Rivalry is ubiquitous across sports, yet the representation and specification of rivalry varies widely. Such discrepancy poses problems when distinguishing between multiple out-groups and when employing rivalry to explain related questions such as demand for sport consumption. In this paper, we critically examine the many differing conceptions of rivalry and to discern properties of rivalry across different sports. We survey college football fans (N = 5,304) to empirically test the exclusivity, scale, and symmetry of rivalry; then, we replicate the study twice in the context of professional sports (1,649 National Football League fans; 1,435 National Hockey League fans). Results consistently indicate that fans perceive multiple rivals (nonexclusive), rivalry intensity varies among rivals (continuous in scale), and opposing fans rarely share equivalent perceptions of the rivalry (bidirectional). Accordingly, we develop and test a parsimonious 100-point rivalry allocation measure that specifies these three properties of rivalry.
B. David Tyler is with the College of Business, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC. Joe Cobbs is with the Department of Marketing, Economics and Sports Business, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY.