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Motivation, segmentation and the mega-tournament experience: a study of English Football Tourists at the Brazil World Cup 2014

The latest Research Paper has been published by the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre. The paper, authored by MSc Sport Management and Marketing graduate Phil Turbutt, studies the motivations of English football tourists travelling to the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil.   Previous research on mega-events has focused overwhelmingly on the Olympic Games, with less understanding of multi-city, team-based tournaments such as the World Cup. Also, there have been calls for more understanding of sport tourist behaviour: to move beyond describing the what’ to a more detailed explanation of ‘why’.

With these concerns in mind, Phil spent time in Brazil during the World Cup in 2014 undertaking survey research that contributed to his MSc dissertation. He travelled to three cities (São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Recife) and engaged in the collection of face-to-face surveys with England football tourists. This process of data collection was particularly challenging, and was hampered by a several logistic and circumstantial issues. For example, the original plan to collect data in Salvador was deemed impossible due to delays in constructing the official Fan Fest site which mean that crowd control measures were not in place when the tournament commenced. This caused massive overcrowding at the site and rendered it unsuitable for data collection. In São Paulo, access to the heavily secured Fan Fest site was refused on the basis that pens had been categorised as ‘offensive weapons’, making survey distribution inside the location impossible. Subsequent attempts to deliver surveys on the approach to the site were thwarted by heavy rain. A second day of data collection in São Paulo was also disrupted due to a violent and unprovoked attack on England supporters by local hooligans, an incident widely reported in the British press.

Despite these challenges, Phil was able to obtain a total of 122 usable responses. The data analysis shows that English football tourists are driven by a combination of fan and leisure motivations, event and destination appeal, and behavioural and socio-demographic traits. Results also revealed a hitherto unexplored phenomenon that local sports culture forms a measurable component of the tournament’s appeal. Cluster analysis was then used to identify four typologies of English Football Tourists (‘Social Escapers’; ‘Tournament Revellers’; ‘England Patriots’; ‘England Enthusiasts’), each exhibiting specific motivational characteristics and ticket purchasing behaviours.

These typologies have practical value for organisations including the Football Association (the FA). The FA has responsibility for ticketing policy, with purchasing patterns amongst the four typologies of English Football Tourists revealing that not only did the majority of ‘England Patriots’ and ‘England Enthusiasts’ purchase their World Cup tickets through the FA’s official Supporters Club membership scheme but that a proportion of ‘Tournament Revellers’ also used this official channel. In the same way that domestic football has employed Customer Relationship Management to leverage fan equity, profiling and segmentation strategies may therefore become the crucial tool for the FA to engage with a more diverse Supporters Club membership. The typologies identified within this study can provide an initial segmentation framework.

Copies of the research paper can be downloaded here.

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