Chapter 4 – Perceptions of Rival Teams

We have discussed how and why people affiliate with a sport team, what rivalry is, and how the presence of a rival team or group can impact a fan’s psychology.  In this chapter, we will discuss how fan perceptions of a rival team are measured.  Specifically, we will focus on the Sport Rivalry Fan Perception Scale (SRFPS: Havard Gray, Gould, Sharp, & Schaffer, 2013) and how it is has been used to study fan behavior.

The development of the SRFPS begins from an observation I made during the 2008 football season.  In that season, my favorite team, the Texas Longhorns were top 5 in the national football rankings.  When they played the Oklahoma Sooners, ranked #1 in the nation, in their annual rivalry game, the Longhorns won the game and vaulted up the rankings to #2.  Later in the season, the Longhorns lost to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  The Longhorns won the rest of their games to finish with one loss.  The Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Red Raiders, meaning those two teams also ended the regular season with one loss.  There was three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 South division, and the representative to the conference championship game ended up being determined by BCS rankings (this was the fifth tiebreaker used by the Big 12 Conference!).  The Oklahoma Sooners edged out the Longhorns by 0.0128 points in the BCS Standings, meaning that they would represent the Big 12 South in the conference championship game.  The Sooners went on to win the championship game handily, and were chosen to play in the national championship game against the Florida Gators.  After the Texas Longhorns defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in a close game at the Fiesta Bowl, I eagerly awaited watching the Sooners and Gators play.

Something felt different as I mentally prepared to watch the national championship game.  I found myself wanting the Florida Gators to win the game, even though I had no affiliation with the Gators.  In fact, if I had any affiliation with either team, it should have been with the Oklahoma Sooners (however as we saw in Chapter 3 people have a hard time supporting their biggest rival in indirect competition).  Interestingly, this feeling was in direct conflict with the 2000 football season, when I wanted the Sooners to beat the LSU Tigers in the national championship because I wanted a Big 12 team to win.  Back to the Sooners and Gators, while watching the game, I started to think about why I wanted the Gators to win.  After much thought, it dawned on me that for me it wasn’t that I necessarily wanted Florida to win the game, I just didn’t want Oklahoma to be national champions.  After the game, which Florida won, I started thinking that other people must feel the way I do about their rival teams.  So I began interviewing sport fans about their relationships with their favorite teams and their rival teams (more on that later).

Through the interviews, I compiled a list of 112 statements that reflected fans’ views and perceptions of their rival teams.  Through a pilot study, the list was narrowed to 58 statements.  Then, following the criteria for creating marketing measures used by Churchill (1979), I first presented the list of items to a panel of experts in sport marketing and fan behavior.  After the expert panel, some items were eliminated, combined, or reworded.  The items were then sent to a sample of college athletics fans and they provided their responses to the items on a Likert-scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree).  After the data was collected, it was analyzed to see what factors emerged from the statements.  These factors and statements were then sent back to the expert panel for additional feedback.  Finally, a second sample of sport fans were presented with the items and responses were analyzed to validate the SRFPS.

The final SPRFS contained four factors and 12 items (see the figures on pages 25 and 26).  Each factor was made up of three items, and measured (1) a fans’ likelihood to support their rival in a game not involving the rival – OIC (this is like the championship game between Oklahoma and Florida), (2) fans’ perceptions of academic prestige of the rival institution – OP, (3) perceptions of rival team fan behavior – OS, and (4) the sense of satisfaction a fan experienced when their favorite team defeated their rival – SoS (Havard, Gray, Gould, Sharp, & Schaffer, 2013).  The items in the OP, OS, and SoS factors were worded so that higher scores indicated stronger negative perceptions toward the rival team.  The OIC items were worded so that higher scores meant more likelihood to support the rival in indirect competition (in subsequent studies, the OIC items have typically been reversed coded to be consistent with the other factors).  In general, fans have indicated that they are not willing to support their rival when they play other teams, believe the academic prestige of the rival school is somewhat prestigious, somewhat believe rival fans behave poorly at games, and experience great sense of satisfaction when their favorite team beats the rival team.

The SRFPS has most frequently been used in college athletics to measure fan perceptions of rival teams and what variables impact how a fan views their rival.  For example, variables such as team identification (Havard, Eddy, & Ryan, 2016), consumption habits, type of sport team, outcome of the most recent rivalry game (Havard, Reams, & Gray, 2013), team affiliation (Havard, 2016), conference affiliation (Havard & Reams, 2016), and conference realignment (Havard, Wann, & Ryan, 2013) can impact how a fan perceives a rival team.  Additionally, rival perceptions can impact things like favorite team consumption (Havard, Eddy, & Ryan, 2016; Havard, Shapiro, & Ridinger, 2016) and likelihood to celebrate when a rival team loses in indirect competition (Havard & Hutchinson, 2017; Havard, Inoue, & Ryan, 2017).  A fan’s perceptions of their rival team can even play a role in their decisions to draft a player for their fantasy football team (Spinda & Havard, 2016).

