Boxing

Intention to watch women’s boxing: Cognitive aspects of fans’ attitudes and their effects on consumption intentions

Consumption intentions for women’s sports and their respective marketing activities are under-researched in academia (Mumcu et al., 2016). Growing interest from global audiences and businesses highlights women’s sports potential and underline the importance for empirical research (Deloitte, 2021). This study aims to

  • examine cognitive aspects of fans’ attitudes toward women’s boxing, i.e. media product attributes, and their effects on intention to watch women’s boxing either in a venue or on TV/streaming (see Section 5.1 and 5.2) and
  • offer recommendations on how to develop and strengthen the intention to watch women’s boxing (see Section 5.3).

An online questionnaire with an adaptation of the Attitude toward Women’s Sports (ATWS) scale developed by Mumcu and Marley (2017) was used to collect answers from 354 fans of boxing, mostly from Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK), upon which a regression analysis was conducted to answer the two research questions defined in Section 1. The study found that excitement, aesthetic, accessibility, and athlete quality are significant predictors of women’s boxing fans’ consumption intentions, with excitement being the strongest predictor. Furthermore, results suggest that identification with a boxer has a strong, positive and significant effect on the intention to watch a women’s boxing event, as well as on being a fan of boxing. Additionally, being a fan of boxing has a positive and significant, although low effect on consumption intentions for women’s boxing of the sample. These are novel insights into how media product attributes of women’s boxing need to be promoted to potential viewers in order to create or strengthen the intention to watch a respective event.

Section 1: Background to the research

The Olympic Games included women’s boxing as an official sport for the London Olympics in 2012, upon which the UK saw a considerable increase in female participation in boxing compared to males (Graham et al., 2017). Lowe (2016) stated in an essay in the New York Times that ‘women had been boxing in the shadows for too long’, referring to the need for changing the attitude towards female fighters and offering better organisational support for women’s boxing on a professional level. Olympic gold medallists such as American boxer Claressa Shields and Irish boxer Katie Taylor helped launch a new era of women’s boxing when starting their professional boxing careers in 2016 (Richcreek, 2016; Browne, 2020; RTE, 2020). By 2020, Katie Taylor was undisputed lightweight champion and attracted over 2 million viewers for her bout against Miriam Gutierrez across Ireland and the UK (Sky Sports, 2020). Similarly, by 2021, Claressa Shields was a two-division undisputed champion and had attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers to pay-per-view events (Rothstein, 2021). This proves the commercial potential of the women’s boxing niche and that female boxers can establish a global brand with superstar potential to attract noteworthy audiences (cf. Casey, 2020). 

The appropriate design and marketing communications of a respective women’s boxing event can persuade audiences to consume the offered sports product (Spoelstra, 2001). This follows the notion of sport and event consumer behaviour that can be defined 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” (Funk, 2008, p. 6). The Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC) developed by Trail and James (2001) is one of the tools through which the consumption intention of a sporting event can be evaluated. Although the MSSC is widely popular, it does not focus specifically on women’s sports. Mumcu and Marley (2017) developed the Attitude toward Women’s Sports (ATWS) scale to focus on cognitive and affective aspects of attitude in women’s sports, with cognitive components (i.e. product attributes) including excitement, opportunity for women, accessibility, aesthetic, drama, entertainment price, and athlete quality. 

The main purpose of this study is to examine cognitive components of fans’ attitudes toward women’s boxing and their effects on consumption intentions either in a venue or on TV/streaming, which leads to research question 1 (RQ1): Which attributes of women’s boxing are important to viewers and predict their intention to watch an event?

Further consideration should be offered to how consumption intentions may be affected by the degree that viewers identify with a boxer (cf. Wann and Branscombe, 1993) or classify as a fan of boxing (cf. Hsieh et al., 2011). This leads to research question 2 (RQ2): How is the intention to watch women’s boxing affected by viewers’ identification with a boxer and their general fanship of boxing?

In order to offer a holistic perspective, this study will also examine the influence the above-mentioned boxing product attributes have on identification with a boxer and being a fan of boxing. Findings of this study will be used as the foundation for recommendations on how to develop and strengthen the intention to watch women’s boxing; see Section 5.3.

