Market Segmentation: Validating a Qualitative Algorithm to Examine Stages of Consumer Involvement in Sport

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The purpose of this research is to empirically validate a staging mechanism to segment consumers of hedonic service experiences; sport participants and sport spectators. Theoretically, the stages concept suggests consumers can be assigned according to certain characteristics to a distinct stage from a specific number of stages. Consumers within a given stage are similar in attitudinal and behavioral characteristics while consumers across stages significantly differ in terms of these same characteristics. The multi-dimensional nature of involvement is used to operationalize the stage-based theoretical framework provided by the Psychological Continuum Model (Funk & James, 2001; 2006) which classifies consumers into four hierarchical stages: Awareness, Attraction, Attachment and Allegiance. These four stages reflect the progressive development of a psychological connection to a hedonic consumption activity. Three studies were conducted to provide empirical evidence to validate a three step staging procedure developed for the framework (Beaton, Funk, & Alexandris, 2009). Study 1: 1,224 recreational golfers in Queensland Australia. Study 2: 2,843 marathon and half-marathon event participants in Philadelphia United States. Study 3: 421 sport fans from New South Wales and Victoria in Australia. The staging mechanism proceeds as follows. First, mean scores are calculated for three involvement facets of centrality, sign and pleasure. Second, involvement mean scores are used to create unique consumer profiles based on low, moderate and high categories on each facet (33 = potentially 27 unique profiles). In the final step, consumers are segmented into a specific stage using a qualitative algorithm (i.e., decision tree) specifically developed for the PCM framework. Once stage-placed, the discrete nature of stages was tested using MANOVA through examination of the attitudinal characteristic resistance to change (i.e., commitment) and the behavioral characteristic frequency of self-reported behavior. Across the three samples, results revealed that mean scores for commitment and behavior significantly differed among each of the four stages (p < .01). In addition, commitment and behavior levels incrementally increased from Awareness to Attraction to Attachment to Allegiance. The application and analysis of the staging mechanism revealed that as the level of psychological connection with the hedonic consumption activity progressively increased; so to did the level of attitudinal and behavioral engagement. Implications of this research suggest that different stages give rise to the notion that equally different consumer processes maybe be at work between the stages. SPSS syntax is provided to allow for application of the three step stage-based segmentation procedure for large data samples.


This article was originally published in Proceedings of the 2010 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Proceedings of the 2010 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference


© Academy of Marketing Science 2015