Spectator Responses to Perceptions of the Sport Product

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Conference Proceeding

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Similar to Saint Augustine's reference to time back in 354-430 AD, free time spent viewing a leisure experience, and more narrowly spectator sports, remains difficult to understand or define. Few settings or experiences in our society record greater exposure or have such a pervasive influence as sports do (Michener, 1976). Herbert Hoover's observation, that "next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution", still rings true. Indeed, for many the experience of going to a stadium is half like going to a political rally, half like going to church (Novak, 1976). What is the universal language of these experiences? Why do they grab so many millions? Where is its secret power of attraction, and why do we care so much? While casual social observers may find it tough to define what constitutes the [sport product] experience, participants certainly know when these experiences take on greater meaning than others. Perceptions of a spectator experience (its attributes and their meaning) have been suggested as central to the description of how people become increasingly involved with different leisure activities (Funk & James, 200 l; James, 2001; Laurent & Kapferer, 1987), and what sort of behavioral and attitudinal responses may be undertaken as a result of this interaction. One theoretical model developed by Bloch and Richins (1983) has been used to explain how sources of stimuli (i.e. Situational and Personal Characteristics) impact on perceptions of a leisure experience [product], and how these in turn impact on a consumer's response.

The purpose of this paper is to examine how different personal and situational factors influence perceptions of a sport experience, and how these sources relate to certain attitudinal and behavioral outcomes within a context of experiential consumption (Havitz & Dimanche, 1999; Hirshman & Hoolbrook, 1983). Leisure consumption and spectator sport in particular reflect emotional and subjective reactions to objects that are predominately experiential (Gantz & Wenner, 1991; Holt, 1995). As such, the area provides a fruitful arena for examining how different stimuli alter perceptions of a leisure experience. Results of the inquiry will not only contribute new information on the nature of spectator involvement, but help practitioners develop experience-driven strategies for managing events effectively.


This conference proceeding was originally published in Canadian Congress on Leisure Research.

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Canadian Congress on Leisure Research

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