Section 2: Definitions and research frameworks 

Based upon the items applied within the Attitude toward Women’s Sports (ATWS) scale (Mumcu and Marley, 2017) and extant literature, the variables assessed in this research are defined as follows:

  • Excitement reflects “high intensity positive feelings reported by individuals” (Jones et al., 2005, p. 411) about women’s boxing. This component seeks to assess the atmosphere and enthusiasm surrounding women’s boxing. 
  • Opportunity for women refers to increasing chances for female athletes in sports, creating areas that women can take part in sports, and gaining gender equality in sports. 
  • Accessibility signifies the ease (or difficulty) to find information about women’s boxing and access women’s boxing competitions based on availability.
  • Aesthetic can be defined as “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). Viewers may be attracted to women’s boxing because they perceive the sport as an aesthetically pleasing form of art.
  • Drama is “the enjoyment of uncertainty and dramatic turns of events in media content such as sports” (Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017, p. 10). Boxing can be dramatic, because of its unscripted nature and the unpredictability of a fight, which can be turned around or ended with a single punch.
  • Athlete quality refers to the expertise and skills of female boxers and their potential recognizability. An athlete’s capability of delivering the promised performance, i.e. a highly skilled athletic performance, to viewers can strengthen her credibility as a professional sportswoman (cf. Kim et al., 2008).
  • The desired consumption behaviour intention to watch women’s boxing is defined as the intent of a potential spectator to watch women’s boxing in the future at least as much as in recent times and as soon as she or he has the chance.

For the variables examining fan identification, this study adopts the definitions noted in Mereu (2020a):

  • 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).
  • 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).

Mumcu et al. (2016) included entertainment price within their research. That component was excluded from this research, because women’s boxing events are often offered via subscription-based channels such as DAZN or Sky Sports at a monthly flat-fee (see DAZN, 2021; Sky Sports, 2021a). Furthermore, women’s boxing matches are often offered in combination with men’s boxing (see Twitter.com/MatchroomBoxing, 2021a; Facebook.com/MatchroomBoxing, 2021). Because the evaluation of the component seems unnecessary from a methodological perspective, it was excluded from this study.

Figure 1 depicts the research framework applied to answer research question 1.

Figure 1: Research framework 1. Effects of cognitive components, i.e. product attributes, on consumption intentions, i.e. intention to watch a boxing event, and fan identification

The research framework portrayed in Figure 2 is applied to answer research question 2.

Figure 2: Research framework 2. Effects of viewers’ identification with a boxer and their fanship of boxing on the intention to watch women’s boxing

Section 3: Methodology and sample

An adaptation of the ATWS scale suggested by Mumcu et al. (2016) was applied to collect data within research framework 1 for this study in order to answer RQ1. Two further scales were added in reference to research framework 2 in order to answer RQ2, namely fan of boxing (adapted from Wann and Branscombe, 1993) and identification with a boxer (adapted from Hsieh et al., 2011). Although both research frameworks could have been combined and visualised as one framework, the decision to display them individually was made for the benefit of a clearer structure of this article. A final, combined research framework is offered in Figure 12 in the conclusion in Section 7.

The questionnaire-items are presented in Figure 4 in the next section. The questionnaire comprises 28 items on the researched topic and 3 additional questions on participants’ demography. The wording for all items was kept as close as possible to the wording used by Mumcu et al. (2016). Select items were removed with the intention to reduce the number of questions and increase the response rate (cf. Sokolova and Kefi, 2019). All items were measured with a 7-point Likert-scale ranging from 1 (‘disagree very strongly’ or ‘not at all […]’) to 7 (‘agree very strongly’ or ‘very much […]’). Fans and followers of boxing were asked to participate in the survey via social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Data was collected from Wednesday, 9 December 2020 to Monday, 21 December 2020.

The questionnaire was completed by 354 respondents; all responses were accepted. Male participants amount for 78.5% of the sample, whereas female participants make up 21.5%. Respondents are dispersed across age groups with 45 to 54-year-olds consisting of 26.3% of the participants, 35 to 44-year-olds reaching 25.7%, 55 to 64-year olds comprising 17.8% of the sample, and 25 to 34-year-olds reaching 11.6%. The other age groups make up less than 10% each of the sample. The majority of the respondents lives in the Republic of Ireland (51.4%) and the United Kingdom (33.6%). Consequently, this study can be considered to mainly reflect the perspective of a more masculine Generation X audience (cf. PEW Research Center, 2019) from Great Britain; see Figure 3.

