The following article summarises the empirical study «Dimensions of Perceived Value That Influence the Intention to Adopt the Metaverse: The Case of Spectator Sports Fans» written for the IGI Global publication «Promoting Organizational Performance Through 5G and Agile Marketing».
The metaverse has caught the attention of companies and brands across different industries and price segments. Wider consumer audiences have started asking themselves what the metaverse is and, consequently, when they would get to experience their favourite brands in the metaverse. Unsurprisingly, spectator sports organisations and sports fans are not spared from the hype surrounding the conversation around the metaverse.
Sports clubs, leagues, and federations enjoy close relationships with their fans, which are often fuelled by technological advancements offered by the internet and mobile technology. Hence, taking advantage of novel technologies to produce innovative online experiences and, hopefully, strengthen these bonds seems obvious and, arguably, necessary. However, given there are few current and specific examples of what sports fans may want to experience in the metaverse, it becomes challenging for organisations to conceptualize and produce a metaverse experience that meets their target audience’s wants and needs.
This article aims to offer a brief overview of the value dimensions that spectator sports organisations should consider in order to foster the intention for sports fans to adopt the metaverse. The following discussion is based upon an extensive literature review and quantitative data collected through an online questionnaire in April 2022 from 504 sports fans, mainly from North America and aged 25 to 45. The causal relationships between antecedents to perceived value, respective value dimensions, and the resulting adoption intention were then analysed through structural equation modelling.
Perceived value dimensions and their antecedents
The term ‘metaverse’ was originally defined by Sci-Fi author Neil Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. However, I adopted a more current definition for this research, offered by Lee et al. (2021), who see the metaverse as “a virtual environment blending physical and digital, facilitated by the convergence between the Internet and Web technologies, and Extended Reality” (p. 1). I found this to be the most adequate definition because of its emphasis on a virtualized experience, which is also the main focus of the research at hand.
Extant literature addresses various dimensions of perceived value when discussing the adoption of new information and communications systems or platforms. I identified five dimensions that can influence the adoption intention of the metaverse: functional value, economic value, hedonic value, uniqueness value, and social value. Furthermore, technological and informational influences are considered antecedents to perceived value. The following figure illustrates the described conceptual framework.
In order to better understand the implications of the results that will be highlighted at the end of the article, let us first define the variables in the conceptual framework:
Functional value refers to the “extent to which a system, product, or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use” (Shen et al., 2021, p. 15). Think, usefulness. A metaverse experience should offer sports fans more convenient access to their favourite club or brand. This could entail more immersive virtual stadium experiences heightened by virtual reality; or, for fans that can and want to visit the physical stadium, a more immersive analogue experience could be enhanced in the form of additional specific information offered through augmented reality, as already tested by some organisations. Similarly, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the form of virtual fashion wearables can provide functionality, as they enable a fan’s avatar to wear a specific digital jersey or sneakers and display their loyalty towards a team or brand in the virtual world.
A metaverse experience could also provide economic value, which can be defined as “the utility derived from the product due to the reduction of its perceived short term and longer term costs” (Sweeney and Soutar, 2001, p. 211). Here, the question of direct and indirect access fees and users’ possible economic gain arises. For example, organizations may want to assess, if their metaverse experience should be freely accessible or if they want to create scarcity and exclusivity via specific tokens. Fans, on the other hand, may question the value they receive in return for money, time, and effort spent on the experience or the token. Also, if the experience requires a virtual reality headset for greater immersion, fans that do not possess a headset and may not have the financial means to purchase one immediately, will not be able to consume the experience. Looking at economic value from the perspective of economic gain, users may invest money and time on limited-edition digital assets, such as NFT collectibles like NBA Top Shot and NFL All Day. Owners could reap financial benefits because the value of these digital assets might surge due to scarcity and general increasing interest in digital assets. Conversely, value could decrease, due to pressure on cryptocurrencies, as well as from political, economic, social, or environmental factors.
There is a certain immediate connection between the metaverse and video games, which implies a playful online experience. Therefore, fans may perceive hedonic value through an entertaining, fun, and gratifying experience with a sports club or other brands in the metaverse. Seminal literature on brand and consumer experiences highlights how an affective brand experience can strengthen brand commitment and loyalty. This could be achieved by implementing specific gamification elements that require active participation of fans through, for example, dedicated metaverse events. Practical ideas could include moderated talks with and among fans on the possible starting line-up of a team, Q&As with players or staff members, or a scavenger hunt across the metaverse to unveil a new jersey. Ideally, the participation to an event or activity is rewarded with, for example, a branded NFT that shows the fan was part of that specific happening. Such activities and the respective branded NFT can shape and intensify personal relationships amongst fans that may not know each other outside of the virtual realm. Additionally, it can strengthen the association with the wider global community around the organization or brand.
The uniqueness value dimension is somewhat related to hedonic value, as people seek distinctive experiences to satisfy their need for uniqueness. The resulting value is based upon the yearning to be different from others and, subsequently, the wish to collect or experience rare, novel, and personalized items or services. It also strengthens a fan’s self-esteem and the perception of enjoying a higher status within their fan community. Allowing, and possibly encouraging, fans to present their status in the metaverse would empower them and bolster their intention to participate and, thus, co-create the experience. Such an immersive and participatory environment would contribute to the overall virtual brand experience, which can intensify the loyalty towards the organization. Building upon that, the above-mentioned wearable NFTs can contribute to a fan’s metaverse experience, enabling them to personalize their appearance through digital apparel and other accessories. By expressing their individual digital self, fans can directly associate with like-minded others, e.g. fans of the same team, and disassociate from unlike-minded others, e.g. fans of opposing teams or other sports.
