Section 1: Background to the research
Fan engagement is often considered a priority for sports brands, because it can foster brand-customer relationships, strengthen brand loyalty, and, ultimately, increase revenue (Greve, 2014). With the rise of social media and the acceptance of its importance for companies and brands (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010), various research on online fan engagement has discussed the opportunities and threats of such efforts, while highlighting the need for a systematic approach (e.g. Sanderson, 2011; Sutera, 2013).
Mogajane et al. (2019) assessed the importance of spectators to South African football clubs and noted that, although clubs with a large following and spectator base like Kaizer Chiefs F.C. (see Result Sports, 2020) may commercially benefit from a higher amount of ticket sales and better sponsorship deals compared to other clubs, increasing commercialism could lead to the alienation of their spectators; a notion that applies to various clubs across Europe with similar characteristics to Kaizer Chiefs F.C. (Kennedy and Kennedy, 2013). This underlines the significance for clubs to build and maintain relationships with their fans and followers and engage with them on a continuous basis as a countermeasure to the threat of ‘fan alienation through commercialisation’ (cf. Abosag et al., 2012; Sutera, 2013). In a comparative study of South African football club fans, Stander and Beer (2016) found that prosocial behaviour was the most relevant fan engagement dimension for football fans using social media; a finding similarly supported by Vale and Fernandes (2018). This suggests that fans want to interact with like-minded others. It becomes therefore crucial for managers to understand the needs of their target audience and employ dedicated tactics to address them (Newman et al., 2013).
Vale and Fernandes (2018) examined ‘why’ and ‘how’ fans engage with football clubs on Facebook, hypothesising that “The need for (a) Information, (b) Entertainment, (c) Personal Identity, (d) Integration and Social Interaction, (e) Empowerment, (f) Remuneration, and (g) Brand Love influences engagement with a football club on Facebook, namely (i) Consuming, (ii) Contributing, and (iii) Creating activities” (p. 43); they found that “the need for Information, Empowerment and Brand Love are the main drivers of [Social Media] Consumption, Contribution and Creation, respectively” (p. 49). Their research is based upon a convenience sample of 562 responses, representing 19 sport clubs from the top five European football leagues, hence, covering a wide array of fan groups. Considering the socio-cultural differences in regard to social media usage (Hsu et al., 2015) and fan typology of users (Stewart et al., 2003), it can be argued that the examination of a specific fan group, i.e. fans and followers of ‘1’ sports club, would be more beneficial for a marketer in order to understand the brand’s target audience. Because of that, the following research applied an adaptation of the questionnaire designed by Vale and Fernandes (2018) and collected data from fans and followers of solely one club, namely Kaizer Chiefs F.C., across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The aim of this research is therefore ‘to understand what motivates fans and followers of the South African side Kaizer Chiefs F.C. to engage with the club on social media’.
Section 2: Theory
In order to achieve the above-mentioned research aim, the first research objective is to gain an understanding of the uses and gratifications (U&G) of social media, i.e. ‘why’ users engage with the club. Vale and Fernandes (2018) refer to the U&G theory (see McQuail, 1983) and include the four categories (a) Information, (b) Entertainment, (c) Personal Identity, and (d) Integration and Social Interaction in their model; they further add the categories (e) Empowerment, (f) Remuneration, and (g) Brand Love as a representation of contemporary social media characteristics. The seven categories exemplify the possible motivations for fans and followers to engage in a specific social media behaviour; see Figure 1. They define the seven motivations in the context of social media as follows:
- Information: need of direct information access from brand and other fans
- Entertainment: need of relaxation and evasion from daily routine through brand-related activities
- Personal Identity: need of shaping one’s identity through self-expression and self-presentation by providing an image of one’s personality and by receiving peer recognition
- Integration and Social Interaction: need of bonding with like-minded others and gaining a sense of belonging
- Empowerment: need of influencing others
- Remuneration: gain some kind of reward
- Brand Love: grow positive feeling towards a brand
The second research objective seeks to understand ‘how’ social media users engage with the club. The three elements representing social media engagement behaviours can be deduced from various literature (e.g. Safko and Brake, 2009; Sutera, 2013; Tsai and Men, 2017) and are defined as follows:
- Consumption: passive participation; involves viewing videos and pictures, or reading posts
- Contribution: active participation; involves liking, sharing or commenting on content posted by the club or others
- Creation: active participation; involves creating and posting pictures or videos
The conceptual model including ‘motivations’ and ‘social media engagement behaviours’ is illustrated in Figure 1.
