Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Hambrick, Marion

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Greenwell, T. Christopher

Committee Member

Greenwell, T. Christopher

Committee Member

Shreffler, Megan

Committee Member

Moorman, Anita

Committee Member

Immekus, Jason

Author's Keywords

fan identification; points of attachment; soccer; English Premier League; sport consumption behavior


The purpose of this study was to explore the antecedents to organizational identification among U.S.-based EPL fans and examine the relationship between these antecedents and various forms of sport consumption behavior. Specifically, this study examined the extent to which points of attachment explained variances in organizational identification and three types of sport consumption behavior – broadcast media consumption, social media consumption, and team-related merchandise purchases. Additionally, this study examined differences in points of attachment between fans of successful EPL organizations, known as the “Big Six” EPL clubs, and fans of unsuccessful EPL organizations. In contrast to most existing sport fan identification and attachment research, this study focused on distant fans, a group yet to receive significant attention in the sport management literature. This study utilized social identity theory as a conceptual foundation. Social identity theory is a socio-cognitive framework that explains the formation and behaviors of social groups. It provides the main theoretical foundation for research on organizational identification and team identification. Points of attachment represent an extension of team identification research that accounts for the potential of multiple factors to contribute toward one’s fan identification. Previous research suggests an understanding of fan identification and attachment is crucial to developing targeted marketing plans which positively influence sport consumption behaviors. To address the purpose of the study, a questionnaire was distributed to U.S.-based EPL fans through Facebook group pages organized around fan support and interactions for EPL clubs. The questionnaire contained items to assess respondent’s levels of organizational identification, attachment to various aspects of the organization, and consumption behaviors. Participant responses (n = 753) revealed attachment to fan community exhibited the strongest relationship with organizational identification and each type of sport consumption behavior. Attachment to venue also suggested positive relationships with organizational identification and sport consumption behaviors. Two new points of attachment created for this study, attachment to owner and attachment to organizational history/tradition, positively explained respondent’s frequency of merchandise purchases. Additional analysis revealed player and venue attachment held particular salience among U.S.-based fans of Big Six EPL organizations. Meanwhile, attachment to fan community, city/region, and owner displayed significantly higher ratings among U.S.-based fans of EPL organizations outside the Big Six. These results produce several theoretical and practical implications for researchers and practitioners. From a theoretical perspective, the results illuminate similarities and differences in identification and attachment among distant fan populations compared to local sport fans. Additionally, factor analyses supported a factor structure for items relating to the two new points of attachment created for this study. This sets a foundation for future researchers to utilize these points of attachment in a variety of new research contexts covering distant and local fan types. From a practical implication perspective, the results show the importance of placing the concept of fan community at the heart of marketing strategies for EPL organizations and their U.S.-based broadcast partner, NBC Sports. As information technology and high-speed internet access continue to eliminate boundaries between sport teams and fans from across the world, it will become increasingly crucial for sport organizations to understand their fan bases in distant markets. This study provides initial evidence of variables that demonstrate a significant, positive impact on organizational identification and sport consumption behaviors for a particular set of distant fans.