (PSOC) in his community psychology studies. Presenting the concept to the world in his seminal book Psychological Sense of Community: Prospects for a Community Psychology in 1974, he states that Psychological Sense of Community is an essential base for self-definition.
The first definition of PSOC given by Sarason described it as "the perception of similarity to others, an acknowledged interdependence with others, a willingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what one expects from them, and the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stable structure" (1974, p.157).
In 1975, Gusfield divided community in two dimensions: territorial and relational. The most common kind of community was territorial or geographical communities, such as countries, cities, and neighborhoods. Meanwhile in the relational community, the communities are created according to the quality and nature of their relations, independent from the members’ location. Such communities can include people studying a same topic, or religious communities throughout the world. Although most of the 20th century’s studies on communities were based on territorial communities, today’s modern society usually deals with relational communities (professional, interests, spiritual…).
Since the beginning of PSOC research with Sarason, many studies have been conducted on the subject by scientists and psychologists. They studied PSOC within neighborhood communities. The main studies are listed in the table below:
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Table 1: Studies conducted until 1986 on Psychological Sense of Community
In 1986, McMillan and Chavis came up with a new theory for PSOC, that until today, stayed the most used and the most influential of all.
1.2.2. A definition and theory by McMillan and Chavis
The term “Sense of Community” (shortening it from “Psychological Sense of Community”) came out in 1986, when McMillan and Chavis introduced their new theory on the subject. They defined Sense of Community (SOC) as "a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together" (McMillan & Chavis, 1986, p.9).
Their theory of SOC is based on four elements:
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Figure 2: Measures of Sense of Community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986)
Membership is the result of having invested part of oneself to earn the right to belong to a group and become one of its members. McMillan and Chavis divide membership into five elements (1986):
1. Boundaries: the symbols and characteristics of the community that indicate if a person does or does not belong to the community. They can include language, dress codes, rituals, and other features. These boundaries are a sort of protection against external threats. They can be subtle (such as a gang sign) so that only members of a community can recognize them, which makes them more unique and secret.
2. Emotional safety: the level of security one feels within the community, resulting from the implementation of boundaries and the trust in others.
3. A sense of belonging and identification: the feeling of acceptance by the community, which is enhanced with the readiness to sacrifice for the community.
4. Personal investment: such as sacrifices, time and energy investments. The more investment one gives to the group (such as time, money, energy, health, belongings…) the more personal one will take the future of the community.
5. A common symbol system: symbols such as a name, a logo, a style, etc. It is the essence of what differentiates a community with other communities. For example a Nation will characterize itself with a common language, a unique flag, and maybe a unique architecture. According to Nisbet and Perrin: "The symbol is to the social world what the cell is to the biotic world and the atom to the physical world The symbol is the beginning of the social world as we know it" (1977, p.47).
The boundaries installed for the community improve the feeling of safety. That feeling of safety, or emotional safety, gives place to a better sense of belonging within a community whose members feel safe enough to prosper in and identify themselves with. This sense of belonging and identification leads to more investment within the community, investment that is in part spent creating common symbols together, which will ultimately define the boundaries of the community.
McMillan and Chavis (1986) assure that a community needs to have a two-way influence between the group itself and its members. This means that each member must feel like they have a certain influence over the group, that their voice is heard, and that they are special enough within the group to change certain things around. This keeps the members motivated to stay in the group. Meanwhile, the group itself must also have influence over its members, in order to keep cohesiveness among its followers. And for a community to have influence over its members, it needs good values to which members agree and support.
The two authors state that people with the most listening skills and who acknowledge the needs of its co-members, are usually the most influential people within the group, and vice-versa. Therefore, people who put others’ needs before theirs have the most power within the group.
18.104.22.168. Integration and Fulfillment of needs
In order for a member to want to stay in the community, he has to feel “rewarded” in some way (McMillan & Chavis, 1986). He needs to, to some extent, feel better than before he entered the community. The integration of a member is successful if the community can give this member what he was expecting to get from it. It means that the member gets his problems solved and his needs met thanks to the community that he chose.
This can either be a solution such as a question answered, but it can also be intangible such as a group of friends, an emotional support, a sense of belonging… The needs that this member wants to fulfill are determined according to his values. The personal values that a person lives with will characterize his needs, his goals, and the order in which they come. Therefor, the community has to share the same values in order to better respond to its members’ shared needs, and members must meet their own needs while helping others meet theirs as well. The member needs to feel that his contribution within the community is worth his time and energy, and that it helped him feel better overall.
In other words, the goal of a community is to fulfill a certain need, and each person choses a community according to what need they want to be met. The most successful communities are the ones that are mutually rewarding for all its members.
Another term used for this kind of fulfillment of needs is “reinforcement”, in the sense that it stands as a motivator of behavior. These reinforcers include the status of being a member, the success of the community, and the competences and skills of the other members that can benefit others.
