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Customer Behavior and Marketing Strategy

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Unlike in recreational sports, a spectator is one of key elements at major spectator sports such as, basketball, football, baseball, and hockey. From a sport marketer or manger perspective, if we can bring more people to our sport events, we will be able to expect more revenues in ticket and merchandise sales. Thus, proper strategies need to be developed in order to bring more customers to the event. Before we set strategies, we first need to be aware of the reasons why people attend at spectator sport and there are several of them. The first reason is a team's performance. If the quality of product is not good, customers will not buy the product. Consequently, if the team's performance is bad, people will not attend the event. Other reasons include meeting people and socializing, halftime shows, promotions, and giveaways (Tighe, 2011). Based on those motives, we can assume that customers at sporting event are influenced by marketing methods which are halftime shows and promotion besides the event itself. In addition, we also can predict that sport spectators are influenced by a motivation factor which is meeting people and socializing. Motivational factor is one of main elements when we study, that enables us to understand customer behavior. Therefore, I am going to focus on the marketing strategy and customer behavior in this literature review. Before we crate appropriate marketing strategy, we need to understand and analyze the customer behavior. Without understanding about the consumer behavior, we cannot create a good marketing plan. So, the first purpose of this literature review is to introduce an overview of the sports spectator behavior theory and analyze how a variety of factors influences the customer behavior at sporting events. Based on the research on the consumer behavior, the sport marketer or manger can develop the efficient and effective marketing strategy. Hence, the second purpose of this literature review is to know what marketing methods are used and how can we improve the marketing strategy at sporting events.

Sport Spectator Behavior

Consumer behavior consists of the actions that consumers take when making decisions about acquiring various goods and services (Tatum, n.d.). Perner (n.d.) says that consumer behavior involves complex psychological processes that consumers go through: recognizing needs, awareness or information research, evaluation of choices, making purchase decisions, experience, satisfaction evaluation, and post evaluation behavior. Those processes apply to sport consumption as well. There are a lot of factors that influence customer decision. Among them, Trail, Anderson, and Fink (2003) defined that there are six general factors: motives, level of identification, expectancies, confirmation or disconfirmation of expectancies, self esteem responses, and the affective state of the individual, and all factors interact with each other in a sport setting. I will focus particularly on motivational factor in this paper. Trail et al. (2003) explained there are nine different motives that explain why individuals attend sport events. Most of these motives are based on social and psychological needs: vicarious achievements, acquisition of knowledge, aesthetics, social interaction, drama/excitement, escape, family/friend relationships, physical attractiveness of participant, and quality of physical skill of the participants. From this explanation of motives, I want to point out that both internal and external factor influence the sport consumption. For instance, family and social interaction is a good example of external factor. Consumers are greatly influenced by significant others. Mullin, Hardy, and Sutton (2007) say that 40 percent of participants admitted that advice from friends had a strong influence on buying behavior, according to the study by the Yankelovich MONITOR. In addition, Santos (2012) has developed Trail et al.'s study and added one factor which is the customer satisfaction. According to the author, the level of customer satisfaction is determined by the quality of services provided, and the service quality can be considered as a precedent to and a consequence of satisfaction (Santos, 2012). 

Motivation Factor

Bernthal and Graham (2003) examined what motivation factors influence the fans in the different settings of the same sport. They selected two different events which were minor league and college baseball. In addition, they set nine motivation factors, and those items were divided into four categories: baseball (rivalries, quality of play and viewing outstanding players), value (ticket price and overall cost of attendance), additional entertainment (promotions/giveaways and in-game entertainment), and communal (family environment and allegiance to home team) (Bernthal & Graham, 2003). According to Bernthal and Graham (2003), the result indicated that minor league fans consider value and added entertainment to be more important in their decision to attend a ball game than did college fans, and college fans considered items related to the play of the game itself and the communal aspects of attendance to be relatively more important in attending a baseball game than did minor league fans. From this result, we can know that the sport marketer and manager needs to more consider sport itself as well as the communal aspects rather than the entertainment and value in Gopher sport. 

