Boxing

Boxing to understand fan motivations for sports consumption: The Wilder vs Fury rematch

The following research investigates the motivations for spectators of a main sporting event and their influence on fan identification. The World Heavyweight Championship rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on 22 February 2020 is hereby used as an example. An adapted Motivations Scale for Sports Consumption (MSSC), as suggested by Trail (2012), was applied to collect data on Twitter from 169 people interested in boxing. The results suggest that aesthetics, drama, acquiring knowledge about the sport, physical skills of the boxers, and being a fan of boxing motivate people to watch the fight. However, spectator motivations that correlate highest with fan identification are vicarious achievement, aesthetics, and acquiring knowledge about the sport. 

The article will first introduce the research in Section 1, define the variables and the conceptual framework in Section 2, explain the applied methodology in Section 3, analyse the results and offer high-level recommendations for possible marketing and communications tactics for similar events in Section 4, before concluding the study in Section 5.

Section 1: Background to the research

Sports events are traditionally considered amongst the leading programmes on primetime TV (Gough, 2018). Events such as the FIFA World Cup, the Tour de France, or the Olympic Games attract billions of people to TV screens (Shazi, 2018) and, with improving broadband connectivity and speed, to smartphones and computers (Argyle-Robinson, 2017). Growing technological possibilities and marketing opportunities offer broadcasters and promoters new incentives to conceptualise and produce sports events for wider international audiences (Hutchins and Rowe, 2012). This presents an unprecedented array of entertainment and sports programming options to consumers of elite sports and, at the same time, makes the sports entertainment space more crowded and, therefore, more competitive (Hoye et al. 2018; Sitaraman and Alstott, 2019). 

In order for producers to establish a sustainable competitive advantage over the growing number of competitors in sports entertainment, sports events should be “imperfectly imitable” and include “non-substitutable” resources (Barney, 1991). This could be achieved through ingredient branding (Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2010), which adds one or more brands to an established sports brand, such as Ronaldo (CR7) to Juventus FC or Deontay Wilder to Tyson Fury. Nevertheless, an effective addition or combination should be based upon a desired consumer behaviour. Funk (2008, p. 6) defines sport and event consumer behaviour as “the process involved when individuals select, purchase, use, and dispose of sport and sport event related products and services to satisfy needs and receive benefits”. The definition highlights the necessity for broadcasters and promoters to consider the needs and wants that motivate target audiences to consume a sporting event and produce that event accordingly. Trail and James (2001) developed the Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC) to assess why spectators want to consume a specific event. Although the way consumers access and watch sports has evolved since the inception of the MSSC in the early 2000s, by transitioning from traditional free- or pay-TV to over-the-top (OTT) delivery (Kahlert, 2019), consumers’ motivation to watch or attend events are mostly based upon the same elements across sports and consumption channels (cf. Seo and Green, 2008; Hsieh et al., 2011; Schaeperkoetter et al., 2016; Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017).

The Wilder versus Fury rematch that took place on 22 February 2020 was chosen as the subject of this research due to its notoriety in the sports world. The first fight between the two world champions took place on 1 December 2018 and sold more than 300,000 pay-per-views (PPV) (Iole, 2020). The fight ended in a draw, which laid the foundation for what became a well-though out and clever promotion-campaign leading to the rematch reaching around 1.2 million paying-viewers through PPV and OTT channels (Jay, 2020). This equals the reach of events such as the Evander Holyfield versus Lennox Lewis boxing match from 13 March 1999 or Wrestlemania 23 from 1 April 2007 in regard to paying-viewers (Dawson, 2020). In addition, an estimated 10 to 20 million viewers watched Wilder vs Fury II through illegal livestreams (Iole, 2020), which underlines the popularity of the fight.

This study follows the research question, “What motivates sports consumers to watch the boxing rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury?” and aims to offer recommendations for promoters and marketers of similar events in regard to conceptualisation from a marketing and communications perspective. 

