Global soccer fans are united and divided in their passion for the sport: Octagon study

MUMBAI: Throughout the Fifa World Cup, a global audience has witnessed the exuberance that football fans have for the sport. Aside from national pride, what drives the passion fans from different countries have for football?

Studies conducted in the past year by sports marketing agency Octagon quantify for the first time the key factors that ignite the passion fans have for football. Analysis from Octagon's Passion Drivers study of football fans from World Cup participants Germany, France, the U.K., Australia and the US, the 2010 World Cup host nation South Africa, and China reveal similarities and differences.

Octagon's VP of research and creator of the study Simon Wardle says, "Fans from countries like the U.K., France and Germany, where a longstanding football tradition exists and the sport holds a dominant position, share similar motivating passions for the sport but with some differences.

"Why fans from Europe follow the sport differs significantly from the factors that motivate fans in countries where football is less dominant."

The fan profiles developed by Octagon are based on 12 Passion Drivers factors. In varying degrees of intensity and in different combinations, these factors contribute to the passion fans have for football.

Wardle adds, "Understanding 'why fans are fans' is critical for companies who sponsor sports to engage consumers with their brands. The relationship that Europeans have to football is first and foremost driven by Team Devotion."

"This factor truly differentiates 'the beautiful game' and its supporters from other sports. German and English football fans are very similar in the relationship they have with the sport. UK fans seem to be more team focussed and avid than their German counterparts. The chance to gloat over fans of rival clubs is much stronger among German fans."

TCompared to German and UK fans, the study revealed the French are more overall fans of the sport itself. For the French fan, the pure enjoyment that comes from watching football is oftentimes more important than which teams are playing and the outcome of the match.

Wardle goes on to explain that in European markets, Team Devotion starts almost at birth. This contrasts to Chinese fans who do not have deep rooted team affinities. They are primarily motivated by an overall love of the game. The skill exhibited by world-class players and strategy employed by the top clubs, regardless of where these teams come from or a players' nationality, are far more important than the outcome of the match.

In South Africa, the opportunity football provides to socialise is the dominant motivator. Football also conjures a sense of nostalgia for many South Africans who grew up with the sport and appreciate the role football played in their personal and country's history. However, the Team Devotion factor is growing more important in this developing football market as it prepares to compete as host nation in the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

As a market influence, football remains in its formative stages in Australia and the US. The US and Australia are unique in their passion being primarily fuelled by a current or past involvement playing or coaching the sport, a Passion Drivers factor called Active Appreciation.

Wardle notes that Australia's success in the 2006 Fifa World Cup (they narrowly lost in a last minute penalty to finalists Italy) could accelerate its transition to a developing football market. The US holds the distinction as the world's least homogeneous football market in terms of the factors that drive its fans' passion for the sport. Along with active appreciation, US football fans are strongly driven by the opportunities the sport presents to talk and socialise. Nostalgia is also important for the many fans who emigrated from Europe and Latin America.

Octagon conducted Passion Drivers studies in eight countries among more than 20,000 fans of their nation's most popular sports. "With a deeper understanding of what drives their consumers' passion for sport, sponsors can truly harness the power of sports to differentiate their brands and engage consumers in meaningful, lasting ways," said Wardle.

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