Section 3: Methodology and sample
An adaptation of the questionnaire developed by Vale and Fernandes (2018) was utilised to collect data (see Figure 3). The original questionnaire encompassed 39 question-items (without counting general questions on demography). Some questions were reworded in questionnaire for this research to fit the context of this single-brand case study. Furthermore, the number of items was reduced to 26 (and 3 additional questions on demography) to improve the response rate (Sokolova and Kefi, 2019). The items were assessed in a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Posts with the request to participate in this study were published on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the main three social media channels of Kaizer Chiefs F.C. (see embedded Facebook post as example). The data was collected on Friday, 3 January and Saturday, 4 January 2020 by targeting users that like or follow the Kaizer Chiefs F.C. Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts and live in Africa.
173 responses were recorded and accepted. 82% of the participants are male and 18% female. The largest age-group is 25 to 34 years old (43%), followed by 18 to 24-year-olds (22%), and 35 to 44-year-olds (18%). This is in approximate accordance with the demographics of general social media users in South Africa (Data Portal, 2019; Statista, 2020). The largest group of respondents lives in South Africa (79%) and the second-largest in an African country other than South Africa (17%). The reported data on the three demographic characteristics shows a homogenous sample representing Kaizer Chiefs fans and followers on social media, which offers support for the analysis of the data in the next section. Figure 2 offers a visual overview on the demography of the sample.
Section 4: Results
Figure 3 offers an overview of the question-items including their mean and standard deviation (STDEV).
The following section analyses the means of the responses regarding motivations and engagement behaviours and if participants agreed with each other. The guiding question for respondents was:
« Why do you follow Kaizer Chiefs F.C. on social media? »
Information (INF1/2/3): Respondents find sport-related information on Kaizer Chief’s social media useful (INF1), they can get information about team performance, players, events and games (INF3), and they want to know what others think about the club (INF2). However, INF2 reports a high STDEV, meaning that respondents are in low disagreement regarding the item.
Entertainment (ENT1/2/3): Respondents follow Kaizer Chiefs F.C. on social media because it is entertaining (ENT1), and they mostly agree. Respondents are neutral when asked if the club provides them with an outlet to escape daily routines (ENT2) and if the club’s social media evokes emotions (ENT3). Nevertheless, a high STDEV for both ENT2 and ENT3 suggests incongruity among fans and a high mean among a certain group of fans regarding emotionality in ENT3.
Integration and Social Interaction (ISI1/2/3): Respondents look forward to discussing and sharing information about the club with others (ISI1) and it makes them feel more connected to the club (ISI2); there is strong agreement among respondents for both items. Respondents are neutral when asked if following the club on social media makes them feel less lonely (ISI3), although a high STDEV implies that some fans may feel less lonely due to the club’s efforts.
Brand Love: Kaizer Chiefs fans and followers are motivated to participate in the community, because they are passionate about the club (BL1), they associate the club with important events of their lives (BL2), and they participate in the community, because they care about the club (BL3). Despite relatively high means, a moderate STDEV in all three items recommends caution in their interpretation.
Personal Identity (PI1/2/3): Fans and followers are generally indifferent when asked if they follow the club on social media because they want to express what kind of person they are (PI1), because it gives them self-confidence (PI2), or because they want to impress others with what they know about the club (PI3). Still, all items report a high STDEV suggesting disagreement among respondents.