Section 2: Definitions, conceptual framework, and hypotheses 

An adaptation of the MSSC was applied in this research. The most recent MSSC by Trail (2012) includes ten spectator motivations, of which eight were used to collect data, namely vicarious achievement, aesthetics, drama, escape, acquisition of knowledge, physical skills of the [athletes], social interaction, and enjoyment of aggression; see Figure 1. Two motivations suggested by Trail (2012), ‘physical attractiveness [of the athletes]’ and ‘novelty’, were omitted from this research due to inappropriateness of the questions in the context of the event chosen for this study. Similar to research undertaken by Hsieh et al. (2011), the fan identification elements ‘identification with the boxer’ and ‘fan of boxing’ were added to the construct, in order to evaluate whether the spectator would view the match because she or he identifies with one of the athletes or because she or he is a fan of boxing, the sport. 

The variables exploring spectator motivations in this study are defined as follows:

  • Vicarious achievement (ACM) is motivated by “the need for social prestige, self-esteem and sense of empowerment that an individual can receive from their association with a successful [athlete]” (Trail, 2012, p. 4). In the case at hand, it relates to the pride and sense of achievement a spectator feels when the boxer they support wins.
  • The element of Aesthetics (ASM) refers to “the extent to which an individual watches [fights] because of the enjoyment of the artistic beauty and grace of the sport” (Hsieh et al., 2011, p. 141). Spectators of a boxing match may be attracted to the event because they see the sport as a form of art. 
  • Drama (DRM) is motivated by the pleasure and excitement of unexpected turn of events that create uncertainty about the outcome of the event (Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017). This element is based upon to the unscripted nature of a boxing match and upon the fact that the fight can be turned around in a matter of moments or even won with a single knockout punch. 
  • Escape (ESM) is motivated by the diversion from day-to-day routine and getting away from the tensions of one’s life (Funk, 2008). Fans of a sports team or of a sport in general may look forward to an event that offers a welcomed distraction and virtually transports their thoughts to a different place. 
  • Acquisition of Knowledge (KNM) refers to “the need to learn about the [athletes or the sport] through interaction and media consumption” (Trail, 2012, p. 4). Spectators may want to view a boxing event because they want to learn about, for example, the style of boxing of the athletes, the entertainment value of the sports experience, the business and promotion approach utilised for the event, or similar. 
  • The element of Physical Skills of the Boxer (PSM) refers to the athletic and skilful performance of the athletes (Schaeperkoetter et al., 2016). A certain appeal to the sport may come from watching the athletes execute boxing tactics skilfully and, arguably, aesthetically. This motivation is not to be mistaken with the motivation of Aesthetics, although, there is a strong correlation between the two; see Figure 5.
  • Social Interaction (SIM) is motivated by “the need to interact and socialize with others of like interests to achieve feelings that one is part of a group” (Trail, 2012, p. 4). Interactions may happen during the fight online or offline and through different devices.
  • Enjoyment of Aggression (EAM) indicates “the enjoyment derived from witnessing the aggressive behavior, macho attitudes and hostility exhibited by [the athletes]” (Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017, p. 224). 

The variables examining fan identification in this study are defined as follows:

  • Identification with the Boxer refers to the evaluation of a spectator’s allegiance or identification with the preferred boxer in the given event (Wann and Branscombe, 1993); i.e., does the spectator identify with Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, or with none of them? 
  • The variable Fan of Boxing seeks to evaluate the identity of the spectators as fans of boxing, the sport, not necessarily of one of the boxers (Hsieh et al., 2011). 

The conceptual framework for this study is built upon the relationship between spectator motivations (cf. Trail, 2012) and fan identification (cf. Hsieh et al., 2011); see Figure 1. Besides assessing the degree of a person’s motivation to watch the Wilder vs Fury rematch, this study also seeks to assess the influence of the spectator motives on the two fan identification variables. 