Environmental Factor

All sport spectator behavior cannot be explained simply by motivation factors. Thus, we also need to consider environmental factors beyond psychological motive. Environmental factor include significant others, cultural norms and values, class, gender, race, climacteric and geographic conditions, technological innovation, market behavior of sport firms, and the sport opportunity structure (Mullin et al., 2007). Based on this information, Trail et al. (2002) examined what environmental factor influenced  both male and female spectators at intercollegiate basketball game the most. Especially, they focused on pre-game factors which were: advertising/promotion, friends influence, family involvement, and ticket pricing (Trail et al. , 2002). The result indicated that ticket pricing was the most influenced factor, and friend influence, family involvement, and advertising/promotions were next on the list (Trail et al., 2002,). 

Gender.  

Gender relationships in spectator sport are another important category amongst environmental factor because the number of female spectators is growing steadily (MaCarthy, 2001). According to Yerak (2000) , women make up 46% of Major League Baseball's fan base, 46% of National Football league attendees, and 38% of the National Basketball Association fan base. Also, the size of women's sport is growing too, but we have done very little research about customer behaviors at women's sport. As a result, women's teams are often "marketed" in the same manner as men's team (Trail et al., 2002). However, if we can identify and understand gender differences between men's and women's sport, we will be able to develop more effective marketing strategy for women's sport (Trail et al., 2002). There is one research on gender differences at sporting events. Ridinger and Funk (2006) provided some facts regardin women's sport. They (2006) said that more than 70% of the viewing audience of Ladies Professional Golf Association events is male, approximately two-thirds of those watching the Women's NCAA Basektball Tournament are men, and about half of the viewers of televised WNBA games are men. Also, there is a prevailing opinion that male and female sports fans are different (Ridinger & Funk 2006). Sargent, Zillmann, and Weaver's study (1998) supported Ridinger and Funk's study that men and women enjoy distinctly different types of sports . Their findings revealed that males preferred watching combative sports on television whereas females were prone to stylistic sports (Ridinger & Funk 2006). However, despite the number of female spectators is growing, still more males are attending the sporting event than females. Bahk (2000) found that male college students tend to be more involved with sport as spectators than female students. In addition, there is the different reason why male and female representative become fans. Males were more likely to engage in traditional sport fan behavior and identified more strongly with being a fan, and females reported being fans because they attended and watched sporting event with family and friends. Also, males are more likely to consider themselves fans because they played these sports and wanted to acquire sports information (Dietz-Uhler, Harrick, End, & Jacquemotte, 2000). 

Race. 

Sometimes, when the sport marketer or manger set a target market in the U.S., they do not tend to pay much attention about some ethnic groups such as Asian or Hispanic because the overall population is relatively small in the U.S. In the university level, however, we need to approach this issue a little bit differently. Most athletic departments realize that American college students are a specific target market, but it is evident that international students are not being accessed as a target market (Kwon & Trail, 2001). In fact, international students' contribution to the United States' economy is growing. For instance, they contributed almost $7 billion to the United States' economy in 1995 (Kelmer, 1996) . Thus, we cannot ignore them anymore as the new target market. As a result, international students may become a significant source of new revenue for intercollegiate athletic departments because of their financial resources (Kwon & Trail, 2001). Before we set the marketing strategy, we need to understand their cultural background and know different motivational factors between American student and international students at sporting events are. According to Kwon and Trail (2001) , international students attended at both basketball and football games less frequently than American students. However, international students scored higher on four of the five motive subscales: stress, aesthetics, self-esteem, and group affiliation, especially, international students scored significantly higher on the aesthetic subscale than American student (Kwon & Trail, 2001). From this result, Kwon and Trail (2001) suggested that international students in the U.S. are more interested in the aesthetic qualities of the game than American students, and may rely on the audio and visual replays more. 

