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Research shows sport fandom being developed within families usually from a top-down approach. This is typically in the form of parents, in particular fathers, directly influencing their children’s sport fan choices through various socializing activities, including watching games together on television, taking them to a game in person, purchasing fan merchandise, or teaching them the rules and culture of the sport (Kolbe & James, 2000; Wann, 2006). We also typically think of sport fandom in the context of men’s professional sport only.

While these patterns continue to influence fandom, recent research by Hyatt et al. (in press) revealed shifts in this relationship. They examined the relationship between parenting and sport fandom and found that children also influence their parents’ sport fandom choices.

In today’s generation, many parents encourage their children to participate in or take an interest in sports of their choosing. As a result, some children are involved in activities that are unfamiliar to their parents or did not exist when the parents were younger, such as sport climbing, quidditch, snowboarding, eSport, and parkour. Parents are introduced to and invested in these sports through their children’s participation and interest, and in some cases, they become invested in the sport, first as supporters of their children’s involvement and then remain committed even after their child is no longer participating in the sport. This trend is important to amateur sport organizations for two reasons:

1. Amateur sports and athletes are a focus for fans

While Hyatt et al.’s (in press) work focused on professional sport fandom, some parents spoke about their fandom in relation to amateur sports, like diving and sport climbing. These parents talked about not only about supporting their children’s participation, but also following elite athletes in those sports on social media and watching elite-level competitions on YouTube. They identified and consumed amateur sport in a similar way that we see with professional sport.

Fandom is important to amateur sport. Fans buy team merchandise, souvenirs, and tickets for competitions. They watch events on cable sport and YouTube channels, and follow athletes on social media sites, which is appealing to advertisers. They also provide financial support to athletes and teams through fundraisers or sponsorships.

2. Children’s sport participation can be used to develop adult fans

Sport fandom is developed and fostered in many ways, including a bottom-up process where children influence their parents. In this case, children’s participation in amateur sport can foster their parents’ interest in and identification with those same activities.

Amateur sport organizations can foster fandom through showcasing elite athletes, promoting competitions, or selling merchandise to a wide audience within their sport. Further, sharing information about the sport, its elite athletes, and high-level competitions with parents might create long-term interest and support for the sport. Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, is an effective way to share information and showcase one’s sport to this adult population.

About the Author – Larena Hoeber is a Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at the University of Regina.

References

Hyatt, C., Kerwin, S., Hoeber, L., & Sveinson, K. (in press). The reverse socialization of sport fans: How children impact their parents’ sport fandom. Journal of Sport Management.

Kolbe, R. H., & James, J. D. (2000). An identification and examination of influences that shape the creation of a professional team fan. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 2(1), 23-37.

Wann, D. L. (2006). The causes and consequences of sport team identification. In A. A. Raney and J. Bryant (Eds.), Handbook of sport and media (pp. 331-352). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.



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