Figure 3: Demography of the sample (n=354)

Section 4: Results 

Figure 4 provides an overview of the question-items with the composite score addressing the overall degree by which respondents are motivated by a respective component. Additionally, the table offers the scores for the mean of individual items, standard deviation (STDEV), and factor loading, as well as Cronbach’s Alpha (α), composite reliability (CR) and average variance extracted (AVE). Mean and standard deviation results will be described in the following paragraphs. Internal consistency and reliability will be discussed in Section 6.

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

Section 4.1: Cognitive components (i.e. product attributes)

Excitement. Respondents agree with the statement ‘Women’s boxing is exciting’ (EXC1, M=5.07, STDEV=1.880) and rather agree with ‘Women’s boxing provides a good atmosphere’ (EXC2, M=4.93, STDEV=1.848), but do not necessarily think that ‘There is high level of excitement around women’s boxing’ (EXC3, M=4.42, STDEV=1.870). All three items record a moderately high standard deviation, meaning that respondents rather agree with each other in regard to the excitement variable. Based upon these results, promoters are advised to foster experiential activities that create a more exciting atmosphere around women’s boxing and to convey that atmosphere to the potential target audience via appropriate communication channels and contents. 

Opportunity for women. The two items ‘Women’s boxing increases opportunities for women in sports’ (OPP1, M=5.65, STDEV=1.599) and ‘Women’s boxing creates areas that women can take part in sports’ (OPP2, M=5.80, STDEV=1.492) record the second-highest and highest mean score and have among the lowest standard deviation across all items. Furthermore, although respondents generally think that ‘Women’s boxing plays a leader role in gaining gender equality in sports’ (OPP3, M=5.16, STDEV=1.921), its standard deviation is relatively high, indicating slight disagreement within the sample. This shows that although women’s boxing is perceived as providing opportunities for female athletes, improving gender equality and communicating the measures taken may need to be emphasised through marketing and communication activities. 

Accessibility. Respondents have a neutral attitude towards the statements ‘It is easy to find information about women’s boxing’ (ACC1, M=4.13, STDEV=1.624), as well as with ‘Women’s boxing can easily be accessed via television or the internet’ (ACC2, M=4.24, STDEV=1.667) and that ‘There are lots of opportunities to watch women’s boxing competitions’ (ACC3, M=3.62, STDEV=1.610). The standard deviation for the three items is among the lowest across the questionnaire, highlighting agreement between participants in regard to the sport’s accessibility. Compared to the other variables, accessibility records the lowest composite score (ACC, Mcomp=4.00), which indicates that the sample of this study perceives women’s boxing not to be easily accessible. Hence, efforts should be undertaken to improve the ease by which information about the sport and its athletes can be found and events can be viewed. 

Aesthetic. The sample exhibits a neutral attitude towards the statements ‘There is a certain natural beauty to women’s boxing’ (AES1, M=3.79, STDEV=2.028), ‘Women’s boxing is a form of art’ (AES2, M=4.32, STDEV=2.145), and ‘Women’s boxing is aesthetically pleasing’ (AES3, M=4.01, STDEV=2.073). However, all three items record high standard deviations, meaning that respondents have considerably different opinions in regard to the aesthetics of women’s boxing. Given that the composite score is the second-lowest across all variables (AES, Mcomp=4.04), communication highlighting the aesthetic attributes of women’s boxing that differentiate the sport from other combat sports should be considered. 

Drama. The three items assessing the dramatic and uncertain outcome of women’s boxing, namely ‘Women’s boxing fights are usually tight fights’ (DRA1, M=4.44, STDEV=1.600), ‘Women’s boxing fights are usually NOT one-sided’ (DRA2, M=4.30, STDEV=1.508), and ‘Women’s boxing fights are usually dramatic fights’ (DRA3, M=4.18, STDEV=1.595), record a moderate attitude from respondents. The low standard deviation, in comparison to other items, suggests agreement among respondents. These results imply that women’s boxing is not necessarily perceived as dramatic. Depending on the variable’s degree of influence on consumption behaviour, and the desired storyline, the perceived dramatic atmosphere needs to be adjusted accordingly. 

Athlete quality. Respondents agree when asked, if they think that ‘Female boxers are experts at their sport’ (ATQ1, M=5.55, STDEV=1.693), ‘Women’s boxing has recognizable athletes’ (ATQ2, M=5.49, STDEV=1.804), and ‘Female boxers have excellent skills’ (ATQ3, M=5.65, STDEV=1.675). Although the composite score of the variable is the highest across all variables (ATQ, Mcomp=5.56), all three items show a rather moderate standard deviation indicating only slight disagreement among respondents. This means, characteristics that accentuate a boxer’s quality could benefit from clearer emphasis in dedicated marketing communication efforts when promoting an event. 

