Fan Networks in Women’s Sport: An Egocentric Analysis of Social Fans and IsoFans

Matthew Katz
E. Nicole Melton
Risa F. Isard
and Nola Agha

Guided by network theory, the purpose of this paper is to explore the consumption networks of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) fans. Through an egocentric network analysis, the authors utilize hierarchical linear modeling to examine the strength of consumption ties among WNBA fans during the 2019 season. Initial results revealed an unexpected finding: the presence of participants who reported having no fan-to-fan ties, whom we term IsoFans. A second sample of men’s basketball fans was then collected to serve as a comparative confirmation of the unexpected result, whereby IsoFans occurred in the men’s sport sample at a much lower rate. In the third step of the study, the authors examine the differences between WNBA fans consuming in isolation, IsoFans, and WNBA fans consuming with alters, whom we call Social Fans. Results from the hierarchical linear modeling of Social Fans revealed that attributes of both ego (i.e., focal fan) and alter (i.e., individual with whom ego shares a tie) affect the strength of fan-to-fan ties within the women’s sport context.