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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Marketing | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sports Management
Team identification is among the most widely studied concepts in sport fan behavior. This is largely due to the fact that highly identified fans exhibit drastically different and more avid consumption and purchase behavior compared to those low and/or moderate on team identification. Most notably, this has been manifested in a greater propensity to attend games, watch the team on television, and purchase team merchandise. While the study of team identification has focused both on its development and outcomes, one constant is that scholars have generally assumed team identification to take the form of a healthy and positive team attachment. In this dissertation, I argue that this is not necessarily always the case. Drawing on literature from social psychology on the construct of collective narcissism, I argue that sport fans’ identification with their favorite team(s) may take a collectively narcissistic form that results in drastically different outcomes and behavioral responses compared to the generally positive team identification that has been so vigorously studied in the literature.
I investigate this phenomenon through a mixed method approach designed to explore both the roots and outcomes of collectively narcissistic fandom. In study 1, I explain how collective narcissism relates to and can extend a number of literature streams in the field of sport fan behavior that are most commonly associated with team identification. Furthermore, I leverage hierarchical regression techniques to explore the extent to which collective narcissism can explain additional variance over and above team identification in these commonly studied outcome variables. In study 2, I conduct in-depth semi-structured interviews with participants from the first study who registered particularly high on the collective narcissism scale. Through this effort, I seek to extend the general literature on collective narcissism by exploring the roots of this form of ingroup identification and elucidating how it develops. Finally, in study 3, I aim to demonstrate the drastically different behavioral responses exhibited by collective narcissists in comparison to mere highly identified fans facing team criticism in the context of sport rivalries.
In sum, these three studies underscore the pivotal role collective narcissism plays in sport fans’ identification with their favorite team(s). I posit that collective narcissism exists to varying degrees in virtually every sport fans’ team identification. Moreover, it is this element of identification that is responsible for many of the behavioral outcomes commonly exhibited by highly identified sport fans. Collectively, the three studies contribute to a more complete understanding of team identification and the various forms it may take. A growing body of literature has sought to extend the concept of team identification by examining the various elements that contribute to its makeup, but has assumed identification to take a positive and healthy form. The current research fills this gap by exploring the development and outcomes of a collectively narcissistic form of team identification. Moreover, these studies provide insight for sport managers seeking to better understand many of the idiosyncratic traits and behaviors of sport fans and leverage this understanding with more effective marketing communications moving forward.
Larkin, Ben, "Exploring the role of collective narcissism in sport team identification" (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. 915.