22.214.171.124. Shared emotional connection
What McMillan and Chavis define as the “definitive element for true community” (1986, p.14) refers to the element of shared history within the community. Having experienced events together in the past, good or bad, and knowing there will be more to share in the future, strengthens the emotional bond within a community. However, the member doesn't need to have shared the past events with the community, as long as he associates himself with it (for example, wars that his ancestors fought in).
According the McMillan and Chavis, these seven elements constitute relevant features in shared emotional connection (1986):
1. Contact hypothesis: The more interaction there exists between members of the community, the stronger the relationship between them will become.
2. Quality of interaction: Positive communication between members ensure a stronger bond and a better success of the community.
3. Closure to events: Interaction must be clear and not ambiguous, and the tasks within the community must be resolved in order to maintain group cohesiveness.
4. Shared valent event hypothesis: The more important the event members share together (such as a crises), the deeper the emotional connection members will feel towards the group.
5. Investment: The more time and energy a member will devote to the community, the more attachment he or she will feel for that community.
6. Effect of honor and humiliation on community members: A member will feel more attracted to his community if he has previously been seen rewarded for some kind of involvement within the community. However, that member will feel less attracted to the community if he was involved in some kind of humiliation within that community.
7. Spiritual bond: The spiritual bond within a community is more difficult to describe according to the two authors, but is said to be "present to some degree in all communities" (McMillan & Chavis, 1986, p.14). It is obviously more predominant within religious communities.
1.2.3. Revisiting the Sense of Community Index (SCI-2)
Along with the definition of Sense of Community by McMillan and Chavis in 1986 and based on their theory, a Sense of Community Index (SCI) was created. The SCI was a 12-item questionnaire, including the four subscales of Membership, Influence, Integration and Fulfillment needs, and Shared Emotional Connection. The response scale was a True-False option. It was used in many studies over the years, and among different cultures (different parts of the world) and different contexts such as workplaces, schools, Internet communities, cities…). However the four subscales’ reliabilities were found inconsistent, and there was a general concern about the suitability of the Index in a cross-cultural extent.
Because of these deficiencies, a new SCI was adopted in 2008, called SCI-2, and created by Chavis, Lee, & Acosta in The Sense of Community (SCI) Revised: The Reliability and Validity of the SCI-2.
This new SCI-2 included a 24 items, still composed of the 4 main elements of the Sense of Community theory from McMillan and Chavis (1986), each of which comprising 6 items, and used a Likert scale in order to better assess the responses levels. The SCI-2 analysis proved that it was a much more reliable measure (coefficient alpha = 0.94), and is therefor widely used in today’s studies on Sense of Community.
1.2.4. Types of Communities
Today we distinguish three main kinds of communities:
1. Community of place (neighborhoods, cities, coffeehouses, meeting spaces…)
2. Community of practice (work, craft…)
3. Community of interest (sports clubs, church groups, political groups, fan-fiction clubs…)
Although almost all the 1900s studies on Sense of Community referred to communities of place, it is now more common to study and to be part of a community of interest. Because today people are moving more than ever around the globe and change practices relatively often in one’s life, communities of place are rarer. They do not have the same significance as they used to because people spend a smaller amount of time in a same location and therefor they don’t invest as much energy and personal time into getting to know their community of place.
Communities of interest are more fashionable and more common also because of the rise of the Internet, that allows anybody from anywhere in the world to be part of a community. Groups like fan clubs or fan-fiction groups interact, communicate, and share via the Internet.
There is also a change in trends in the last decades, where people dedicate more of their time to a hobby and activities of interest. The ranking of their priorities has changed and work competes more than ever with “pleasure” activities. Communities of interest have multiplied and people spend a greater amount of time and money into these communities than ever.
Sense of community is a characteristic that people have been studying for many decades. In this chapter we reviewed the most popular theory published by McMillan and Chavis in 1986, introducing the four dimensions that are still used today to measure sense of community: Membership, Influence, Integration and fulfillment of needs, and Shared emotional connection. Today, communities have mainly become communities of interest, which is the kind of community I will study in this thesis. The following chapter will describe the attitudinal loyalty of customers towards a brand.
1.3. Attitudinal Loyalty
1.3.1. Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty consists of a person repeatedly buying from the same brand rather than its competitors. It is crucial for a company to attain brand loyalty from its customers in order to prosper. Basil Coughlan, former vice president of Ford, stated that “every percentage point of loyalty is worth $100 million in profits” (Serafin & Horton, 1994, p.13).
