Unpacking What It Means to Be—or Not Be—A Fan

Irene I. van Driel, Walter Gantz, Nicky Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Sports fanship is a multidimensional concept. Fans are fans for a variety of reasons and show their fanship in an assortment of ways. In many studies, sports fanship is based on predetermined categories and closed-ended questions set by researchers. Such categories and questions may include certain types of fans while omitting others. This study assessed the extent to which closed-ended categorizations align with fans’ views of their own fanship. It also captured what it means to be—or not be—a sports fan from the respondent’s perspective. A total of 1,093 adults completed questionnaires using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. In response to a dichotomous choice question, roughly half self-reported as fans. A majority of self-identified fans described strong emotional and personal ties with sports. Most nonfans found little connection with sports: Sports were boring and inconsistent with how they defined themselves. Open-ended responses from a small proportion of fans and a larger subset of nonfans call into question the validity of a single, dichotomous choice measure of fanship. The results of this study document the importance of explicit conceptualizations and operationalizations of sports fanship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-629
Number of pages19
JournalCommunication and Sport
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • media
  • open-ended
  • sports
  • sports fanship
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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