Over and over : consumer engagement and turning sports tourists into fans

Cordina, Renzo and Gannon, Martin Joseph and Croall, Ross (2017) Over and over : consumer engagement and turning sports tourists into fans. In: Academy of Marketing: Tourism Marketing Special Interest Group (SIG), 2017-12-01 - 2017-12-01, Heriot-Watt University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Travel to consume sport is an increasingly popular and prevalent leisure pursuit (Fourie & Santana-Gallego, 2011; Fredline, 2005). From those who follow Formula 1 across the globe (Henderson et al., 2010), to Tennis’ most ardent fans (Fredline, 2005), consumers probe further afield in order to satisfy their desires for memorable and gratifying travel couched within the domain of their favourite sporting activities. Football consumption, although traditionally aligned along geographical or demographic boundaries (Jones, 2000; Porat, 2010, Conner, 2014), is no different with 800,000 overseas tourists travelling to the UK to experience matches every year (Magowan, 2015). The extent of this travel provides opportunities tangentially for service providers geographically proximate to major finals and international tournament destinations (Daniels, 2005; Prayag et al., 2013), but also at a granular level for football clubs who seek to attract, engage, and maintain access to this lucrative market of affluent consumers who spend over £680m annually (Magowan, 2015). Extant research is focused on the impact of this economic influx (Daniels, 2007; Smith, 2005, Allan et al., 2007), with little consideration given to the tourists themselves, nor the potential to engage with these one-off visitors in order to transform them into more regular sources of income. Therefore, engagement is crucial and, from an operational perspective, the football ‘industry’ has recognised this. The increasing prevalence of social media transfer announcements (Lang, 2017), innovations such as Manchester City’s newly developed glass-tunnel (Hyde 2017), and ‘city-takeover’ events aimed at bridging the gap between player-and-fan, demonstrate how football clubs are adopting unusual strategies in order to encourage consumers to believe that they have ‘behind-the-scenes’ access to the machinations of the clubs that they love. However, these attempts typically focus on local fans, neglecting those who travel to consumer sport on a regular basis. As such, the question remains, how can football clubs engage these tourists and encourage them to become ‘fans’ (through repeat visits and recommendations to friends) and thus benefit financially from their considerable spending power?