Empowerment (EMP1/2/3): Fans and followers are generally neutral to wanting to influence the club or others with their social media activities (EMP1), although a high STDEV shows that some fans may want to exert influence. Additionally, respondents follow Kaizer Chiefs, because they feel good about themselves when others share their ideas and comments (EMP2), and because receiving more affirmation about their comments makes them want to participate in the community (EMP3). EMP2 finds moderate agree among respondents. On the other hand, EMP3 displays disagreement, which could mean that a considerable number of fans and followers would not participate despite receiving affirmation for their efforts.
Remuneration (REM1/2/3): Respondents are indifferent to using the club’s community to search for ticket bargains (REM1) or participating in the community for prizes or discounts (REM2). A high STDEV in both items implies that a certain number of fans and followers seek financial benefits by participating in the Kaizer Chiefs online community. Moderate agreement is then found among respondents when asked if they follow Kaizer Chiefs F.C. on social media because they are able to obtain information they want without delay (REM3).
Social Media Engagement Behaviours (CSM1/2; CNT1/2; CRE): Respondents follow Kaizer Chiefs F.C. on social media, because they look at content posted by the club (CSM1). A low STDEV proves agreement among them. Respondents also look at content posted by others about the club (CSM2), but a moderate STDEV indicates a certain level of disagreement. Respondents also follow the club, because they like, share or comment on content posted by the club (CNT1) and on content posted by others (CNT2). However, CNT1 reports a moderate STDEV, meaning that a moderate number of fans and followers do not follow the club because of possible online contribution to the club’s content. CNT2, then, shows a high STDEV implying that a certain group of users does not care about a possible online contribution to content posted by others. Lastly, fans and followers are generally neutral regarding posting pictures, videos or personal images related to the club (CRE), although a high STDEV suggests disagreement among respondents.
In summary: Fans and followers mainly agree on the items INF1, INF3, ISI1, ISI2, and CRE. However, a large number of items reports moderate and high STDEV implying disagreement among respondents. Therefore, it is recommended to consider a relative evaluation of items with high mean and moderate-to-high STDEV, given a considerable group of respondents may agree with the item (e.g. INF2).
Section 5: Motivations effect on social media engagement behaviours
Figure 4 provides an overview of the standard regression weights displaying the effect that motivations of fans and followers of Kaizer Chiefs F.C. have on social media engagement behaviours; green symbolises a stronger effect. Therefore, the following relationships should be considered for the development of social media tactics due to their strength:
- Personal Identity has a strong effect on Consumption: The need for self-expression and self-presentation strongly influences Kaizer Chiefs fans and followers to consume content of and about the club on social media.
- Integration and Social Interaction have a strong effect on Consumption: The need for integration and social interaction strongly influences Kaizer Chiefs fans and followers to consume content of and about the club on social media.
- Empowerment has a strong effect on Consumption: The need for recognition and affirmation strongly influences fans and followers to consume content of and about the club on social media.
- Empowerment has a strong effect on Contribution: The need for recognition and affirmation strongly influences Kaizer Chiefs fans and followers to contribute to the club’s community on social media.
- Remuneration has a strong effect on Consumption: The need to gain some kind of reward from the Kaizer Chiefs community strongly influences fans and followers to consume content of and about the club on social media.
- Brand Love has a strong effect on Consumption: The need to participate in the Kaizer Chiefs community strongly influences fans and followers to consume content of and about the club on social media.
- Brand Love has a strong effect on Contribution: The need to participate in the Kaizer Chiefs community strongly influences fans and followers to contribute to the club’s community on social media.
All effects were found to be significant (p < .001), meaning that they influence each other, as portrayed in Figure 1. This is different from the findings of Vale and Fernandes (2018), who found various effects to be not-significant. However, Vale and Fernandes (2018) concluded that Information, Empowerment and Brand Love are the main drivers of engagement behaviour, which parallels similar results of this study with Empowerment and Brand Love (see Figure 4).