Recently, the SRFPS has been modified so that it can be used in professional sport settings.  In particular, the items in the OAP factor were modified to reflect a fan’s perception of the city or area where the rival team plays rather than the academic prestige of the rival institution (Havard & Hutchinson, 2016).  The modified version of the SRFPS was validated and found to be reliable to measure rival perceptions of professional and international sport fans (Havard, Inoue, & Ryan, 2016).                                                                                                                                                                                  

Activity #6

Using the SRFPS on pages 28 and 29 (use the College Sport or Professional Sport version depending on your favorite team), indicate your responses for each item regarding your favorite team’s biggest rival on a separate piece of paper.  Once you have done that, you can average your responses to measure your perceptions for (1) each rival factor and (2) the overall rivalry scale. 

Sport Rivalry Fan Perception Scale (SRFPS) – College Sport

 

Please indicate your level of agreement toward the team you identified as your biggest rival for each prompt below. (Circle) (1 = Strongly Disagree, 4 = Neutral, 7 = Strongly Agree)

 

Out-Group Competition against Others (Indirect) OIC Likelihood that a fan will support the athletics efforts of the favorite team’s rival in indirect competition.
OIC1 I would support my favorite team’s rival in a championship game. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OIC2 I would support my favorite team’s rival in out-of-conference (division/league) play. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OIC3 I want my favorite team’s rival to win all games except when they play my favorite team. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Out-Group Academic Prestige OAP The amount of respect a fan has for the academic prestige of the institution where the favorite team’s rival plays.
OAP1 The academic prestige of my favorite team’s rival is poor. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OAP2 I feel people who attended school where my favorite team’s rival plays missed out on a good education. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OAP3 I feel the academics where my favorite team’s rival plays is not very prestigious. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Out-Group Sportsmanship OSThe perceptions of fan sportsmanship of the favorite team’s rival.
OS1 Fans of my favorite team’s rival demonstrate poor sportsmanship at games. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OS2 Fans of my favorite team’s rival are not well behaved at games. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OS3 Fans of my favorite team’s rival do not show respect for others. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Sense of Satisfaction SoSThe satisfaction a fan gets when their favorite team defeats the favorite team’s rival.
SoS1 I feel a sense of belonging when my favorite team beats my favorite team’s rival. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
SoS2 I feel a sense of accomplishment when my favorite team beats my favorite team’s rival. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
SoS3 I feel I have bragging rights when my favorite team beats my favorite team’s rival. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Scale of Agreement – 1 – Strongly Disagree; 2 – Disagree; 3 – Somewhat Disagree; 4 – Neutral; 5 – Somewhat Agree; 6 – Agree; 7 – Strongly Agree

Sport Rivalry Fan Perception Scale (SRFPS) – Professional Sport

 

Please indicate your level of agreement toward the team you identified as your biggest rival for each prompt below. (Circle) (1 = Strongly Disagree, 4 = Neutral, 7 = Strongly Agree)

 

Out-Group Competition against Others (Indirect) OIC Likelihood that a fan will support the athletics efforts of the favorite team’s rival in indirect competition.
OIC1 I would support my favorite team’s rival in a championship game. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OIC2 I would support my favorite team’s rival in out-of-conference (division/league) play. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OIC3 I want my favorite team’s rival to win all games except when they play my favorite team. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Out-Group Prestige OP The amount of respect a fan has for the prestige of the city or area where the favorite team’s rival plays.
OP1 The prestige of my favorite team’s rival is poor. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OP2 I feel people who live where my favorite team’s rival plays missed out on a good life. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OP3 I feel the city/area where my favorite team’s rival plays is not very prestigious. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Out-Group Sportsmanship OSThe perceptions of fan sportsmanship of the favorite team’s rival.
OS1 Fans of my favorite team’s rival demonstrate poor sportsmanship at games. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OS2 Fans of my favorite team’s rival are not well behaved at games. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
OS3 Fans of my favorite team’s rival do not show respect for others. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Sense of Satisfaction SoSThe satisfaction a fan gets when their favorite team defeats the favorite team’s rival.
SoS1 I feel a sense of belonging when my favorite team beats my favorite team’s rival. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
SoS2 I feel a sense of accomplishment when my favorite team beats my favorite team’s rival. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
SoS3 I feel I have bragging rights when my favorite team beats my favorite team’s rival. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Scale of Agreement – 1 – Strongly Disagree; 2 – Disagree; 3 – Somewhat Disagree; 4 – Neutral; 5 – Somewhat Agree; 6 – Agree; 7 – Strongly Agree

Discussion Topic #4

So what do you think? Do you agree with your scores on SRFPS?  It seems like people typically do not score quite as high on the measure as they believed they would.  A benefit of the SRFPS is that it takes a more rounded view of rival perceptions than simply asking fans how they feel about a rival team.  By asking questions about indirect and direct competition, fan behavior, and rival prestige, we get a better picture of just how a fan perceives their favorite team’s rival.  Discuss your responses and impressions of the SRFPS and share ways you think the scale could be used to measure the impact of rivalry on sport fans.