Who Is Your GOAT?: Investigating Fans' Affective Dispositions – The Case of MotoGP Motorcycling

Who Is Your GOAT?: Investigating Fans' Affective Dispositions – The Case of MotoGP Motorcycling

Matthias Limbach (Europa Fachakademie Dr. Buhmann, Germany), Steffen Schmidt (Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany), Deborah Elisabeth Joekel (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Klaus-Peter Wiedmann (Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany), Philipp Reiter (eye square, Germany) and Sascha Langner (Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8125-3.ch007
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There is little research explaining how affective dispositions of fans such as love and hate toward an athlete or team can determine sport rivalry. In consumer research, the concept of love and hate are often investigated related to brands. In view of the fact that sport athletes and sport teams can be described and managed as brands, the concept of brand love and brand hate is also applicable in sport marketing. Against that backdrop, the research question guiding the present chapter is: What is the impact of implicit and explicit love as well as hate toward an athlete in a rivalry competition? The current study extends the sport rivalry model as proposed by Dalakas and Melancon. With that said, the purpose of the present study is to integrate and examine fans' affective dispositions in terms of athlete love and athlete hate as potential key drivers and emotional appeal as further key outcome within a sport rivalry context.
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Rivalry as intense competition between hard-fighting athletes or teams is a key element for strong spectator appeal. (Kimble & Cooper, 1992; Mahony & Moorman, 1999). In fact, rivalry is one of the main reasons for vigorous and lasting debates among journalists and sport spectators (Bryant, Brown, Comisky, & Zillmann, 1982). The sweetness and spiciness of rivalry nurtures media’s and public’s awareness and gets them geared up for an ongoing competitive contest (Whitson, 1998; Stead, 2008). Whether two athletes, two teams or two nations are battling for supremacy, spectator’s passion framed by the rivalry enables a high level of enjoyment (Zillmann, Bryant, & Sapolsky, 1989). Specifically, the greatest rivalries in the history of sport electrified millions of spectators worldwide and ensured a high media coverage (Maguire, Poulton, & Possamai, 1999).

Positive consequences of such a strong enthusiasm toward an athlete or team are, among others, greater willingness to invest larger amounts of time and money to watch a match (Wann & Branscombe, 1993) and higher intention to purchase licensed products and paraphernalia (Bristow & Sebastian, 2001; Fisher & Wakefield, 1998). Such passionate and loyal spectator and fan responses explains the attractiveness for companies which seek to monetize their sponsorship-linked marketing communications (Cornwell, Humphreys, Maguire, Weeks, & Tellegen, 2006), apart from creating awareness primarily through eliciting an affect transfer from the sponsored subject (athlete, team, etc.) or object (event, venue, etc.) to the sponsor brand (Pracejus, 2004).

However, that bright side of sport-related affection also has a dark side. The vibrant competitive environment of sports can also create a negative affective disposition toward the rival athlete or team, and above that toward the respective fans or supporters, which ranges from dislike (Dalakas & Levin, 2005), over hostility (Lee, 1985) to violence (Ward, 2002). From a media perspective, the affiliation, or one step in advance, the affective dispositions ranging from positive to negative which a viewer holds toward the competing athletes and teams are a significant element of consuming sport to evoke diverting enjoyment and lasting excitement (Raney, 2006). In that regard, Bryant and Miron (2002) argue: “Once an audience has thus placed its sentiments pro and con particular characters, enjoyment of conflict and its resolution in drama depends on the ultimate outcome for the loved and hated parties” (Bryant & Miron, 2002, p. 568).

The MotoGP World Championship 2015 has provided such dramatization. Specifically, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez, currently the two biggest motorcycling stars of the MotoGP, clashed several times during the 2015 season (Crash, 2015; MotoGP, 2015; Motorcycle News, 2015). That those rivalry turned into such an athlete- and supporter-related hostility in a relatively short period of time is also on the merits of social media, since it “can be used to spread love, or hate” (Motor Sport Magazine, 2016, para. 1), whereby in the season 2016 social media is being used too often for the latter case wishing riders among others paraplegia or even death (Motor Sport Magazine, 2016).

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