All major brands are spending large amounts of money into loyalty programs for its costumers. It is also a known fact that it costs more money, more time and more energy to attract a new customer than to retain an old one (about six times the cost, according to Rosenberg & Czepiel, 1983). Having loyal customers is clearly a competitive advantage over other brands, since a loyal customer will not hesitate to pay high prices to stay loyal to his or her chosen brand, even though the competition is cheaper (Reichheld & Sasser, 1990), and will be more likely to purchase additional products (Payne, Christopher, Clark & Peck, 1995). Acquiring loyal customers will also decrease marketing costs by providing free positive feedback and word-of-mouth to other potential customers.
The elements defining and measuring brand loyalty have been widely argued over the years, some researchers saying that loyalty was measured only by behavior (Neal, 2000), others that it is a combination between attitudes and behaviors (Jacoby & Chestnut, 1978). As of today, researchers have still not agreed on a universal measurement for brand loyalty.
The most popular concept of brand loyalty however is the later: a combination of both attitudes and behaviors. The behavior approach of brand loyalty is mainly measured by the repeated purchases of the same brand, whereas the attitudinal approach of brand loyalty focuses on the explanatory factors leading to brand loyalty (Bennett & Bove, 2002). In other words, behavioral loyalty is the outcome that we can observe from attitudinal loyalty towards a brand, but attitudinal loyalty does not measure the final decision-making of a customer.
BRAND LOYALTY ATTITUDINAL LOYALTY
In this thesis, I will concentrate on attitudinal loyalty rather than behavioral loyalty, and include the third variable of my study, “Purchase”, to represent the consumers’ behaviors (which includes the repeated act of purchase described in behavioral loyalty).
1.3.2. Attitudinal Loyalty
Jacoby and Chestnut defined attitudinal loyalty as “The consumer’s predisposition towards a brand as a function of psychological processes. This includes attitudinal preference and commitment towards the brand” (1978). The notion of consistency is important when studying attitudinal loyalty (Mellens, Dekimpe & Steenkamp, 1996). We presume that our attitude is and will stay relatively stable throughout time.
Attitudinal loyalty has been measured in different ways over the years. Solomon (1994) stated that attitudinal loyalty was to be measured with measures of attitude towards the brand or attitude towards the act of purchasing the brand. Other researches suggested that attitudinal loyalty was to be measured regarding the propensity of someone to be loyal. Mellens, Dekimpe & Steenkamp (1996) suggested that attitudinal loyalty should be measured with both the propensity of being loyal and the attitude towards the act of purchasing a specific brand. In 2002, Bennett and Rundle-Thiele published a paper trying to demonstrate which of these two measures would be better suited to measure purchasing behavior, but found that there was no important relationship between the two measures and that they were to be used separately.
Researchers have not yet reached a decision on which measures are best to analyze attitudinal loyalty. Other researches have concentrated on the components of Attitudes related to social psychology in order to assess attitudinal loyalty. This is what I will use to make my case in this thesis.
An attitude in social psychology is the tendency of favor or disfavor regarding a thing, a person, a place, or an event. Rosenberg and Hovland (1960) first theorized how to analyze attitudes presenting a model including the three main components that will, still until today, be the most popular measures of attitudes.
Submitted by Tzetzis George and Tachis Stavros
Despite the recent rapid spread of leisure involvement and loyalty research, very little attention has been given to the conceptualization of the nature of involvement’s relationship with loyalty of sport fans. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty intervene in the relationship between sport fans’ involvement and their behavioral loyalty to a soccer team. The participants were 880 soccer fans. Regression equations were estimated to assess the role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty as mediators. Inter-correlations among the constructs did not suggest extreme multi-collinearity and indicated an adequate amount of discriminant validity. The results indicate that psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty intervene in the relationship between sport fans’ involvement and their behavioral loyalty to the soccer teams. It is suggested that marketing strategies may be developed to strengthen psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty in order to maximize behavioral loyalty.
Sports organizations are seeking ways to understand the underlying factors of sport spectator loyalty in order to positively influence their behavioral intentions and to increase attendance. Consumer loyalty has long been recognized as a key factor for customer retention. Loyalty in the context of consumption is a “deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatronise a preferred product/service consistently in the future” (Oliver, 1999, p.34). The researchers have demonstrated that increases in consumer retention lead to greater profit (Reicheld & Sasser, 1990) and that the costs of customer retention are substantially less than the costs of new customer acquisition (Fornell & Wernerfelt, 1987).
While the importance of the loyalty construct is widely recognized, the conditions and variables that foster consumer loyalty for a specific product or service may vary. Oliver (1999) asserted that loyalty in the context of sports consumption may be different from loyalty towards a brand, vendor or store. Research in leisure settings proposed the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty because consumer loyalty is a key consideration for customer retention (Bennett & Bove 2002). While the importance of the loyalty construct is widely recognized, the variables that influence consumer loyalty for different sport environments may vary. Understanding the variables that influence loyalty may assist sports organizations in their management of spectator attendance and retention. Soccer attendance is probably the most popular leisure activity among European sport fans, generating huge economic revenues (Andreff, 2007; Ascari & Gagnepain, 2006; Frick & Prinz, 2006). The challenge for sport marketers is to retain, or increase the attendance.