Section 4.2: Consumption behaviour and fan identification

Intention to watch women’s boxing. The sample agrees with the statements ‘I predict that I will keep watching women’s boxing on TV and/or online in the future at least as much as I have watched lately’ (WAI1, M=5.03, STEDEV=2.150) and ‘I intend to watch women’s boxing at least as often within the next few months as I have previously watched’ (WAI2, M=5.00, STEDEV=2.157). However, when asked if they ‘plan to watch women’s boxing as soon as [they] have the chance’ (WAI3, M=4.42, STEDEV=2.189), the sample’s motivation is rather moderate. Nevertheless, all three items show among the highest standard deviation across the questionnaire. Thus, respondents’ motivations can be considered to differ substantially. Yet, these results indicate a rather positive attitude towards future consumption of women’s boxing. 

Fan of boxing. There is strong agreement with the statement ‘I consider myself to be a fan of boxing, the sport’ (FAN1, M=5.49, STEDEV=1.859), although the item’s standard deviation is moderate, implying relative agreement among respondents. The sample only moderately agrees with the statements ‘I believe that following boxing is one of the most enjoyable forms of entertainment’ (FAN2, M=4.93, STEDEV=1.962), and ‘My friends see me as a boxing fan’ (FAN3, M=4.66, STEDEV=2.157). The recorded standard deviation suggests disagreement within the sample, especially with the item FAN3. Nevertheless, the composite score of this variable suggests that respondents can generally be considered to be fans of boxing (FAN, Mcomp=5.03). 

Identification with a boxer. The four items ‘How important to you is it that the boxer you support wins?’ (IDB1, M=4.89, STEDEV=1.709), ‘How strongly do you see yourself as a fan of that boxer?’ (IDB2, M=4.98, STEDEV=1.715), ‘How strongly do your friends see you as a fan of that boxer?’ (IDB3, M=4.31, STEDEV=1.856), and ‘How closely do you follow the boxer via any media?’ (IDB4, M=4.57, STEDEV=1.902) record a moderate-to-strong attitude with moderate standard deviation. This hints towards a certain tendency of respondents to identify with a boxer. However, the composite score of this variable (IDB, Mcomp=4.69) is lower than the composite score of fans of boxing (FAN, Mcomp=5.03), which implies that respondents can rather be considered fans of boxing and less fans of a specific boxer.

Section 5: Effects of product attributes and fan identification on the intention to watch women’s boxing 

The following section analyses how cognitive aspects of fans’ attitudes toward women’s boxing (i.e. product attributes) and fan identification influence the intention to watch women’s boxing. Figure 5 offers a visual representation of the standardised regression coefficients (β) within research framework 1 of this study and is explained in Section 5.1. Figure 6 provides a visual representation of the standardised regression coefficients (β) within research framework 2 and is explained in Section 5.2. IBM AMOS 25 was used to compute the data. 

Section 5.1: Attributes of women’s boxing that are important to viewers and predict their intention to watch an event

Intention to watch women’s boxing. As presented in Figure 5, research framework 1 illustrates that excitement has a strong and highly significant effect on the intention to watch women’s boxing (β=0.625, p<0.001). Aesthetic has the second-strongest effect on the intention to watch women’s boxing. Although its influence is highly significant, it is rather modest (β=0.249, p<0.001). The effect of athlete quality on the intention to watch the sport is again rather modest, but significant (β=0.182, p<0.01). Accessibility to women’s boxing records a low influence on the intention to watch an event and is moderately significant (β=0.098, p<0.05). The product attributes opportunity for women and drama are found to be non-significant and are therefore only considered with reservations. Hence, promoters and marketers should focus mainly on the product attributes excitement and aesthetic in order to strengthen the intention to watch women’s boxing. Nevertheless, the product attributes athlete quality and accessibility should receive some consideration, too. The high squared multiple correlation score (R2=0.844) indicates a high predictability of the intention to watch women’s boxing from the significant product attributes mentioned above.