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction at sporting events is also important factor to be aware of, as a customer satisfaction with a product can create long term benefits for teams including positive word-of mouth, cross-buying, and fan loyalty (Yoshida & James, 2010). In addition, the high level of customer satisfaction brings low defection rates of season ticket sales and increasing future ticket sales to the team. Customer satisfaction can be divided into two parts: game satisfaction and service satisfaction. Based on those categories, Yoshida and James (2010) examined the relationships between service quality, core product quality, game and service satisfaction, and behavioral intentions. They found that both high level of service quality and core product quality increased the overall customers' satisfaction, and it affected future behavioral intentions as well (Yoshida & James, 2010). In addition, another findings show that customer satisfaction with the service experienced at sporting event is based in part on the attitudes and behaviors of numerous stadium employees (Yoshida & James, 2010). Yoshida and James (2010) added and suggested that the convenience and ease of facility access will also improve customer's service satisfaction. As I mentioned above, high level of customer satisfaction brings low defection rates of season ticket sales. However, although their overall level of satisfaction about game and service is a little bit above their expectations, people didn't renew their season’s tickets because of their lifestyle changes (McDonald & Stavros, 2007). Thus, we need to keep track and focus on not only customer satisfaction but also their lifestyle changes. 

Strategic Marketing Planning

Based on understand of the variety of aspects of the spectator sport consumer behavior, we can make the proper marketing strategy. When we make the marketing plan, we need to consider seven steps which are called the strategic marketing planning process. The first step is to determine the organization's mission statement, which is a clear declaration of what the sport organization seeks to do and what kind of organization wants to become (Kriemadis & Terzoudis, 2007). The next step is to set the corporate objectives of the sport organization. According to McDonald (2002), the corporate objectives describe a desired destination or result. For sport organizations, it may include financial viability, return on investment, increase in participation, team awareness, members increase, or quality of sport (Kriemadis & Terzoudis, 2007). The third step is an analysis of the market environment. The purpose of the environmental analysis is to examine the conditions in the external and internal environment of the sport organization and to discover all these factors that influence positively or negatively the organization's operation (Kriemadis & Terzoudis, 2007). At this stage the sport marketer or manager needs to analyze both external and internal environments. Based on analysis of external and internal environments, the sport marketer or manager needs to do SWOT analysis. For sport organizations, strengths are resources, skills and other advantages relative to competitors, and weaknesses are limitations and deficiencies in resources, skills and capabilities that restrain a sport organization's effectiveness in relation to competitors (Shilbury, Quick, & Westerbeek, 1998). Also, Shilbury et al. (1998) said opportunities are the main favorable situations in a sport's environment, and threats are major unfavorable situations in sport's environment. To sum up, SWOT analysis points out the strengths and weaknesses of a sport enterprise in relation to its competitors, as well as the opportunities and threats that emanate from the external environment (Kriemadis & Terzoudis, 2007). Afterwards, we need to set the marketing objectives. Kriemadis and Terzoudis (2007) stated that it must be aligned to the strategic direction of the sport organization and should serve its needs, its purpose and its mission in the social context. In addition, marketing objectives should contain three elements: the attribute chosen for measurement, the particular value selected, and a given operating period (McDonald, 2002). The next stage of the strategic marketing is to decide the way they will achieve these objectives. In other words, we need to carefully design the actual marketing strategy. At this stage, we also need to consider 4P's: product, price, place, and promotion. After the determination of the marketing strategy, the sport marketer or manager creates detailed action plan in order to achieve the allocated marketing strategy. The action plan is usually prepared for one year and describes quantitatively, qualitatively and time wise  what should be achieved, what actions are going to be taken and what resources are going to be used, and who will be the personnel that will undertake all the actions (Kriemadis & Terzoudis, 2007). The last step is a plan review and control. According to Boyd and Walker (1990) the control process of the strategic marketing planning consists of setting standards, specifying and obtaining feedback data, evaluating all these data and finally taking proper actions.

