FACEBOOK USAGE AND SPORTS TEAM IDENTIFICATION: DIRECT MARKETING IMPLICATIONS BY Caitlin Moyer Senior Manager-Advertising & Marketing Milwaukee Brewers professional baseball club Caitlin.firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. James Pokrywczynski Associate Professor-Dept of Strategic Communication Diederich College of Communication Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI James.email@example.com Dr. Robert Griffin Professor-Dept of Journalism & Media Studies Diederich College of Communication Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org EXTENDED ABSTRACT Social media has become a regular direct marketing component for sports teams. This study explores the link between team identification, using social identity theory, and use of a Professional sports team’s social media channels. Questions to answer include: Is there a positive relationship between fans’ use of the team’s social media and the identification they have with a team? Is this activity related to increased sales of tickets and merchandise? Answers have implications for sports teams attempting to maximize the impact that growing resources devoted to team social media channels as well as theoretical applications to explain how social media like Facebook and Twitter can enhance social identity, team identity and related experiences that fans have following a particular sports team or league. LITERATURE REVIEW Social Identity, Group Identification and Team Identification In general, Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) theory of social identity helps to explain the impact of voluntary group associations on consumption by examining why individuals associate with specific groups such as sports teams, and how this behavior affects their consumption choices. According to Tajfel and Turner (1979), social identity theory suggests that how an individual defines oneself, or one’s social identity, is in part derived from one’s membership in different groups. Identifying positively with a group serves the important psychological functions of fostering self-esteem and creating a sense of belonging. The theory also states that these positive psychological effects lead one to seek out those groups that will maximize one’s sense of self-worth. Thus, in order to protect one’s self-esteem, one will view the groups to which one belongs as the “best” groups. Wann’s (2006b) “Team Identification-Social Psychological Health Model” is particularly useful to this study, as it specifically relates to sports teams. Consistent with the social and group identity perspectives, team identification is defined as “the extent to which a fan feels a psychological connection to a team and the team’s performances are viewed as self relevant” (Wann, 2006a, p. 332). This model addresses the antecedents, or causes, of team identification for individuals as well as the ramifications, or consequences, at varying levels for those individuals. While this model may be an important tool in understanding the impact of a team on an individual’s social psychological well-being, in practical terms, this model combined with Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior (1991) can also be used by sports marketers, as it can help sports marketers understand the effects that their marketing efforts have on increasing an individual’s level of team identification. Wann’s model on team identity dovetails nicely with marketing and branding models to show how social media and its relationship to sports teams’ identity can lead to behavior intentions that sports marketers covet. The Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen 1991) has been applied to purchase decisions and works well for this study. Applied to marketing, TPB suggests that three factors are involved in purchase intentions and, ultimately, behavior: (1) a person's ability to make the purchase -- of tickets, for example -- and voluntary control over doing so; (2) a person's attitudes favoring his or her purchase of products related to the brand or team; and (3) subjective norms, the perceived social pressures from others to behave in a certain way Social media can easily be seen as playing a vital role in at least the latter two of these three factors, leading to intended behaviors such as the purchase of tickets, team memorabilia and other team related merchandise like subscriptions to team magazines or television channel coverage of the team. Attitudes toward purchasing products carrying the team brand are likely to already be positive given the emotional investment that is part of strong team identity. Participation in team social media can provide opportunities to strengthen those positive attitudes and reduce the threat to attitude change since team control of much of the content is likely to provide more positive than negative information for consumption. According to TPB, attitudes toward purchasing are directly influenced by salient behavioral beliefs about the behavior, i.e., what the purchaser believes will be the likely outcomes of buying the product and how much he or she values or devalues each of those outcomes. Again, social media can be a contributing factor in raising the salience of such beliefs surrounding the team and its products because of convenient, 24-hour access to team information whenever a team identifier has a question or a doubt about supporting the team. The greater the number of visits to team Facebook and other social media outlets, the more mere repetition of exposure could bring the team and its products to the forefront of thought and action. As long as users trust the information provided, see it as relevant and credible, these online experiences are likely to enhanced team identity and positive attitudes toward the team brand. Together, these steps in the theory of planned behavior provide a conceptual framework for explaining how social media can work to build team identity that evolves into purchase behavior that favors sports teams with strong team identification. RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESES The following research questions and hypotheses were tested given the literature above. RQs: What are the relationships of intended and past use of the Professional baseball team Facebook page with Professional baseball team identification? What are the relationships of Professional baseball team identification and team Facebook usage with purchasing behavior of Professional baseball team products? Hs: There will be a positive correlation between the intention to visit the Professional baseball team’s Facebook page and levels of team identification with the Professional baseball team. Fans who are connected with a team via Facebook are more likely to have higher levels of identification with that team. Fans who have been more active in connecting with the Professional baseball team on Facebook (e.g., those who have previously spent more time on the page, those who have higher levels of previous engagement) will have higher levels of team identification than those who are less active in their connection with the team on Facebook. METHOD Data was collected by an internet survey of fans of a Professional baseball team . A total of 571 respondents, 31 percent of which followed the team on Facebook, completed a 10-minute survey that measured team identification (Wann, 2006a), social media usage (including team Facebook past and future usage), awareness of team communication promoting Facebook page, and team related purchases of tickets and merchandise (past and future). RESULTS & CONCLUSIONS Results show a positive relationship between team identification and use of the team’s Facebook page. In addition, a positive relationship was found between team identification and purchase of game tickets and team merchandise. Users of the team Facebook page reported significantly higher game attendance and greater money spent on team merchandise than those who did not follow the team on Facebook. Add those findings together and it suggests sports marketers need to continue to find ways of engaging fans with their Facebook page. Causeeffect directionality of the relationships was beyond the scope of this study, so future studies must advance the literature by controlling the environment better. Implications for theorists include understanding the role of social media in building team identification as well as team branding. Social media experiences that enhance social identity, create group identity and create enduring psychological connections seem to be the three parts of the model that predict advanced team identity. Implications for sports marketing include an understanding of how social media may be leveraged to enhance team identity, giving individuals chances to contribute to the group dialogue through blogs, give them visibility as part of the group to raise individual identity and nurture those psychological connects between individual and team. It appears social media, through enhanced team identity, can generate revenue, both for the team in terms of ticket/merchandise purchase as well as revenue for sponsors linked to the team Facebook page. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211 Tajfel, H. and Turner, J.C. (1979) An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W.G. Austin and S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp.33-47). Monterey, CA: Brooks Cole. Wann, D.L. (2006a). The causes and consequences of sport team identification. In A. Raney and J. Bryant (Eds.), Handbook of Sports and Media (pp. 331-352). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Wann, D.L. (2006b) Understanding the Positive Social Psychological Benefits of Sport Team Identification: The Team Identification-Social Psychological Health Model. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 10, 272-296.