Figure 1: Conceptual framework with spectator motivations and fan identification
Figure 1: Conceptual framework with spectator motivations and fan identification

Section 3: Methodology and sample

The question-items utilised to collect quantitative data for this research are based upon the MSSC questionnaires developed by Hsieh et al. (2011), Trail (2012), and Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016). The questionnaire consists of 10 scales, of which 8 scales include 3 items and 2 scales include 4 items; Figure 4 in Section 4 presents the questions posed in the questionnaire. The demography of respondents is assessed with 3 additional questions; see Figure 3. The question-items were customised for the context of this study where necessary. Items were assessed with a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). 

Following the approach by Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016), the degree of a person’s motivation to watch the Wilder vs Fury rematch is assessed through the mean of the posed questions and its respective standard deviation (STDEV). Additionally, an assessment of the influence of spectator motives on the two fan identification variables is undertaken according to Hsieh et al. (2011).

Fans and followers of popular boxing brands were targeted through Twitter with a request to participate in the survey; see tweet in Figure 2. Data was collected through Google Forms from Friday, 21 February 2020 until Sunday 23 February 2020.

Figure 2: Twitter post to collect data for this study 

The questionnaire was completed by 169 Twitter users and all responses were accepted. 95.9% of respondents are male and 4.1% female. Age distribution is balanced: 35 to 44-year-olds are the largest age-group including 34.3% of the sample, followed by 45 to 54-year-olds with 25.4%, and 25 to 34-year-olds with 19.5%; 18 to 24-year-olds make up 8.3% of the sample. The highest participation came from people living in the United Kingdom (71.6%). This can be attributed to the strong media presence of Tyson Fury in his home country, or to Twitter offering a wider reach to the promotional tweet in Figure 2. The rest of the sample is equally dispersed across various countries of the world. A visualisation of the sample is offered in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Demography of the sample (n=169)

Section 4: Results and high-level recommendations

The following section is divided into two parts: Part 1 discusses composite variables that were computed using mean scores for the eight applied motivations to watch the Wilder vs Fury II match in order to analyse the relative importance of each spectator motivation (cf. Schaeperkoetter et al., 2016). Part 2 reviews the impact of individual spectator motivations on fan identification (cf. Hsieh et al., 2011). 

Figure 4 offers an overview of the question-items including their mean of the composite variables (MEAN COMP.), mean of individual items (MEAN), standard deviation of individual items (STDEV), factor loading, Cronbach’s Alpha (α), as well as composite reliability (CR) and average variance extracted (AVE). Computation of the means for composite variables for the 8 spectator motivations are offered to understand the relative importance of each motivation (cf. Schaeperkoetter et al., 2016). The mean and STDEV of each item add an additional level of accuracy in the interpretation of the degree of a respondent’s motivation to view Wilder vs Fury II. 

Figure 4: Overview of question-items including means, standard deviation, factor loading, Cronbach’s Alpha (α), composite reliability (CR) and average variance extracted (AVE)

Figure 5 provides the correlations between the variables of spectator motivations and fan identifications. Scores in grey and italics are not significant, all other scores are significant at p<0.001. Golden stars found in some boxes mark the Pearson correlation coefficients that are equal or higher than 0.5 and are hereby considered strong. 

Figure 5: Correlations between spectator motivations and fan identification variables
Figure 5: Correlations between spectator motivations and fan identification variables

Part 1: Composite variables for spectator motivations

Based on the mean of the composite variables, spectator motivations are ranked as follows in regard to the level of importance recorded from respondents; a high mean score states a high level of importance (see Figure 4):

  1. Physical Skills of the Boxer (mean=6.357)
  2. Drama (mean=5.848)
  3. Aesthetics (mean=5.716) 
  4. Acquisition of Knowledge (mean=5.471)
  5. Vicarious Achievement (mean=4.535)
  6. Social Interaction (mean=4.481)
  7. Escape (mean=4.324)
  8. Enjoyment of Aggression (mean=4.167)

