Title: I am distinctive when I belong: meeting the need for optimal distinctiveness through team identification

Authors: Michael M. Goldman; Simon Chadwick; Daniel C. Funk; Albert Wocke

Addresses: University of San Francisco, Sport Management Program, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA ' Salford University Manchester, The Crescent, Salford, Manchester, M5 4WT, UK ' Temple University, 300 Speakman Hall, 1810 N. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA ' Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, 26 Melville Road, Illovo, Sandton, 2196, South Africa

Abstract: The development of stronger team identity has previously been explained through the social identity aspect of belonging. Although this has contributed much to our understanding of sport fans, it has neglected an alternative explanation for team identity, specifically the search for distinctiveness. How then do fans develop stronger team identity by 'standing out' as opposed to 'fitting in'? This paper provides evidence of seven identity management strategies used by fans with a strong psychological connection to their chosen team. Saturation sampling was employed to interview 29 South African rugby union fans via semi-structured interviews, followed by a directed approach to content analysis. The results contribute a stronger explanation of how the psychological need for optimal distinctiveness functions within the attachment process towards stronger fan loyalty, and provides a more complete explanation for the way in which fans can 'stand out' while still belonging.

Keywords: individual distinctiveness; group distinctiveness; team identity; group identity; social identity; standing out; structural reality; perceptual framing; mechanisms; sport marketing; sport management; South Africa; team identification; sports fans; identity management; psychological connections; rugby union; psychological need; fan loyalty.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSMM.2016.077930

International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 2016 Vol.16 No.3/4/5/6, pp.198 - 220

Received: 30 Mar 2015
Accepted: 01 Mar 2016

Published online: 22 Jul 2016 *

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