The discussion of fans’ association with and disassociation from other fans, leads to the social value dimension, which can be centred around the notion that subjective norms are “the perceived social pressure to perform or not to perform [a certain] behavior” (Ajzen, 1991, p. 188). Certain tactics applied through what Bernd H. Schmitt calls ‘experiential marketing’, seek to connect consumers and brands by emphasizing social and cultural characteristics. These characteristics highlight given social and cultural norms that a sports organization may encourage its fans to adhere to, and, thus, create social values that are shared by its fans. This then leads to the desire for sociability among like-minded fans, because of the opportunity to develop interpersonal relationships by interacting with others. Establishing interaction opportunities for fans in the metaverse, such as, for example, the above-mentioned events and activities, can strengthen social connectedness and incentivize recurring behaviours, such as frequently visiting the club’s stadium or shop in the metaverse or conversing with others on a regular basis.
As previously mentioned, the proposed model includes two antecedents to the perceived value dimensions: Technological influences address the utility and usability of the offered metaverse experience, such as service access via different devices, personalization of the service, and the symbiotic relationship between human and technology. In the context of the metaverse, this technology-related antecedent can refer to the interplay between a fan and a virtual reality headset or an augmented reality app, or the inclusion of specific technological features offered by the Web 3.0 in the virtualized environment that may increase the perceived value of adopting the promoted metaverse experience. Informational influences, on the other hand, refer to the knowledge that consumers accumulate from news and other information spread across mass and social media. Information quality, credibility, and reliability of the information source are factors that need to be considered, although difficult to control. The hype sparked by Meta (formerly Facebook) around the metaverse, incited various information and opinions to be shared across different media channels, whilst, occasionally, causing irritation among potential users, because of incoherent information and conflicting opinions. Therefore, organizations should seek to clearly communicate what fans can expect from the offered metaverse experience.
How do perceived value dimensions influence the intention of spectator sports fans to adopt the metaverse experience of their favourite team or competition?
As mentioned above, I collected quantitative data from a sample of 504 spectator sports fans aged 25 to 45, 61% male and 39% female, mainly from the USA and Canada, and rather technologically savvy. The statistical analysis found that all five value dimensions have a significant and positive influence on sports fans’ adoption intention for metaverse experiences, although with considerably different degrees of strength.
Functional value has the strongest influence on the adoption intention compared to the other dimensions. This means that sports fans want to know they will find the experience with their favourite team in the metaverse meaningful. This could be delivered through more convenient and greatly immersive access that brings fans closer to their team than through any other media channel. The inclusion of fundamental Web 3.0 technology features would add considerable substance to the perceived value, as well as conveying detailed information of the mentioned utility to the target audience.
Uniqueness value denotes the second-strongest influence on adoption intention. Here, fans want to express their self-image, which can be enabled through specific wearable NFTs and personalized experiences. The analysis shows that informational influences have a strong influence on this dimension, meaning that the organization should clearly communicate how participating in the offered metaverse experiences can enhance a fan’s digital uniqueness.
Hedonic value recorded the third-strongest influence, although only slightly weaker than uniqueness value. Sports organizations should implement gamification elements that require playful participation by their metaverse target audience. Technological influences are considerably stronger than informational influences on hedonic value. Hence, organizations are recommended to emphasize the technological possibilities around their proposed gamification elements in order to provide the most entertaining and gratifying metaverse experiences.
Economic value and social value show rather weak respective influence on adoption intention. This means, the surveyed sample is barely affected by the economic gain or loss they could experience from adopting a suggested metaverse experience. Also, their adoption intention is hardly impacted by subjective norms from peers.
A confirmatory factor analysis shows that the discussed model is viable for the given research. Hence, the proposed framework with the perceived value dimensions and their antecedents can be used as a high-level blue-print to conceptualize a metaverse experience for a spectator sports organization. However, the causal relationships presented in the previous paragraph are to be taken with a pinch of salt, as they solely represent the described sample and their generalizability is limited. I recommend, whenever possible, to collect primary data from your target audience and establish the degree of influence of each value dimension onto the adoption intention, as it would inform the conceptualisation of the metaverse experience considerably, as well as tactics for more effective marketing and communications.
A final note: The research mentioned in this article is published in full length in the peer-reviewed publication «Promoting Organizational Performance Through 5G and Agile Marketing» offering more detailed elaboration on the proposed model and its implementation.
- Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.
- Lee, L.-H., Braud, T., Zhou, P., Wang, L., Xu, D., Lin, Z., Kumar, A., Bermejo, C., & Hui, P. (2021). All one needs to know about metaverse: a complete survey on technological singularity, virtual ecosystem, and research agenda. Journal of Latex Class Files, 14(8), 1-67.
- Schmitt, B. (1999). Experiential marketing: How to get customers to sense, feel, think, act, relate to your company and brands. New York: Free Press.
- Shen, B., Tan, W., Guo, J., Zhao, L., & Qin, P. (2021). How to promote user purchase in metaverse? A systematic literature review on consumer behavior research and virtual commerce application design. Applied Sciences, 11(23), 1-29.
- Sweeney, J. C., & Soutar, G. N. (2001). Consumer perceived value: The development of a multiple item scale. Journal of Retailing, 77, 203-220.
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