1. Physical skills of the boxer (mean=6.357)

Respondents strongly appreciate athletic skills of the boxers (6.290±1.049; PSM1), enjoy watching a well-executed athletic boxing performance (6.325±1.078; PSM2), as well as a skilful performance by the boxers (6.456±0.957; PSM3). Furthermore, items in this motivation-variable show the lowest STDEV of all motivations in the construct, implying a strong agreement among participants. Research by Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) and James and Ross (2004) support this finding, as both studies identified “physical skills of [World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)] athletes” as a motivation of high importance in regard to viewing a wrestling event. The motivations to watch Wilder vs Fury II because of the physical skills of the boxers and the aesthetics of boxing, which includes the artistic value and grace of the sport, correlate highly (r=0.627); see Figure 5. The definition of “aesthetics” in sports consumption from Ridinger and Funk (2006, p. 166) comprises “skill and artistry of athletic movement” and, therefore, hints towards these two motivations belonging together. This notion is supported by an exploratory factor analysis that sees two items in the “aesthetics” sub-scale cross-loading with the “physical skills” sub-scale. Therefore, the notion that spectators are highly motivated to watch the Wilder vs Fury II bout because of a skilful and aesthetic performance of both boxers becomes legitimate.

2. Drama (mean=5.848)

Respondents strongly agree when asked, if they enjoy the drama of close fights, with the item also receiving a low STDEV (6.497±0.939; DRM1). Similarly, they prefer watching a close fight rather than a one-sided fight, although only a moderate STDEV is found (6.053±1.351; DRM2). The item ‘A fight that goes many rounds is more enjoyable than a blowout’, on the other hand, is met with moderate agreement (4.994±1.522; DRM3). This finding is supported by research from Zembura (2015), which explains that spectators are motivated to watch Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) because of the dramatic storyline. Nevertheless, Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) only found moderate importance for the “drama” motivation in WWE events. Rein et al. (2006) highlight the importance of applying drama in the story of a sports brand or event to entice spectators to tune in. If the drama is conveyed successfully, the audience would experience the feelings of the characters, lose itself in the story, and, ultimately, stay tuned to find out how the story ends (Deighton et al., 1989). Given that Wilder vs Fury II is considered a highly anticipated sequel to a dramatic first fight that ended in a draw (Graham, 2018), the high mean score recorded for the “drama” motivation can be considered appropriate. No correlation above 0.5 was found with other variables.

3. Aesthetics (mean=5.716)

Respondents place high importance on enjoying the artistic value of boxing (5.947±1.386; ASM1) and liking the beauty and grace of boxing (5.751±1.523; ASM2), but agree only moderately with each other; see STDEV. They agree quite strongly with the statement ‘I consider boxing to be a form of art’, but a high STDEV suggests that respondents do not agree with each other (5.450±1.718; ASM3). Zembura (2015) reported equally high importance for the “aesthetics” motivation for MMA, similarly Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) for spectator motivations in WWE. However, Zembura (2015) reported much lower STDEV than the STDEV computed in this study, which may suggest that the sample for this study may not be homogenous. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, the “aesthetics” and “physical skills” motivations are strongly correlated and two of the three “aesthetics” items cross-load on the “physical skills” sub-scale. This may signify that both variables should be considered together when assessing their importance for Wilder vs Fury II spectators. 

4. Acquisition of knowledge (mean=5.471)

People interested in Wilder vs Fury II express a relatively high motivation to watch the bout, because they want increase their knowledge about the sport (5.396±1.517; KNM1), they want to increase their understanding of boxing strategy (5.521±1.480; KNM2), and they want to learn about the technical aspects of boxing (5.497±1.524; KNM3). However, STDEV is moderate, suggesting only relative agreement among respondents. Comparably, both Zembura (2015) and Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) found that combat sports fans place relatively high importance on the “acquisition of knowledge” of MMA and WWE respectively. The motivation to acquire knowledge about the sport of boxing, while watching boxing events, focuses on learning about the physical and aesthetic aspects of the sport (Mendoza, 1792) and the organisational structure and business side of professional boxing (Baglio, 2000). This suggests that communication should be designed to highlight the professionalism of the mentioned aspects.