The aim of this research was to explore variables that influence behavioral loyalty towards team sports, specifically professional soccer teams. This study extends prior sports marketing research by examining the role of fan involvement with their team and commitment on loyalty. Furthermore, fan’s loyalty was examined as attitudinal loyalty (resistance to change) and behavioral loyalty (past and future behaviors). Specifically, this study proposes that psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty mediate the effect of involvement on behavioral loyalty in a professional sports context.
CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT
Many researchers examined the concepts of involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty of consumers in leisure (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998, 2004; Kyle, Absher, Norman, Hammitt & Jodice, 2007; Kyle, Graefe, Manning & Bacon, 2003) and spectator sport settings (Funk, Beaton & Alexandris, 2012; Funk, Filo, Beaton & Pritchard, 2009; Funk & James 2001, 2006; Kim, James & Kim, 2012; Mahony, Madrigal & Howard, 2000). However, the relationship between involvement and loyalty in the context of sport fans is not well established.
Involvement has been defined as ‘a person’s perceived relevance of the object based on inherent needs, values, and interests’ (Zaichkowsky, 1985, p. 342). Leisure involvement refers to an unobservable state of motivation, arousal or interest toward a recreational activity or associated product that is evoked by a particular or stimulus that possesses drive properties (Havitz & Howard, 1995; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998). This definition has been adapted recently to examine involvement of sport fans and spectators (Funk & James, 2001; Funk, Ridinger & Moorman, 2004). A variety of research dealing with involvement measurement has been conducted in leisure and sport settings (Dimanche, Havitz & Howard, 1993; Kerstetter & Kovich, 1997). The vast majority of researchers have approached involvement from multidimensional perspective and the last years adapted the model that measures involvement as consisting of three dimensions: attraction, centrality and self-expression (Kyle, Graefe, Manning & Bacon, 2004a, Kyle, Graefe, Manning & Bacon, 2004b; Kyle, Bricker, Graefe & Wickham, 2004; Kyle & Mowen, 2005). McIntyre and Pigram (1992) stated that the attraction facet is a combination of importance and pleasure. Self-expression is a dimension similar to sign and refers to self-representation, the impression of oneself that the consumers wish to convey to other people through their consumption. Centrality refers to the centrality of an activity in terms of the consumer’s lifestyle. An activity is considered central if other aspects of consumer’s life are organized around the activity (Kyle, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon 2003).
Although, involvement is a widely used construct in leisure settings, its application to the spectator sport has not given considerable attention and there has been limited empirical research on the relationship between involvement and commitment and loyalty in the context of sport fans, although this relationship was proposed in Iwasaki and Havitz’s (2004) theoretical model.
Psychological commitment, in psychology and sociology, was used to explain consumer behavior (Crosby & Taylor, 1983). Many researchers have suggested that commitment to a sport team reflects an attitude (Funk & James, 2001; Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998; Pritchard, Havitz & Howard, 1999). Heere and Dickson (2008) mentioned that in current marketing research there is a conceptual confusion and overlap between the attitudinal constructs of commitment and loyalty. Heere and Dickson (2008) suggested two different definitions for psychological commitment (as affective) and attitudinal loyalty in order to create a valid attitudinal loyalty scale. They defined commitment as “an internal psychological state of mind an individual has toward an object” (p. 230) and Wann, Melnick, Rusell and Pease (2001), as a consequence of consumers’ ability to satisfy their motivations through the consumption of that product or service. Heere and Dickson (2008) differentiated commitment from attitudinal loyalty that is defined as “the result of the interaction between negative external changes and the internal psychological connection” (p.230). In this study the mediating role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty for loyalty was examined as different constructs.
In sport team settings, loyalty has been characterized as a commitment to a team that persists, resists to changes and has an impact on the cognitive thoughts and behavior (Funk & James, 2006; Funk & Pastore, 2000). In order to create long term relationships, sport teams should enhance their strategies and identify the factors that affect sport fans’ loyalty. It’s important to create a loyal fan base but is also difficult because of the heterogeneous nature of the service and because the organization depends on the performance of the team (Funk & Pastore, 2000; Mahony et al., 2000; Heere & Dickson, 2008). From a marketing perspective past studies have shown that there is no universally accepted definition of loyalty (Cheng, 2011; Dick and Basu, 1994; Park and Kim, 2000). Instead, it is often conceptualized in two ways: a) loyalty as primarily an attitude that leads to a relationship with the brand and b) loyalty as an expression of revealed behavior (i.e. the pattern of previous or past purchases).