Fan of boxing. Two product attributes record a high significant effect on boxing fanship, namely accessibility (β=0.405, p<0.001) and aesthetic (β=0.359, p<0.001), both with moderate strength. All other variables are found to be non-significant. This means that, in relation to the sample of this study, only accessibility to women’s boxing and respective information about the sport, as well as the perceived beauty and its art-form may strengthen the attitude of fans of boxing. Moreover, the squared multiple correlation score R2=0.578 implies a satisfactorily high predictability of the attitude of fans of boxing from these two product attributes.

Identification with a Boxer. All product attributes except for drama record a moderately-to-highly significant effect on the identification with a boxer. Nevertheless, Figure 5 depicts that all significant attributes indicate a low or relatively low influence. Furthermore, the relatively low squared multiple correlation score (R2=0.267) suggests a relatively low predictability of the identification with a boxer.

Consequently, research framework 1 offers a model with high predictability to assess the effects of product attributes on intention to watch women’s boxing. In the case at hand, main focus shall be offered to excitement and aesthetic and moderate focus to athlete quality and accessibility. Similarly, research framework 1 offers an adequate model to evaluate the influence of product attributes on the dependent variable ‘fan of boxing’. The model is only somewhat adequate to measure the effects of the women’s boxing product attributes on ‘identification with a boxer’. Hence, recommendations in Section 5.3 will focus on strengthening the effects of product attributes on the intention to watch women’s boxing and touch upon possible activities to improve effects on the other two dependant variables.

Figure 5: Research framework 1. Standardised regression coefficients (β)

Section 5.2: Effects of spectators’ identification with a boxer and their general fanship of boxing on the intention to watch women’s boxing

The variable identification with a boxer displays a strong and highly significant effect on being a fan of boxing (β=0.761, p<0.001). This means, if spectators identify with a boxer, they are more inclined to be or become fans of boxing. Based upon that, promoters may want to consider creating promotional content that aims at fostering brand personality of a boxer (cf. Aaker, 1997) and strengthening the relationship between the boxer and her fans (cf. Batra and Keller, 2016). The reasonable predictability of the identification with a boxer on the dependent variable fan of boxing (R2=0.578) supports the legitimacy of such efforts. 

Furthermore, the identification with a boxer exhibits a strong and highly significant influence on the intention to watch women’s boxing (β=0.520, p<0.001). Promoters are therefore advised to create promotional content that centres on the individual boxers facing each other in the upcoming bout. Figure 5 hints towards the variable athlete quality having the strongest, although rather low, and most significant influence on the variable identification with a boxer. Because of that, the above-mentioned promotional content may be most effective, if it highlights both fighters’ performance qualities (cf. Funk, 2008). However, the moderately low predictability of independent variables on the identification with a boxer (R2=0.267) relativizes the expected success of the offered suggestion. 

Lastly, the variable fan of boxing has a significant, but low effect on the intention to watch women’s boxing (β=0.162, p<0.01). This means that people who enjoy boxing in general, i.e. mainly men’s boxing, may not necessarily be interested in watching women’s boxing. Promoters are advised to build their marketing and communications efforts around conveying detailed information about boxers, creating brand personality and imagery, and elicit emotions to strengthen identification with a boxer (Batra and Keller, 2016) in order to incite consumption behaviour for a women’s boxing event. 

Figure 6: Research framework 2. Standardised regression coefficients (β)

Section 5.3: Recommendations for strengthening the intention to watch women’s boxing

As described above, in relation to this sample, the intention to watch women’s boxing is mainly influenced by excitementand aesthetics. This is supported by Mumcu et al. (2017), who found a significant relationship between excitement and consumption behaviour, and Funk (2008), who counts excitement and aesthetics of a sport towards the motives in consumer behaviour. The surveyed sample perceives a moderate level of excitement surrounding women’s boxing. Given its strong influence on consumption behaviour, promoters are advised to stimulate spectators’ intellect more strongly with dedicated marketing and communication activities. Funk (2008) explains that individuals are motivated by “opportunities for mental action and exploration from the atmospheric conditions created by the uncertainty of participation and competition and the spectacle of associated activities” (p. 24). Batra and Keller (2016) suggest to convey detailed information on product attributes after having created awareness. Given that respondents of this study are familiar with the sport and, possibly, select events, their intention to watch women’s boxing can be increased by delivering in more detail why the sport is exciting. 

