Bringing Baseball to the Big Screen: Building Sense of Community Outside of the Ballpark

in Journal of Sport Management
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Sport fandom, particularly game attendance, offers an opportunity for social interaction. However, actual attendance at sport events is unrealistic for many individuals. In an attempt to foster a sense of community among such fans, sport marketers have begun to create additional consumption sites by televising live games in central locations, such as in a movie theater. This study examines the motives and experiences of fans who attend a cinema to view live baseball games. Data were collected through participant observation, a survey distributed to event attendees (n = 188), and focus groups. Results suggest that the sense of community and social environment created at the cinema were key factors in the viewing experience. The cinema provided individuals a collective viewing experience with likeminded fans, which helped create a stadium-like environment. This atmosphere, which affords the opportunity to focus on the game (compared with viewing at home or in pubs), allows fans to feel more connected to the team as they believe the cinema offers an authentic environment. Thus, providing sites for fans to view the game with likeminded fans outside of the stadium can be used as a means of creating social ties that could lead to increased fan loyalty. For some individuals, the cinema experience was preferred over that of the ballpark.

Fairley is with the School of Tourism, Faculty of Business, Economies and Law, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Tyler is with the Dept. of Sport Management, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC.

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