Section 6: Validity and reliability of the construct
The validity and reliability of the construct can be assessed through Cronbach’s Alpha (α), composite reliability (CR), and average variance extracted (AVE). Generally, a value of α > .7 is expected for a scale to be reliable (Saunders et al., 2007). All applied scales, except for the scale assessing the motivation for information, reach that threshold. However, all CR values are higher than .6 and, therefore, all scales can be accepted (Fornell and Larcker, 1981).
In addition, an exploratory factor analysis (PCA; Varimax with Kaiser Normalization) shows that all items loaded clearly onto a specific factor with a value above .3 (cf. Costello and Osborne, 2005). Yet, although seven factors were expected for the motivation elements––one factor for each motivation––only five factors were computed. Items from Integration and Social Interaction loaded with items from Brand Love creating ‘1’ factor; and items from Personal Identity loaded with items from Empowerment. This indicates a certain connection between the grouped items in the context of the responding, specifically Kaizer Chiefs F.C. fans and followers on social media.
Section 7: Social media tactics in reference to the findings of this study
This section proposes social media tactics in reference to the findings of this study, specifically for Kaizer Chiefs F.C. to drive fan engagement. The tactics are not definitive and merely offer an outline of the possible implementation.
Information has a strong effect on Consumption: Fans and followers want to engage with the club’s social media to consume information. Following the experiential marketing model by Schmitt (1999), Kaizer Chiefs F.C. should frame their communication to include elements of surprise, intrigue, and exclusivity. This can be done by utilising the club’s social media as the number one channel for news on the club. For example, the club could publish exclusive and potentially surprising news content on their social media first, before going to media outlets with it (Lambert, 2019). Live video on social media can be used for immediate delivery of such news (Stewart, 2018). Intriguing content can be created by framing the offered information with a high level of knowledge (Goldsmith, 2013). Nevertheless, consideration should be given to the fact that social media only offers medium influence in regard to brands contents delivering detailed information about products or services (Batra and Keller, 2016).
Entertainment has a strong effect on Consumption: Schmitt (1999, p. 219) explains, “People deliver feelings at point of consumption and use communication to “frame” the consumption experience.” I this case the point of consumption is a fan’s digital device through which she or he accesses and consumes social media contents. Offering pleasant online environments created through a variety of social media posts with a diversity of images and videos can have a positive effect on the perceived amount of information that users obtain (Kim and Lennon, 2010).
Personal Identity has a strong effect on Consumption: Kaizer Chiefs fans and followers consume the club’s social media content, because it emphasises users’ need for self-expression and self-presentation. The club’s social media sites could be utilised by fans as platforms for like-minded people to mingle; basically, where the in-group meets (cf. Yocco, 2016). Contents should focus on building and strengthening relationship between the social meaning of the club and its fans and followers (Schmitt, 1999; Kietzmann et al., 2011). Based upon the Multiple In-group Identity Framework by Lock and Funk (2016), social media contents should be created around the ‘relational’ group of fans, which by definition is the least inclusive group. Because of that, fans and followers should be offered an immersive social media experience in which associations can be built between the club’s brand elements and its cultural identity (McCarville and Stinson, 2014). Although results show that fans and followers are rather indifferent about presenting or expressing themselves on the club’s social media, the high STDEV shows that a certain number of fans does care about it, and the moderately high regression weight suggests that it has a strong effect on the consumption behaviour.
Integration and Social Interaction have a strong effect on Consumption and Contribution: Fans and followers want to engage with the club’s social media to consume and contribute to content displaying the communal environment of the club. The club could bolster their audience’s sense of belonging to the Kaizer Chiefs community by proactively inviting users to like, share, or comment on day-to-day content (Pine and Gilmore, 1999; Coleman, 2018). This can be done by creating polls through the provided social media features on the platform and ask, for example, which players the community would like to see starting the match, or which player was their ‘Man of the Match’. Call-to-action triggers can have a strong effect on the motivation of users to participate, if executed correctly (Yocco, 2016).