5. Vicarious achievement (mean=4.535) 

Fans place moderate importance for feeling a personal sense of achievement when the boxer they support does well (4.130±1.941; ACM1), as well as to feeling like they won when the boxer they support wins (4.308±1.918; ACM2). Relatively high importance is recorded for feeling proud when the boxer they support fights well (5.166±1.838; ACM3). Yet, a high STDEV across all three items illustrates general disagreement in regard to felling the need to be associated with the winner of the fight. Zembura (2015) notes that spectators of MMA attribute moderately high importance to “vicarious achievement”, whereas Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) see it as a variable with low importance. This motivation variable shows a high correlation with the “identification with boxer” variable, which can be interpreted as, the “heightened sense of self-esteem when [the boxer a fan identifies with] wins” (Ridinger and Funk, 2006, p. 166). Designing promotion and communication around such identification is to be considered. 

6. Social interaction (mean=4.481)

Respondents find it moderately important when asked if they enjoy socializing with others while watching the fight, online or offline (4.751±1.772; SIM1), if they enjoy interacting with others online or offline during the fight (4.320±1.900; SIM2), and if they enjoy talking to other people during the fight, online or offline (4.373±1.987; SIM3). All items demonstrate high STDEV, which reflects disagreement between fans and followers of Wilder vs Fury II regarding wanting to interact with others. This is supported by findings of Zembura (2015) and Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016). It seems as if a smaller number of spectators enjoy the socialising aspects of boxing events, whereas most spectators attribute only moderate importance to it. Although second-screening may add high interactive value for sports fans during events (Sutera, 2013; Facebook, 2019), the general Wilder vs Fury II audience does not consider it important. Therefore, less effort should be allocated to creating social interaction with spectators.

7. Escape (mean=4.324)

Similar moderate importance is recorded by respondents when asked if ‘boxing provides them with an escape from day-to-day routine’ (4.314±2.091; ESM1), if they ‘can get away from the tension in life’ (4.018±2.019; ESM2), and if ‘boxing is a great change of pace from what they regularly do’ (4.639±1.814; ESM3). The three items show among the highest STDEV within the construct suggesting disagreement between spectators. Zembura (2015) and Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) find higher importance for the “escape” motivation compared to this study. One possible reason for the lower mean in this study is the high-profile of the Wilder vs Fury II bout, which could be considered a blockbuster entertainment product for a mass audience (Iole, 2020; Jay, 2020). Given that the event is not a general reoccurrence, but a one-time high-profile spectacle, the moderate importance of the “escape” motivation becomes legitimate, whereas the events studied by Zembura (2015) and Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016) express a higher importance to escapism due to a possibly ritualised viewing experience of their target audience (Aubrey et al., 2012).

8. Enjoyment of aggression (mean=4.167)

The motivation “enjoyment of aggression” recorded the lowest importance among respondents. Consideration is given to ‘liking rough play during a fight’ (3.935±1.849; EAM1), ‘liking the strong macho atmosphere at boxing events’ (3.817±1.857; EAM2), ‘liking the aggressive behaviour of the boxers before and during the fight’ (4.379±1.776; EAM3), and ‘liking the hostility and intimidation that are part of boxing’ (4.538±1.735; EAM4). As with “escape”, “social interaction”, and “vicarious achievement”, high STDEV for all items in the sub-scale describes that respondents disagree with each other when it comes to their motivation for watching Wilder vs Fury II. Although “enjoyment of aggression” is generally seen as the least important motivation to watch the event, there is a certain number of fans that may consider it a stronger motivator. Zembura (2015) finds that MMA spectators consider violence the least important motivator for watching a bout, which supports the findings of this study. On the other hand, “physical aggressiveness” is found to be a high-end motivator in WWE, because, according to Schaeperkoetter et al. (2016), the physical nature of wrestling entertainment raises expectations of inherent aggression. 