A good example (in regard to boxing in general) is offered by Matchroom Boxing, a boxing promotion company: During fight week––the final week leading up to a featured boxing event––Matchroom Boxing produces a series of online videos (free to view) documenting how boxers and their teams prepare for the event. The videos are unscripted, offer a look behind the scenes, and can vaguely be considered reality TV; see a series example from the 2021 event “Canelo vs Yildirim” here [1] [2] [3]. Such content offers a realistic perspective of the story and its respective characters (Papacharissi and Mendelson, 2007). Additionally, such long-form videos can create a storyline across a number of episodes and build excitement (Vogan, 2014). This can enhance the motivation to watch the event by learning more about the story and its characters and, hence, heighten viewers’ excitement because of its unwritten and unpredictable ending (Mereu, 2020b). 

An additional example on how to bolster excitement is offered in Figure 7. The Sky Sports Boxing tweet refers to an upcoming fight between Irish boxer Katie Taylor and British boxer Natasha Jonas, which is described as a rematch of their fight from the London 2012 Summer Olympics won by Taylor, who went on to win the gold medal (Sky Sports, 2021b). The tweet could be improved by detailing what the rivalry is built upon, possibly by adding a link to an article that tells the story behind the rivalry. Telling the story behind the rivalry across a variety of communication channels, while considering different perspectives and media formats, would improve to performance of the marketing communications activities (Vogan, 2014; Batra and Keller, 2016). 

Figure 7: Example for how to build excitement. Source: Twitter.com/SkySportsBoxing (2021)

In regard to aesthetic attributes, respondents of this study find there is only moderate natural beauty to women’s boxing and, similarly, do not necessarily think that it is aesthetically pleasing; see results in Section 4.1. However, given the significant influence the aesthetic component has on the intention to watch women’s boxing, communicating relevant aesthetic attributes of women’s boxing, in order to differentiate the sport from other sports and, therefore, improve the above-mentioned perception, should be considered. Im et al. (2010) analysed visual elements and stimuli of online experiences and concluded that “aesthetic evaluations are subjective and affective judgements of visual stimuli (e.g. beautiful, pleasing, or worthy of appreciation)” (p. 282), which leads to the notion that viewers may be affected by an overall sensory experience. Although the definition for this variable may refer to the aesthetics of the sport itself, the question-items do not clearly differentiate between the sport and the athletes that perform the sport. Hence, aesthetic attributes of the sport may be expressed through its athletes and conveyed to spectators via an immersive experience (cf. Pine and Gilmore, 1999). 

This points the discourse towards bodily attributes, i.e. strength and beauty, of female combat sports athletes: Davies and Deckert (2019) suggest that a certain perceived animalistic sensuality of female boxers, created from the brutalisation of combat sports, should be reduced, and “women fighters must convince spectators that beneath their bruised body is a legitimate feminine subject”, which can be achieved by limiting “muscularity and embody and display ideals of femininity” (p. 8). Lee et al. (2017) support that notion and highlight that marketing activities focusing on physical attractiveness of female fighters can be effective in attracting spectators.

An example of an athlete that uses aesthetics, i.e. her looks, with emphasis on strength and beauty to attract spectators, is Australian boxer Ebanie Bridges. Figure 8 depicts her posing in a bikini at the weigh-in before her bout with Australian boxer Carole Earl in March 2021. This kind of aesthetic and entertaining content creates brand imagery and personality (Batra and Keller, 2016), which is in line with the intent suggested by Davies and Deckert (2019).

Figure 8: Ebanie Bridges at weigh-in before her bout with Carole Earl in March 2021. Source: Instagram.com/Ebanie_Bridges (2021)

In an interview with Michelle Phelps of Behind the Gloves, Bridges explains that she likes to look good at weigh-in. The comment is in response to a remark made on social media by her next opponent, British boxer Shannon Courtenay, who insinuated that Bridges may care more about her looks than about her performance in the ring (Twitter.com/MichellePhelps, 2021). Despite that remark, it can be observed that Courtenay’s Instagram feed shows a variety of posts that emphasise her strength and beauty in a boxing setting, as well as in a non-boxing setting, indicating a similar promotional approach as Bridges in regard to aesthetics, although focusing on online communication; see Figure 9. These examples portray possible communicative efforts to strengthen the perception that women’s boxing offers a high degree of aesthetic pleasure. 

