Master’s Project Proposal

For those of you who have been wanting more details on the specifics of the research, I have attached the accepted research proposal here. I did, however, remove the timeline and grading specifics from this. Further, I removed some information that is no longer necessary (i.e. other site names I was considering, etc.).

My faculty advisor is Dr. Joris Drayer, who I lucked out to get because he is a huge baseball fan. He actually worked for the Oakland A’s during the Moneyball era, which is pretty damn cool. His research interests include consumer behavior and sport pricing. To read more about Dr. Drayer, you can check out his biography:

Dr. Joris Drayer, Temple University School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Mangement (STHM)

Master’s Project Proposal

An Auto-Ethographic Study of Fan Experience at Major League Baseball Stadiums

5/15/17

 

Faculty advisor: Dr. Joris Drayer

Andrew Sturt

Temple University

INTRO/PURPOSE:

Baseball is America’s pastime. For many Americans, going to the ballpark is a rite of passage. With 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) parks spread out across North America, each has its own unique atmosphere and distinguishing characteristics. For the nostalgic fan, there are the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field or the “Green Monster” at Fenway. For the millennials, there are brand new parks like Atlanta’s SunTrust Park built as recently as 2012.

Historic stadiums are getting renovated for hundreds of millions of dollars. Depending on geography, stadiums are now located on waterfronts, in the heart of downtowns, or a short distance from the actual city itself. For some cities, like New York and Chicago, two teams share one market and both offer dramatically different experiences with stadiums on opposite sides of their cities. Beyond the differences in locales and design; each ballpark also offers unique concessions and novelty items specific to their team, its facility, and the overall fan experience. Every single nuance in these stadiums is being tailored to improve fan experience.

While baseball is still the main attraction, there are now countless other variables that teams focus on, targeted to increase fan engagement. In fact, this has become more crucial in today’s landscape than ever before, because, beyond selling a baseball game—teams are now selling an experience. Further, MLB teams are competing in markets that are more saturated with other entertainment options than ever before. In addition, with emerging new technology and innovation, the fan experience is consistently evolving from one ballpark to the next.

With all these different variables affecting fan experience, there has yet, to date, been a study which compares fan experience over the course of a season between different teams and their facilities. More specifically, there has never been a study—both scholarly and non-scholarly—that has measured a single fan’s experience, in a single season, across numerous venues.

The purpose of this study is to compare the overall game-day fan experience at multiple different ballparks, over the course of one season, from the perspective of one single fan. Additionally, this study will examine the overall fan value and attempt to distinguish if this has a noticeable effect on the overall fan experience. To do this, a pre-determined set of touch points have been identified which will be analyzed before, during and after the games.

This study is important because it has never been done before. Lists have been compiled identifying the best ballpark venues, pricing and cost analyses have been conducted, and fan experience has been measured through focus groups and interviews. However all these have been compiled quantitatively. This study will be different because I will be conducting my research qualitatively, and chronicling my experience via my online blog. Never before has a single fan gone from stadium to stadium on a cross-country expedition while blogging about his experience.

ABBREVIATED LIT REVIEW (will be more formal, with final deliverable)

Rinehart (2005) argues that personal narrative and storytelling should be more widely used in sport management research studies because it can answer questions that the more traditionally used methods in sport management research cannot. He further states that through these methods, the researcher lives through and discovers their experiences providing new insights into experiences beyond just descriptions. Through personal narrative, autoethnographic research helps researchers understand their own experiences and communicate those to readers.

Funk (2017) examines the current and future trends of sports management research via a panel of 17 academic scholars. As a result of this examination, a Sport Experience Design (SX) framework consists of three related parts: sport context, sport user, and sport organization. The sport context helps the sport user navigate through various different touch points via experience and interactions. This framework can lead to a better understanding of sport consumer behavior and assist the sport organizations better meet the consumer needs.

Mondello & Gordon (2015) identifies and addresses the importance of increasing fan/consumer experience for sport organizations. It surmises that through identification of several important variables, sport organizations can improve overall game and stadium experience. Through focus groups, this study identifies what is important to the key stakeholders and the target market of a sport organization. It proposes that focus groups can lead to a richer understanding of fan perspectives.

Birim, Antisal & Antisal (2016) examines the concerns of sport organizations and their maintenance of relationships with their fans. Understanding that sport organizations rely on their fan relationships to be successful, this study surveys a group of college students and identifies a scale to measure perceived fan value, overall satisfaction, brand equity, and fan behavioral intentions.

Gau & James (2013) examines the values associated with spectator sports (both live and televised) through a qualitative analysis of focus groups and interviews. This research is broken down into a framework of ten identifiable values in relation to spectator sports: enjoyment, sociability, identity, moral, spirituality, epistemic, aesthetic, rituals, and no negative values.

RESEARCH METHOD

Building off of the Sport Experience (SX) Design Framework (Funk, 2017), I have developed a specific set of consumer touch points which I will examine, analyze, and write about on my blog.

I will use an auto-ethnographic research method in which my examination and analyses of the touch points will be a combination of my first-hand experiences, observations, and discussion with other fans and/or guests that attend games with me.

The collection methods will vary from venue to venue. For example, for some games I hope to get tickets donated through team or industry connections. Other games I will purchase tickets via 3rd party, ticket scalpers, box office, online, etc.

When purchasing tickets, I will buy the cheapest ticket I can find, and watch from this seat for the first 3 innings. I will then sneak down and find a better seat so that I can compare the overall fan experience for the fan on a budget.