Part 2: The impact of spectator motivations on fan identification

The impact of the eight spectator motivations on the two fan identification variables were analysed through the Pearson correlation coefficient (r). The relationships between “drama” and “identification with the boxer”, “social interaction” and “identification with the boxer”, as well as “social interaction” and “fan of boxing” are not significant. The other relationships are significant at p<0.001. This section will, however, focus on the relationships between spectator motivations and fan identifications that computed a score of r>0.5 and are therefore deemed strong. 

Identification with the boxer

Vicarious achievement. The variable “identification with the boxer” records the highest correlation with “vicarious achievement” (r=0.725) among all motivations. Kim et al. (2001) note that improving brand identification will strengthen the relationship between the brand, i.e. the boxer, and the target audience, i.e. spectators, of the bout. Sports spectators with the highest brand identification are considered to be “vested and highly committed” (Stewart et al., 2003). Therefore, designing communication efforts emphasising the boxers’ brand and image individually by highlighting their personality traits would enhance the motivation to watch the event (Bourgeon and Bouchet, 2001). 

Aesthetics. The second-highest correlation for this variable is recorded with the spectator motivation “aesthetics” (r=0.518). This means that “aesthetics” have a strong impact on the identification with the preferred athlete, a notion supported by Hsieh et al. (2011). Similarly, Andrew et al. (2009) found that the aesthetics variable is a motivator for sports media consumption. Because of that, boxers should consider their brand personality from an aesthetic perspective. Aaker (1997) identified five brand personality dimensions: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. Viewing these dimensions from an aesthetics perspective with the intention for Wilder or Fury to strengthen fan identification means that the boxers would have to portray themselves as honest and genuine in their rhetoric and actions, exciting in their storytelling, competent in their field of expertise (i.e. professional sportsmanship), sophisticated and strong-minded athletes. 

Fan of boxing

Aesthetics. The highest correlation between any variable in the present study is recorded between the boxing fandom of respondents and the “aesthetics” motivation (r=0.765), which means that “aesthetics” have a strong impact on boxing fandom. A possible interpretation is that fans of boxing are influenced by the stylistic beauty of the sport that, arguably, constitutes a form of art. According to Scott (2008), the art and aesthetics of boxing include the boxing style of the athletes, the visualisation and design of the boxing environment (i.e. the arena and the ring) and the apparel (i.e. the gloves and the shorts). Hence, the boxing event should be designed with the principles of aesthetics in mind; for example, (a) persuading both boxers to provide a visually appealing match by fighting with style and grace and offering incentives for them to follow through on that (cf. Mumford, 2012), and (b) delivering an attractive experience for all senses, such as a visually pleasing arena, show, video- or TV-broadcast, as well as enticing audio commentary and social media communication (cf. Pine and Gilmore, 1999; Schmitt, 1999).

Acquisition of knowledge has a relatively strong influence on the “fan of boxing” variable (r=0.519). Brakus et al. (2009) found that intellectual brand experiences have a significant influence on the loyalty towards the brand; this means, when people learn something from using or consuming a brand, it is likely that they will use or consume the product again. In the context of the case at hand, it means that if fans of boxing can acquire knowledge about the event or the sport they will watch the boxing event, or, if preliminary promotion and communication persuades potential spectators that they can learn something new about the event or the sport, they will, for example, buy PPV access to the event or similar. That can be achieved by highlighting the physical and aesthetic aspects of both fighters in the promotion of the fight. Consequently, it emphasises the originality of the match, which bolsters the attraction for spectators to tune in to the event and gain new knowledge about how the boxers adapt their boxing style to win the bout (cf. Mendoza, 1792; Scott, 2012). Moreover, providing a large variety of detailed information about the organisational structure and the business aspects of the boxing event could add informative and educational substance to promotional communication and public relations (Baglio, 2000; Batra and Keller, 2016). Ideally, confrontational digital conversations would stir up some controversy and attract wider online audiences learning more about the forthcoming event (cf. Sanderson, 2011; Sutera, 2013). 

