Title: Brand community integration in a niche sport: a league-wide examination of online and offline involvement in minor league soccer in North America

Authors: Clinton J. Warren; Eric A. Brownlee

Addresses: Department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies, Eastern Illinois University, 600 Lincoln Ave. Charleston, IL 61920, USA ' Dahlkemper School of Business, Gannon University, 109 University Square Erie, PA 16541, USA

Abstract: This investigation extends the study of brand community integration to niche sports by examining online and offline community involvement in a minor soccer league. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between spatial groups and brand community integration dimensions and assess the relationship between brand community integration and behavioural intentions between spatial groups. A sample of 890 brand community members from a minor soccer league in North America were asked to rate their level of online and offline involvement with the brand, level of integration with the brand community, and level of intent to attend future league games. Results indicate brand community members of teams in this league can be distinctly classified as online or offline community members, brand community integration is stronger among online members, and higher degrees of community integration yield higher levels of intent to attend future games. These findings suggest brand community integration is enhanced through online interactions with the brand. This illustrates the importance of brand communities in niche sports and highlights the opportunity for marketers to develop community integration relatively inexpensively via online involvement.

Keywords: niche sports; brand communities; online consumption; brand equity; community integration; online involvement; offline involvement; minor league soccer; North America; football; spatial groups; behavioural intentions; attendance intentions; online interaction; sport marketing; sport brands.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSMM.2013.059707

International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 2013 Vol.13 No.3/4, pp.158 - 172

Available online: 07 Mar 2014 *

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