Figure 9: Select Instagram posts from Shannon Courtenay. Source: Instagram.com/Shannon_Courtenay (2021)

Although the variables athlete quality and accessibility record rather low influence on the intention to watch women’s boxing, they should be considered to a certain degree, because of their significant effect on the above-mentioned desired behaviour. An example of how athlete quality can be portrayed is by emphasising an athlete’s performance. Funk (2008) explains that “Performance represents a desire for aesthetic and physical pleasure” (p. 24), which parallels the question-items for this study; they address an athlete’s expertise, skills, and recognisability. The tweet offered in Figure 10 by Golden Boy Promotions, an American boxing promotion firm, points potential spectators to an 11-minute online video introducing American boxer and (at the time of posting of the tweet) world title challenger Seniesa Estrada before her world championship bout on 20 March 2021. The video accentuates Estrada’s heritage, athletic ability, and artistry of boxing in order to persuade spectators of the possible world-class performance they may enjoy, if they watch the fight. These attributes parallel the attributes discussed by Funk (2008) and, hence, may strengthen the intention to watch the above-mentioned women’s boxing event. 

Figure 10: Watch the premiere of ‘World Title Bound: Seniesa Estrada’. Source: Twitter.com/GoldenBoyBoxing (2021)

Accessibility refers to how easy it is to find information about women’s boxing and access women’s boxing competitions. An example that could improve dispersion of information and access to events is to convey detailed information––possibly a schedule––of where, what kind of information or media product can be found or viewed. Figure 11 depicts an example from Matchroom Boxing for the Okolie vs Glowacki Fight Week in March 2021: The tweet offers four schedules, one for each day leading up to the featured event. The schedules explain which content is available on which day, at what time, and on which platform. This informs fans and followers and helps them not to miss first-hand information and prime media content from the promotion company of the event. 

Figure 11: Okolie vs Glowacki Fight Week Schedule. Source: Twitter.com/MatchroomBoxing (2021b)

Section 6: Internal consistency and model fit

All scales exhibit very good-to-excellent internal consistency with Cronbach’s Alpha (α) values above 0.8. Additionally, the model is considered reliable with all composite reliability (CR) values measuring above 0.7 and average variance extracted (AVE) above 0.5 (Fornell and Larcker, 1981; Chen et al., 2013). Satisfactory factor loadings of 0.7 or higher are recorded for most items. Items OPP3, AES2, DRA3, ATQ1, and ATQ2 recorded marginally below the threshold value of 0.7. Nevertheless, because of the satisfactory reliability of the scales, these items can be accepted. The model fit was measured via structural equation modelling and the following values were computed: RMSEA = .062, GFI = .872, CFI = .951, AGFI = .835. The values indicate an acceptable-to-good model fit.

Section 7: Conclusion

This study examined the cognitive aspects of fans’ attitudes toward women’s boxing, i.e. media product attributes, and their effects on the intention to watch women’s boxing either in a venue or on TV/streaming. It further offered recommendations on how to develop and strengthen the intention to watch the sport. 

Results for RQ1 suggest that excitement and aesthetics are the strongest predictors for the surveyed sample to watch a women’s boxing event. The product attributes athlete quality and accessibility may have a lower level of influence on consumption behaviour, but are significant. Therefore, promoters should consider them for marketing and communication activities. Excitement could be enhanced by offering a realistic perspective on women’s boxing and its respective characters through a variety of media products across different communication channels. Aesthetic attributes of women’s boxing can be conveyed through media products that focus on strength and beauty of female athletes. Emphasising a boxer’s performance via promotional posts on a variety of communication channels, could improve the perception that the audience has of that athlete’s quality. Lastly, accessibility to information and competitions of women’s boxing can be improved by delivering detailed information about access possibilities, first-hand via a promotion company’s owned media and through dedicated media partners in order to reach a wider audience.

Results for RQ2 show that the intention to watch women’s boxing is strongly affected by respondents’ identification with a boxer and only modestly affected by respondents being fans of boxing. For that matter, in order to stimulate people to watch women’s boxing, marketing and communications activities should revolve around disseminating detailed information about boxers, creating brand personality and imagery, and elicit emotions to strengthen identification with a boxer.

Limitations of this research include the sample, which mainly reflects the perspective of a more masculine Generation X audience from Great Britain; a larger sample size (n=354) may offer more accurate results. Furthermore, the data fits the model adequately, but improvement would be beneficial. Lastly, recommendations provided in Section 5.3 are based on available literature and critical observations, but may benefit from input from boxing promoters, marketing managers, or athletes, who create such contents. 

Figure 12 offers a final research framework that combines research framework 1 and 2. It displays the values essential to this research. 

Figure 12: Final research framework. Combined from research framework 1 and 2

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