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While sports fandom and social media advertising have been widely studied, and all major, professional teams use social media campaigns for direct sales, there is surprisingly little research on the relationship between fans’ social media engagement behavior (SMEB) and their purchase intention (PI), and none that differentiates PI across different platforms and sports contexts. This study addresses those gaps by exploring (a) how different kinds of fans engage their teams’ advertising on various social media and (b) how those different behaviors predict PI in different contexts. To do so, we utilized an SMEB framework to interpret survey data (N = 452) of U.S. sports fans’ social media engagement with their favorite teams over six popular platforms for two situations—in-game and out-of-game. Regression analyses determined the extent to which those behaviors predict PI across different sports and platforms during and outside of games. Our results show that fan SMEB varies by sport, platform, and situation. Furthermore, we found that information-acquiring social media behaviors—such as checking scores—best predict PI in-game, while fan-identity cultivation social media behaviors—such as posting—best predict PI out-of-game. In addition, PI predictability varies across platform and game situation, but not across age, gender, or even level of fandom. By contextualizing the relationship between fan SMEB and PI, our study lays a foundation to address these lingering gaps in the sport communication literature while providing actionable insights for teams and brands seeking more effective sales campaigns across an array of social media.
Steiner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5742-6462