Brand Equity

Increasing the awareness of brand or team's name brings increasing revenue to the sport organization. For instance, many people tend to prefer to buy Nike or Adidas shoes rather than other brand's shoes because of brand equity. Thus, the sport marketer or manger needs to make a marketing plan to increase their brand equity attractiveness to many people from the beginning. The concept of brand equity has evolved to calibrate a brand's strength, and it has been defined as a set of assets such as name awareness, loyal customers, perceived quality, and associations that are "linked to a brand, its name and symbol, that add to or subtract from the value provided by product or service" (Gladden, Milne, & Sutton, 1998). Gladden et al. (1998) suggests that the sport marketer or manger needs to understand the components of brand equity as such components can provide the basis for managerial manipulation to enhance brand equity, and it will allow the sport marketer or manager to increase the image, awareness, and revenues of their teams and programs.

Social Media

The influence of social media in every business has been growing dramatically. Also, social media have become the most important element of success in the business, and the sport industry is no exception. Especially, the sport marketer or manger needs to think how they can establish a long-term relationship with their fans through social media. Today's sport marketers operate in an environment where consumers of all demographic groups are increasingly literate with social media and have significant advancements in technology at their fingertips (Meadows-Klue, 2008). This situation presents opportunities and challenges for marketers, who must adopt new approaches and take advantage of social media such as blogs, social networks, content communities, forums and bulletin boards, and content aggregators (Williams & Chinn, 2010). Bradley (2010) said that social media can be defined as the tools, platforms, and applications that enable consumer to connect, communicate, and collaborate with other. As Williams and Chinn (2010) mentioned above, many teams are using blogs and social networks as the marketing tools. Organizational blogging activity lends itself to the communication, interaction, and value of the relationship-marketing process. Blogs are typically incorporated in a team Web site or social network and provide natural opportunities for communication and interaction (Williams & Chinn, 2010). In addition, the use of micro blogging sites such as Twitter has grown dramatically, and these may also be used for team players  to strengthen the direct relationships with fans (Williams & Chinn, 2010). Williams and Chinn (2010) explain that Twitter enables sports organizations, coaches, and athletes to provide instant communication to fans who have chosen to follow them. This unique feature offers additional value for the fans. Moreover, many teams have developed robust, branded social-networking sites, and social networks provide fans with a range of features that are built around opportunities for engagement and allow the team to boost fan loyalty (Williams & Chinn, 2010). Authors (2010) claimed that social networks also support the relationship-marketing process by supporting communication such as sharing opinions and reactions, contributing content through embedded applications that allow video and photo sharing into a social-network page. Those features allow the team to increase to understand customer needs and strengthen long-term relationships. The sport marketer or manger can expect to build a good long-term relationship with potential customers, who are willing to attend the event in the future, through social media.

Summary

To conclude, I have to say that we need to fully understand the consumer behavior before we create the marketing strategy. To accomplish this, we first need to find factors that encourage people to come to the sport events. These factors may include individual motivation, environment, and customer satisfaction. Based on the thorough analysis of customer behavior, we can make the proper marketing strategy. When we make the marketing strategy, we need to focus on seven steps: determination of the organization's mission statement, setting the corporate objectives of the sport organization, analysis of the market environment, SWOT analysis, marketing objectives, determination of marketing strategy, detailed action plan and plan review and control (Kriemadis & Terzoudis, 2007). Afterwards, we need to research what marketing strategies are being used at the events to increase the attendance. It may include a local business sponsorship, radio advertisements, game giveaways, and newspapers (Martin et al., 2011). In addition, brand equity, pricing strategy, and social media also can be considered as an efficient marketing tool. However, brand equity and social media may influence to increase the attendance at sporting event indirectly. Thus, more direct marketing strategies to increase the attendance should be reviewed in the further research. 

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