Some games I will take public transportation, others I will drive and park at the stadium or take an Uber. This project is going to be organic, with different variables at each location. However, one constant will be the specific touch points that will be addressed in each blog.

Additionally, I will purchase a souvenir at each game. The souvenir will not be the cheapest thing in the store (like the cost/value index uses the cheapest hat in their calculation), instead it will be what I like most. This will be addressed further in the touch points.

Additionally, throughout the trip, I will continue to study the current literature on fan experience so that I am cognizant of what has already been hypothesized and proven and how it relates to my experience.

SPECIFIC TOUCH POINTS

 ***Note: The touch points are in bold, the preceding questions are some ideas of how to further investigate these touchpoints. I will often answer all of these questions, however some are discretionary, and subjective to location.

***Note:these touch points are subject to change after the initial few postings if agreed upon between professor/student.

GETTING TO/IN THE GAME: How did I get there? How much did it cost to get there? How did I purchase my ticket and how much was it? Was there anything interesting going on around the stadium before I entered?

FACILITY: How is the team engaging me from the moment I enter the stadium? Do they have a team museum, and if so, is the stuff in it anything I want to see? Is there something unique to this park that I must visit? How does the facility make me feel?

Food and retail are sub-sections of facility…

*FOOD: Is there some famous thing I have to try? If so, how did I enjoy it? How expensive is the food? What is the variety? Are they chain restaurants or local boutique type specialty foods? ***I will attempt to investigate the beer situations, but I hate beer so I cannot commit to this…

*RETAIL: Other than food, how can I spend my money? Are there any experiences unique to this team/stadium? Do I feel their merchandise is appealing? What is my opinion of their team store?

IN-GAME: How is the cheapest seat? When I move seats, to a better location, does my fan experience improve? How is the atmosphere during the game? What is the crowd like? Were there things that the team did which distracted me from the on-field play?

POST-GAME: What did I think overall? What was my interactions like with the employees of the stadium/how was the customer service? Would I want to see another game at this park? Would I recommend others to visit? Any specific takeaway?

RUNNING QUESTION AFTER EACH NEW EXPERIENCE: Of all the parks I have visited thus far, how does this one rank?

AGREED GUIDELINES/EXPECTATIONS

Instagram will be used to post pictures of baseball stadium experiences. Twitter will be used to post live tweets throughout the journey and games. Both will be used to promote the blog.

Blog postings do not have a set length however they must address each of the predefined touch points above (or any modifications). Blog postings will attempt to follow best practices for ideal blog length. Best practices for blogs typically run about 1600 words, with photo heavy blogs being closer to 1000 words. These optimal lengths account for approximately a 7 minute read (Lee, 2016).

There will be a minimum of 15 blog postings addressing fan experience at different venues. While the goal is to attend 15 different venues, it is understood that this might prove challenging. As such, a minimum of 10 venues must be attended and should 15 prove to be unrealistic the remaining blog posts can be comparisons and/or reflections throughout the experience. For example, a comparison of the difference between attending venues on the East and West coasts or an overall reflection of the journey midway through.

Posts must be original, well written, articulate, and thought-provoking. Posts are expected to engage the reader, and not be boring. As such, it is acceptable and encouraged to incorporate my personality and individuality into posts—so long as posts remain appropriate and I am considerate of my representation of Temple STHM.

FINAL DELIVERABLE

A reflective final paper will examine and summarize my research and overall fan experience. Final paper will incorporate the applicable literature on fan experience and compare and contrast my experiences to the already existing literature. My hopeful outcome is that my experience will provide a new and richer understanding of fan experience from a new method of analysis.

While I have done research already into the literature on fan experience, the majority of my research will be done during the culmination period of my final paper. The reason for this is so that I do not go into the project with a predefined idea of expectations based on the literature already accessible. ***The presentation of this project will not be used in consideration of overall grade.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Learning and becoming an expert on the existing literature on fan experience.

Application and analysis of my first year of coursework from the graduate program.

Social media branding of myself and this project.

Utilization of the web and social media as tools for success to promote this journey.

Research collection and observation.

Continued emphasis on engaging my readers.

Sponsorship activation: learning how to sell myself and this project to third-party interests.

Self-exploration: I am sure that this trip will have a few hiccups along the way, how I deal with them and move forward will be important in my personal and professional development.

Work Cited:

Birim, B., Anitsal, M. M., & Anitsal, I. (2016). Perceived value, satisfaction, brand equity and behavioral intentions: Scale development for sports spectatorship in US college football. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 15(1), 1-11.

Funk, D.C. (2017).  Introducing a Sport Experience Design (SX) Framework For Sport Consumer Behaviour Research. Sport Management Review, 20, 145-158.

Gau, L., & James, J. D. (2013). A ten-value-type framework associated with spectator sports: A qualitative inquiry. SAGE Open, 3(2), 1-13. doi:10.1177/2158244013485580

Lee, K. (2016, June 01). The Ideal Length for All Online Content. Retrieved May 15, 2017, from https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-ideal-length-of-everything-online-according-to-science

Mondello, M., & Gordon, B. (2015). The NBA fan experience: A case study of a professional sport franchise. Journal of Contemporary Athletics, 9(4), 285-285.

Rinehart, R.E. (2005). Experiencing sport management: The use of personal narrative in sport management studies. Journal of Sport Management, 19(4), 497– 522.

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