Attitudinal Loyalty To measure fan loyalty, it is necessary to understand why fans become loyal to a team. A broad range of research has focused on consumer motives for becoming involved with a sport team (Wann et al., 2001; Funk & Pastore, 2000). Attitudinal loyalty was defined by several researchers as affective commitment or affective loyalty (Kwon & Trail, 2003). Heere and Dickson (2008) suggested an alternative approach that uses items strictly chosen to measure the resistance to commitment change for the testing of attitudinal loyalty concept. Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer and Exler (2008) asserted that the attitudinal dimension of fan loyalty comprises the inner relatedness of fans to their team and distinguishes between spurious loyalty and “true” loyalty. In this study attitudinal loyalty was examined as resistance to change according to Heere and Dickson (2008) suggestion, because we argue that loyalty is best considered the individual’s resistance to change the strength of commitment rather than commitment itself (Pritchard, Havitz, & Howard 1999). Our argument proposes that commitment is an internal psychological state of mind an individual has toward an object. In contrast, attitudinal loyalty is a result of the interaction between negative external changes and the internal psychological connection.
Behavioral Loyalty Models of behavioral loyalty were primarily defined by patterns of brand allegiance or the expenditure of purchases towards a brand over a period of time (Worthington, Russell-Bennett, & Hartel 2010). Although behavioral patterns such as repeat attendance to sporting events may be the most evident manifestation of an individual’s attachment to a team, it ignores the actual behavior. Consequently, researchers have recently developed both attitudinal and both attitude and behavior measures of fan loyalty (e.g., Gladden & Funk, 2001; Hill & Green, 2000; Mahony, Madrigal, & Howard 2000; Pritchard, Havitz, & Howard, 1999). Bauer., Stokburger-Sauer, & Exler (2008) mentioned that behavioral loyalty represents past behavior and behavioral intentions. Past behavior comprises past purchasing behavior and past positive word-of-mouth. The intentional dimension represents the positive and persistent future behavior of the fan. It embraces intended loyal behavior and positive word-of-mouth, as well as cross-buying intentions (Homburg & Giering, 1999). In this study attitudinal and behavioral loyalty were both measured and behavioral loyalty was measured as the difference between past behavior and future intentions.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INVOLVEMENT, PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMITMENT, ATTITUDINAL AND BEHAVIORAL LOYALTY
The relationship between involvement, psychological commitment, attitudinal and behavioral loyalty of sport fans is consistent with the belief-attitude-behavior hierarchy that has been established (Ajzen, 1991; 2000). It has been proposed in the past that beliefs play a crucial role in attitude theory and Madrigal (2001) suggested that beliefs provide the groundwork upon which attitudes are constructed and lead to behaviors. Analyzing the relationship of the constructs, involvement refers to individuals’ beliefs about a brand (Havitz & Dimanche, 1997), psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty reflect to their attitude toward the brand of service and behavioral loyalty refers to their behavior (Pritchard et al., 1999; Pritchard & Howard, 1997). Understanding the relationship between these constructs may assist sport managers in their strategies for fans attendance and development of a loyal fan base.
In leisure settings, Iwasaki and Havitz (1998) proposed a theoretical model that individuals go through psychological processes to become loyal participants including the formation of high levels of involvement, the development of psychological commitment and the maintenance of strong attitudes toward resistance to change preferences. Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) extended their model with fitness participants proposing that psychological commitment and resistance to change have a mediator role in the relationship between involvement and behavioral loyalty of participants in leisure activities. In spectator area, several researchers suggested the relationship between involvement and fans attendance, watching games on television or listening on radio and reading team news in the newspapers (Kerstetter & Kovich 1997; Shank & Beasley 1998; Funk et al. 2004). In a recent study, Bee and Havitz (2010) examined the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment, resistance to change and behavioral loyalty among spectators of individual sport (tennis). The results indicated that psychological commitment and resistance to change mediate the relationship between involvement and loyalty of spectators.
The present study replicates and extends previous findings (Iwasaki & Havitz, 2004; Madrigal, 2001; Pritchard et al, 1999) by considering the different measurement approach of commitment, attitudinal and behavioral loyalty of sport fans by conceptualizing a behavioral component of loyalty with past and future behavior, as well as fan involvement with the team. It is expected that psychological commitment will act as a mediator where involvement will positively influence psychological commitment, which will subsequently increase attitudinal loyalty. Based on previous research, it is also expected that attitudinal loyalty will act as a mediator between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty. It is also proposed that attitudinal loyalty will mediate the effect of psychological commitment and positively influence behavioral loyalty, (past and future behavior) and frequency of attendance. As attitudinal loyalty increases, behavioral loyalty should also be strengthened.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The purpose of the study was to test the applicability of the proposed model of the relationship between sport fans’ involvement and behavioral loyalty considering the mediating role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty for sport fans of professional teams. The resulting model would provide a better understanding of what drives to the final behavior of sport fans.
