Classifying sport consumers: From casual to tribal fans

David P. Hedlund, Rui Biscaia, and Maria do Carmo Leal


Sport fans rarely attend sporting events alone. While traditional consumer and sport fan behavior research often examines fans based on demographic characteristics, recent advances in understanding how sport fans co-create and co-consume sporting events provides substantial evidence that sports fans should be examined as tribal groups. Tribal sport fan groups can be identified based on seven dimensions, including membership; geographic sense of community; social recognition; shared rivalry; and shared knowledge of symbols, rituals and traditions, and people. In this research, these seven dimensions are used to classify sport fans (n=1505) through hierarchical and k-cluster analyses. The results of the cluster analyses using the seven dimensions suggest six unique clusters, labelled as (1) casual fans, (2) moderate remote fans, (3) moderate local fans, (4) local developing tribal fans, (5) remote tribal fans, and (6) tribal fans. A discussion of these six fan groups and the implications regarding associations with demographics and other important variables are provided.