“Identification with the boxer” and “fan of boxing”

The two fan identification variables “identification with the boxer” and “fan of boxing” show high correlation (r=0.705). Notably, a respondent’s fandom of boxing can directly explain the identification with their favourite boxer (cf. Hsieh et al., 2011). This means that respondents are fans of boxing first and then they may be fans of one of the boxers they watch. This is also represented in the mean scores of the composite variables. “Fan of boxing” reaches a mean of 5.509, whereas “identification with the [favourite] boxer” reaches a mean of 4.901; see Figure 5. A more qualitative justification of this relationship can be found in a statement from Keith Thurman, former WBA welterweight champion of the world from 2017 to 2018, who argues that “[people] watch boxing to see elite athletes do elite things. They watch boxing to see our hearts, man” (Posnanski, 2018). His argument supports the notion that spectators may not necessarily be motivated to watch the fight to cheer for one specific fighter, but to enjoy a holistic sporting event in which two professional athletes compete against each other to entertain their audience. However, they may find themselves applaud for one athlete more than for the other, because they may identify with him or her more than with the other (cf. Kim et al., 2001). Analogously, Pryor (2013) reflects on the sport of boxing from a more philosophical angle and contends that “you are not rooting for the man in the ring. You are rooting for yourself. Boxing’s victory is in making each of us its champion.” Similar to the discourse above, Pryor’s argument is built upon the concept that although boxers are important characters that write the story of the sport, boxing fans watch boxing events because of their identification with the world of boxing. In regard to marketing and communications efforts, this means that audiences should first be made aware and raise their interest in the event, because it is a must-watch or must-attend boxing event, then guide potential spectators through the decision-making funnel with information more specific to the protagonists of the event, namely the boxers. 

Figure 6: Conceptual framework with spectator motivations and fan identification incl. significance and Pearson correlation coefficients greater than 0.5
Figure 6: Conceptual framework with spectator motivations and fan identification incl. significance and Pearson correlation coefficients greater than 0.5

Validity, reliability and model fit

As specified in Figure 4, all applied scales, except for the “drama” scale (with items DRM1/2/3), are above the suggested threshold of α>0.7 (Saunders et al., 2007). Yet, values for CR are higher than the suggested 0.6 and all scales can therefore be accepted (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). An exploratory factor analysis (PCA; Varimax with Kaiser Normalization) computed eight factors for the eight spectator motives, as expected, and all items loaded clearly onto a specific factor with a value above .3 (cf. Costello and Osborne, 2005). 

Structural equation modeling was applied to evaluate the model fit, through which the following values were computed: RMSEA = .066, GFI = .811, CFI = .914, NFI = .821, TLI = .898, AGFI = .762, PGFI = .644, and PNFI = .694. All values except PGFI and PNFI are slightly off the recommended threshold values (see ‘indication of good fit’ here). This may be due to the low number of respondents. 

Section 5: Conclusion

This study examined the motivations for spectators of the Wilder vs Fury II boxing event and their influence on fan identification. The Motivations Scale for Sports Consumption (MSSC) suggested by Trail (2012) was adapted and successfully applied to collect data from 169 people interested in boxing on Twitter. The spectator motivations that recorded highest importance regarding wanting to watch the Wilder vs Fury rematch include the elements of aesthetics, drama, acquiring knowledge about the sport, and physical skills of the boxers. The fan identification variable “being a fan of boxing” was deemed more important than “identifying with the favourite boxer” in regard to motivation to watch the fight. Vicarious achievement, aesthetics, and acquiring knowledge about the sport were identified as spectator motivations with the highest influence on fan identification.

One limitation of the research is the large percentage of British respondents (71.6%) and the very large percentage of male respondents (95.9%) within the employed sample. A further limitation is the relatively scarce body of research that applies the MSSC in the sport of boxing, making it difficult to assess the viability of the results of this study.

This study contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of spectator motivations in sports consumption. It offers findings of how spectators are motivated to view an internationally acclaimed boxing event and recommends high-level marketing and communications tactics.

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