H1: Involvement will have a direct positive effect on psychological commitment.
H2: Psychological commitment will mediate the effect of involvement on attitudinal loyalty.
H3: Attitudinal loyalty will mediate the effect of psychological commitment on behavioral loyalty.
Using a stratified sampling design, the sample for this study was composed of 880 fans of Greek soccer teams. The teams participate in the major soccer Greek League (Super League). They filled questionnaires that were administered prior to the beginning of soccer games. The research took place in the stadiums of the teams.
The involvement scale proposed by Kyle, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon (2003), was used to measure fans’ involvement with the team. This scale was evaluated by reliability and validity criteria in the past (Kyle et al., 2003; 2004a; 2004b; Kyle et al., 2004; Kyle & Mowen, 2005). Involvement was measured by eleven (11) questions. The involvement construct was evaluated by three (3) dimensions: a) the “attraction” dimension including five (5) questions, e.g. “I really enjoy participating in my favorite team activities”, b) the “centrality” dimension including three (3) questions, e.g. “My favorite team has a central role in my life” and c) the “self-expression” dimension including three (3) questions, e.g. “When I participate in my favorite team activities others see me the way I want them to see me”.
To measure psychological commitment of the fans the uni-dimensional scale of Funk, Filo, Beaton, and Pritchard (2009) was used since it was found that it was a valid and reliable instrument (Neale & Funk, 2006; Funk, Ridinger & Moorman 2003). Psychological commitment was measured by three (3) questions, “i.e., I am a committed fan of my favorite team; I am a loyal supporter of my favorite team; Win, lose or draw I’m a loyal fan of my favorite team”.
Attitudinal Loyalty to Team Scale (ALTS) of Heere and Dickson (2008) was used to measure fans’ attitudinal loyalty. The construct of attitudinal loyalty was measured by four (4) questions “i.e., I could never switch my loyalty from my favorite team even if my close friends were fans of another team; It would be difficult to change my beliefs about my favorite team; I would still be committed to my favorite team regardless of the luck of any star players; I would still be committed to my favorite team regardless of the lack of physical skill among the players”.
For the measurement of behavioral loyalty, ten (10) questions were used that consider both past and future behaviors, e.g. “I have often attended games of my favorite team live in the stadium/ I will often attend games of my favorite team live in the stadium” (Homburg & Giering, 1999; Fink, Trail & Anderson, 2003; Bauer et al., 2008) and as Bauer et al. (2008) suggested an average score for the past and future behavior of the item scores was calculated in order to reduce the complexity of the construct.
Demographic questions including gender, age, profession, education, income, nationality were also included into the questionnaire.
A questionnaire distributed to spectators prior to the beginning of the soccer games. Specialized personnel distributed and selected the questionnaires in all stadiums gates giving some information about the questionnaire and the purpose of the study. The procedure lasted for two (2) months.
880 fans of Greek soccer teams participated in the study. The strong majority of the fans were Greek (98.8%) and male (93%). Almost 74% of the fans were between 20-39 years old. Also, there is a significant percentage (9.7%) of unemployed fans. Regarding to their level of education, a grand percentage (38.7%) of the participants has a high school degree. In addition, 42.7% of the fans were married and 31.2% of them had income less than 500€. Descriptive statistics are depicted in table 1.
|Age||8%||< 19 30.7%||20-29|
Table 1 Demographic data
Marital Status Not married
Professional Status Students
Education Elementary School
0.9% High School
49.8% Post Graduate
Analysis was conducted on means for all survey items, including each standardized scale and subscale. Descriptive statistics, reliabilities and inter-correlations for the variables assessed in this study are presented in table 2.
Table 2 Descriptive and alpha reliability of the involvement, psychological commitment, attitudinal and behavioral loyalty
Factors Mean S.D. (Cronbach a) Items
Attraction 6.13 1.06 0.81 3
Centrality 5.27 1.38 0.89 3
Self-expression 4.38 1.78 0.79 2
Psychological Commitment 6.61 0.70 0.82 3
Attitudinal Loyalty 6.72 0.55 0.73 4
Behavioral Loyalty 5.96 0.85 10
Past Behavior 5.84 0.89 0.69 5
Future Behavior 6.08 0.89 0.71 5
The reliability analysis indicated good values of alpha ranging from .69 to .89. In terms of the descriptive statistics, the results indicated high mean scores for all the involvement dimensions, for psychological commitment, for attitudinal and behavioral loyalty. Inter-correlations among the constructs, ranging from .26 to .50, did not suggest extreme multi-collinearity and indicated an adequate amount of discriminant validity (Table 3).