Empowerment has a strong effect on Consumption and Contribution: Fans and followers want to engage with the club’s social media to feel recognised and be affirmed after contributing to the community. Schmitt (1999) emphasises the importance for brands to create communicative campaigns around helping consumers relate their “individual self to the broader social and cultural context reflected in a brand” (p. 171). Building upon Schmitt’s notion, Yocco (2016) suggests to design communication around the social identity of, what he calls, the ‘in-group’. In the case at hand, that would be: Kaizer Chiefs F.C. fans on social media that share the same characteristics and views about the club. Effective implementation includes, for example, applying brand language/jargon and tone of voice used by the community (Coleman, 2018), such as making use of the team’s nicknames ‘Amakhosi’ or ‘Phefeni Glamour Boys’, as well as discussing topics relevant to the in-group (Yocco, 2016).
Remuneration has a strong effect on Consumption: Fans and followers of Kaiser Chiefs FC are only moderately interested in gaining some kind of reward from consuming and participating in the club’s social media community. Still, the main reward they seek is obtaining information about the club without delay. Utilising the live-video feature on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok can offer the fastest and most direct delivery of information with fans (Stewart, 2018).
Brand Love has a strong effect on Consumption and Contribution: Fans and followers want to participate with the club’s community on social media to consume and contribute content. The element of Brand Love is similar to the element of Empowerment, but fans are motivated by a connection with the brand, whereas with Empowerment fans are motivated by a connection with like-minded others. Schmitt (1999) suggests to design affective marketing and communications campaigns in order to reinforce the relationship between brand and consumers. One possible approach is to incorporate cultural icons (Holt, 2004), such as Kaiser Chiefs legends Kaizer Motaung, Jackie Masike or ‘Doctor’ Khumalo to name a few, and create nostalgia. Such nostalgic stories shall lead fans and followers through tales of distress and losses, which then morph into recounts of triumphs over adversity (Wildschut et al., 2006). Similar as with the Integration and Social Interaction element, the club should proactively invite users to contribute their nostalgic recounts of mythical and legendary events in order to strengthen Brand Love.
Section 8: Conclusion
This research examined ‘why’ and ‘how’ fans and followers of Kaizer Chiefs F.C., one of the most popular African football club, engage with the club’s social media. A conceptual model developed and tested by Vale and Fernandes (2018) was successfully adapted and applied with a homogenous sample of 173 respondents. All hypothesised relationships were found to be significant with the motives Personal Identity, Integration and Social Interaction, Empowerment, Remuneration, and Brand Love reporting the strongest effects on social media engagement behaviours. High-level social media tactics were proposed for Kaizer Chiefs F.C. to implement in response to the findings of this study.
Limitations include the relatively small sample size and the data collection period. Results could be improved by increasing the sample size and extending the data collection period to various time frames across weekdays and weekends.
This article was updated on 26 November 2020 to better explain the results and offer more social media tactics. Standardised regression weights were added to Section 5. The discussion on the respective social media tactics was expanded accordingly in Section 7. More sources were added to the list of references.
I enjoyed this exercise. The model seems robust and the results offer good insights into what managers of the case study brand could improve in their strategy. Kudos to Vale and Fernandes (2018) for offering this framework. I might try it out again with a different brand, maybe in a different sport.
- Average Variance Extracted (AVE): A measure to assess construct validity (Fornell and Larcker, 1981)
- Composite reliability (CR): A measure to assess construct validity (Fornell and Larcker, 1981)
- Cronbach’s Alpha (α): A method for calculating the internal consistency of a questionnaire (Saunders et al., 2007, p. 374)
- Factor loading: Correlation coefficient for the variable and factor (Statisticssolutions.com, 2020)
- In-group identity: Formed through self-categorisation and social comparison (Yocco, 2016)
- Mean: Average value calculated by adding the values of each case for a variable and dividing by the total number of cases (Saunders et al., 2007, p. 595)
- Standard deviation (STDEV): Spread of data values around the mean (Saunders et al., 2007, p. 601)
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