Nonlocal Fandom: Effects of Geographic Distance, Geographic Identity, and Local Competition on Team Identification

Katherine R. N. Reifurth
Matthew J. Bernthal
Khalid Ballouli
and Dorothy Collins

Sports fans’ identification with their hometown is a very salient aspect of who they are, and thus, they are likely to be attracted to teams that represent the place they call “home.” Although recent sport marketing studies have shed light on the importance of home among fans, there is a void in the literature relative to “nonlocal fans.” This study aims to examine how geographic distance, geographic identity, and the presence of other local teams affect team identification for different types of nonlocal fans: displaced and nondisplaced fans. Nine hundred and twenty self-identified nonlocal US fans completed an online survey distributed via online discussion forums. Results revealed partial statistical support for the hypotheses. Increased distance was not negatively related to team identification no matter the type of nonlocal fan. Results also suggest that the presence of a local team in the same sport or different sports does not diminish team identification for nondisplaced nonlocal fans. The study signifies that nonlocal fans are a valuable segment for teams to target, whether displaced or nondisplaced. Further, results suggest that teams should encourage fans to geographically identify with the city in which a team resides.