Table 3 Inter-correlations among constructs
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6
Attitudinal Loyalty .38**
Psychological Commitment .49** .26**
Involvement Attraction .38** .26** .36**
Involvement Centrality .50** .32** .41** .40**
Involvement Self expression .33** .32** .41** .33** .46**
** Correlation is significant at the .001 level**
To test for mediation, a series of regression equations were performed. Specifically, the analyses followed the test for mediation as discussed in Baron and Kenny (1986). First, the mediator was regressed on the independent variable(s). Second, the dependent variable was regressed on the independent variable(s). Third, the dependent variable was regressed on the independent variable(s) and the mediator. This procedure was conducted to test for mediation with both psychological commitment and resistance to change acting as mediators. Overall, the results support the hypothesized model with both psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty acting as mediators. Three multiple regression equations were estimated to assess the role of psychological commitment as a mediator (Table 4).
Table 4 Psychological commitment as a mediator
PATH R2 Estimates T-Value (p)
Independent variables -> Mediator .21
Involvement (attraction) -> Psychological commitment .24 6.82 (p< .001)
Involvement (centrality) -> Psychological commitment .31 8.43 (p< .001)
Involvement (self-expression) -> Psychological commitment .01 .44 (p>.05)
Independent variables -> Dependent variable .12
Involvement (attraction) ->Psychological commitment .14 4.02 (p< .001)
Involvement (centrality) -> Psychological commitment .23 6.05 (p< .001)
Involvement (self-expression) -> Attitudinal loyalty .05 1.37 (p>.05)
Independent variables & Mediator -> Dependent variable .37
Psychological commitment -> Attitudinal loyalty .55 17.59 (p< .001)
Involvement (attraction) -> Attitudinal loyalty .02 .48 (p>.05)
Involvement (centrality) -> Attitudinal loyalty .06 1.82 (p>.05)
-> Attitudinal loyalty .04 1.33 (p>.05)
In support of H1 the first regression analysis indicated that both dimensions of involvement “attraction” (b=.24, t=6.82, p< .001) and “centrality” (b=.31, t=8.43, p<.001) had a positive and significant influence on the mediator, psychological commitment but not the dimension “self-expression” (b=.01, t=.44, p>.05). Initial support for H2 was found when both dimensions of involvement “attraction” (b=.14, t=4.02, p< .001) and “centrality” (b=.23, t=6.05, p<.001) had a positive and significant influence on the dependent variable attitudinal loyalty but not the dimension “self-expression” (b=.05, t=1.37, p>.05). Finally, when the dimensions of involvement and psychological commitment were entered as predictors of the dependent variable, attitudinal loyalty, only the relationship between the mediator, psychological commitment (b=.55, t=17.59, p< .001) and the dependent variable, attitudinal loyalty was significant. The relationship between the dimensions of involvement and attitudinal loyalty were not significant for both “attraction” (b=.02, t=.48, p>.05), and “centrality” (b=.06, t=1.82, p>.05) as well as “self-expression” (b=.04, t=1.33, p>.05). The above results support H2 and suggest that psychological commitment mediates the influence of involvement on attitudinal loyalty. Three multiple regression equations were estimated to assess the role of attitudinal loyalty as a mediator (Table 4).
Table 4 Attitudinal loyalty as a mediator
Path R2 Estimates T-value (p)
Independent variables -> Mediator .36
Psychological commitment -> Attitudinal loyalty .60 21.29 (p< .001)
Independent variables -> Dependent variable .24
Psychological commitment -> Behavioral loyalty .49 16.00 p< .001)
Independent variables & Mediator -> Dependent variable .24
Psychological commitment -> Behavioral loyalty .05 1.33 (p>.05)
Attitudinal loyalty -> Behavioral loyalty .46 12.01 (p< .001)
The results of the second set of regression analyses support the proposed relationship that attitudinal loyalty mediates the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty measured as the difference between past and future behavior. The relationship between psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty was significant (b=.60, t=21.29, p<.001). The relationship between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty was also significant (b=.49, t=16.00, p=.001). The final step provided evidence of mediation, where attitudinal loyalty (b=.46, t=12.01, p<.001) was significantly related to behavioral loyalty, but psychological commitment was not (b=-.05, t=-1.33, p>.05). These results support H3 and provide an indication that the influence of psychological commitment on behavioral loyalty was mediated by the inclusion of attitudinal loyalty.
The purpose of the present study was to examine the application of a model proposed in leisure and recreation settings (fitness) to spectator professional sports. The study aimed to confirm the importance of underlying factors, as involvement, psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty in the development of behavioral loyalty among soccer fans.
From the results of the study it was found that for professional soccer spectators behavioral loyalty (past and future behavior) is better explained by the direct effect of attitudinal loyalty and the indirect effects of psychological commitment and involvement. This builds on previous research in this area by including three dimensions of involvement (“attraction”, “centrality”, “self-expression”), a two dimensional component of behavioral loyalty by including past and future behaviors and an attitudinal component of loyalty (resistance to change), specifying the relationships among variables, and examining a professional team sport.
