Pro Softball Fan Segments: A Two-Step Cluster Analysis

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International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

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Purpose: Niche sports such as women's professional sport leagues face many challenges to developing and expanding their fan base. Understanding sport fans, segmenting consumer bases and targeting them effectively can assist in both developing the fan base and competing for investments like sponsorships and media rights. The purpose of this study was to explore consumer segments of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), a niche softball league, by identifying demographic and psychographic characteristics of the segments and developing a persona for each segment. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected from 3,463 NPF consumers with the assistance of NPF league officials using their social media outlets. A two-step cluster analysis was performed employing both categorical and continuous variables to inform the segmentation, which was followed with chi-squared statistics and two MANOVAs to compare the segments' demographic characteristics, points of attachment (POAs) levels and attendance and viewership of NPF games. Findings: Three distinct consumer segments with unique demographic, POA and softball participation characteristics were identified. Differences among these segments' consumption of NPF games validated the existence of three distinct consumer segments. Originality/value: This research is the first to examine consumer behavior in women's softball, and it expands the sport marketing literature through the identification of consumer segments of a niche sport league with a novel cluster analysis. Blending theory and practice by incorporating both demographic and psychographic variables into market segmentation, the research uniquely serves this niche sport and thereby informs improved marketing practice.


Market segmentation; Niche sports; Women’s sports; Cluster analysis; Softball


Marketing | Sports Management



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