Thursday, 13 August 2015

What Kind of Fan are You?

As the summer winds down the Blue Jays are heating up. We’ve been watching a lot more baseball at our house and I find myself enjoying it. I don’t think of myself as a baseball fan. Yet I am objecting less and less when, as we switch channels from Rogers’ Cup tennis and the FIBA Americas Women’s Championships to a Blue Jays game, the television stays on baseball for longer.

This apparent change in my consumer behaviour got me thinking about an article called “How Consumers Consume” by Doug Holt. Holt attended baseball games at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for two years as part of his data collection for the paper. I guess that’s made me think of it. What he was trying to do was come up with a typology that would describe the various ways in which people consume.

One of the forms of consumption he identified is called ‘Appreciating’. According to Holt (1995, p. 5-6),

"Spectators appreciate professional baseball when they respond emotionally to its situations, people, action, and objects… Appreciating taps the full range of emotional responses: in addition to clearly positive emotions such as feelings of excitement and awe in reaction to a spectacular diving catch or the joy and relief felt when a clutch hit drives in the winning run in the ninth inning, appreciating may also include negative emotions—anger at a poor throw by an outfielder or feelings of disappointment and frustration when the Cubs fail to score with the bases loaded and no outs."

That sounds a lot like me. But the funny thing is, it sounds like how I have been enjoying all the sports we’ve been watching this summer. I’m a relatively new fan of tennis; I still have to ask my Significant Other about terminology from time to time. But I have now arrived at the point where I can say that I appreciate the seemingly effortless way that Roger Federer plays the game – he’s just such an elegant player. Nadal runs every ball down – I appreciate his determination. And Djokovic’s athleticism is truly inspiring. I am in awe of all three of them. Same thing with the Canadian Women’s basketball team – when Kia Nurse hits a three-pointer, it is a thing of beauty. So perhaps my baseball watching is just an extension of how I typically consume sports. But wait – maybe what I’m really doing is ‘evaluating.’

Holt discusses nine other ways that consumers consume and when I re-read the article I discovered that as a fan I consume in many different ways. Sometimes I even consume the same sport in many different ways. For example, I adopt an ‘Accounting’ perspective when I keep track of how many fouls each player on the Carleton Ravens basketball team has accumulated during a game (yes, I could check the score board, but what if they are wrong?!) I ‘Socialize’ at Ravens games too, but only during intermission. I’m too busy ‘Appreciating’ and ‘Evaluating’ and ‘Managing’ when the game is on!

If all of these ways of consuming sound strange to you – check out the article. It not only makes a lot of sense it reveals just how complex something like watching a ball game on TV really is from a consumer research point of view. Meanwhile, I'm counting down the days to the start of football season and can't wait to catch my first basketball home game.


Holt, Douglas B. (1995), “How Consumers Consume: A Typology of Consumption Practices,” Journal of Consumer Research, 22 (June), 1-16.

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