The results indicated that self-expression was not a significant predictor of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty and are in line with other researches (Alexandris, Kouthouris, Funk & Chatzigianni, 2008). Probably, a spectator’s involvement with the team is not an expression of his self-concept in relation to his status in society. More attention and further examination for self-expression needs to be directed.
From the results of this study it was found that a spectator’s involvement with the team is important in the development of psychological commitment. Attitudinal loyalty is also important in the development of behavioral loyalty. Finally, psychological commitment has a direct effect on attitudinal loyalty.
From the mediation results it was found that psychological commitment is a mediating variable between involvement and behavioral loyalty. Additionally, attitudinal loyalty is a mediating factor that facilitates the relationship between psychological commitment and behavioral loyalty. It seems that not all highly involved spectators become loyal to their team, although higher levels of enduring involvement seem to be an important precursor to behavioral loyalty. Higher levels of psychological commitment, in which attitudinal loyalty is a crucial element, appear essential for the development of spectators’ behavioral loyalty to a team. The development of spectators’ behavioral loyalty appears to be best explained as a progressive process in which the formation of high involvement seems to be a precondition for becoming a committed spectator of a team. When people develop attitudinal loyalty in terms of resistance to change they become loyal to their team. Pritchard et al. (1999) also supported that behavioral loyalty is an outcome of attitudinal loyalty and plays a mediating role whereby psychological commitment has an indirect effect on behavioral loyalty for tourism industry. The above results agree with the initial model in fitness participation context of Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) that proposed the mediating role of psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty between involvement and behavioral intentions. These findings are consistent with past studies on involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty (Iwasaki & Havitz, 1998; Kim, Scott & Crompton, 1997; Park, 1996; Pritchard et al., 1999). Although the original model of the involvement measurement was used extensively in leisure settings (Kyle et al., 2003; 2004a; 2004b; Kyle et al., 2004; Kyle & Mowen, 2005), this model was found to be applicable in professional sport spectator settings.
From this study it was found that the relationship between involvement and behavioral loyalty is complex since other variables mediate this relationship. The understanding of the relationship among the variables is important for managers and professionals since it explains the processes for the development of behavioral loyalty. The proposed model could help sport managers to understand clearly the behavior of sport fans and to enhance marketing strategies in order to develop and retain a loyal fan base. Marketers can potentially influence behavioral loyalty by capitalizing on any or all of the variables examined by the proposed model.
Iwasaki and Havitz (2004) proposed that loyalty is a developmental process. From this study it was found that high involved soccer spectators and specifically those who were attracted to the team and the team plays a central role to their life, have the potential to develop into high committed fans who demonstrate high levels of behavioral loyalty. Attitudinal loyalty is important for the development of behavioral loyalty but it can also be developed by maximizing psychological commitment and involvement.
In conclusion, sport managers should comprehend the procedures developing fans’ behavioral loyalty to their teams. It’s proposed the application of new strategies and the reinforcement of fans’ psychological commitment and attitudinal loyalty in order to control the process that fans become loyal.
Limitations of the Study
Several limitations are acknowledged in the present study. First, the conceptual model was developed primarily in the context of professional soccer teams, in Greece. It is important to test the psychometric properties of the proposed scale of involvement in other sport spectator settings in order to examine the adequacy of the scale in the measurement of sport fans’ involvement with their teams. Second, the psychometric properties of the measurement scale have been verified with only a limited sample. Third from the relative bibliography indicated that there are many factors contributing the development of sport fans loyalty. The proposed model should take into account all these factors. Finally, the sample of the research was limited, as we examined only fans that attend games. It’s useful to focus in other samples of sport fans, such as fans that watch only their favorite teams on television or internet.
The model of the relationship among these constructs focused on soccer fans. A recommendation for future studies would be to segment participants and evaluate the effect of different strategies in developing behavioral loyalty. High, medium or low involvement sport consumers may develop brand loyalty in a different way and this seems like an interesting option for research.
The generalizability of the model must be examined using various population groups. Research in other spectator sports is an interesting topic that may result to new different findings. Also, the grand majority of the participants were male. The examination of the relationship between involvement, psychological commitment and loyalty among female sport fans should contribute to consumer behavior research, especially in European spectator sport settings.
Another recommendation for a future study would be to test for factors that precede involvement and identify reasons for becoming involved or not. For example motives and other constraints would probably complete the explanation of sport consumers behavioral involvement and loyalty model.
This study can be used as a foundation for further sport spectator research. However future research should include more factors in order to understand spectators in other applied settings. We could then be more confident for the success of organizing the sport events.
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