About the Author(s)

Frederick W. Stander Email
Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, South Africa

Llewellyn E. van Zyl
Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, South Africa


Stander F.W., & Van Zyl, L.E. (2016). See you at the match: motivation for sport consumption and intrinsic psychological reward of premier football league spectators in South Africa. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology/SA Tydskrif vir Bedryfsielkunde, 42(1), a1312. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1312

Original Research

See you at the match: Motivation for sport consumption and intrinsic psychological reward of premier football league spectators in South Africa

Frederick W. Stander, Llewellyn E. van Zyl

Received: 12 Sept. 2015; Accepted: 05 Nov. 2015; Published: 22 Apr. 2016

Copyright: © 2016. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Orientation: Local football contributes significantly to the social- and economic welfare of South Africa through its spectators. Understanding the motives and experiences of football spectators could provide opportunities for capitalising on football as revenue stream feeding the South African economy.

Research purpose: To investigate how motives for sport consumption predict intrinsic psychological reward of South African premier league football spectators.

Motivation for the study: Sport - particularly football - is an untapped resource for stimulating economic development and growth through its consumers. Spectators, who often experience their investment in the sport as deeply rewarding and meaningful, should participate more frequently in purchasing products or services associated with the sport. Through understanding the motives for sport consumption of South African premier league football spectators and the impact of these motives on intrinsic psychological reward experiences, football clubs are able to provide a targeted experience or service to spectators in order to further stimulate economic growth.

Research design, approach and method: A census sample of 806 football spectators attending various matches at a football stadium in Soweto was drawn. A cross-sectional research design was implemented. This research was exploratory and descriptive. Structural equation modelling was implemented to assess the factor structures of the constructs, to confirm composite reliability of the measures and to assess the structural paths between the variables.

Main findings: A predictive model for intrinsic psychological rewards (life satisfaction and meaning) through the motivation for sport consumption (individual – and game related factors) was confirmed. It was further established that motivation for sport consumption is significantly positively a) related to and b) associated with the experience of intrinsic psychological reward by South African football spectators.

Practical/managerial implications: Football clubs should tailor spectator experiences around both individual and game related spectator motives in order to develop experiences associated with intrinsic psychological reward.

Contribution/value-add: The study contributes to consumer psychology research relating to the motives associated with the consumption of football within South Africa.


The contribution of the sports industry to the global economy has evolved rapidly over the course of the last decade (Kim, 2010; Koenderman, 2013). This is reflected through a dramatic increase in financial sponsorship of sport events and teams by large corporations (Crompton, 2015; Kim, 2010), formalised organisation of the commercialisation relating to the sport sector (Koenderman, 2013) and a steep increase in the viewing and general economic consumption of sport events (Madrigal, Hamill & Gill, 2013). The sports industry cemented a substantial presence in the overall tourism and leisure sector (Bing et al., 2015; PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2011). Through innovative and aggressive marketing initiatives, the sports industry has managed to grow despite challenging global economic conditions (Giampiccoli, Lee & Nauright, 2015; PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2011). KPMG (2014) estimated the global sport industry to be worth more than $600 billion (US) per annum. The sports industry provides a platform for sports-related businesses to generate profits through sports retail and manufacturing, media and hospitality, venues and infrastructure as well as merchandising (Bing et al., 2015; KPMG, 2014). As such, the business of sport has become a critical engine of economic growth, providing job opportunities, stimulating investment and developing consumer consumption through its spectators (de Burca, Brannick & Meenaghan, 2015; Smith & Stewart, 2007).

The above also applies to South Africa, where the sport industry has grown to become a mature contributor to the economy (Giampiccoli et al., 2015; Ntloko & Swart, 2008; Koortzen & Oosthuizen, 2012). As early as 2007, the sport sector contributed an equivalent of 2% to total national GDP, distinguishing itself as a noteworthy industry in the scheme of the bigger economy (Chan, 2010). In an industry report prepared by Africa Investor (2012), South Africa ranked the highest of all African countries with regards to expenditure in this sector through formal corporate sponsorship by major businesses, raking in $137 646 873 (US) in 2012, an amount five times higher than the country which was placed second, Egypt. South Africa has also been a preferred African destination for global mega sport events, such as the IRB Rugby World Cup (1995), the ICC Cricket World Cup (2003) and the FIFA Football World Cup (2010) (Van Der Merwe, 2007). More recently, South Africa has been awarded the rights to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games (SAinfo reporter, 2015). These events have been instrumental in showcasing South Africa to the world and to stimulate direct and indirect investment in the country’s economy (Cornelissen, Bob & Swart, 2011). The forecast for growth of the South African sport sector has been set at an annual average of 5.9% by PricewaterhouseCoopers (2011), who articulate that sport has been a major segment in the overall entertainment and media industry in the country and forecasts the sector to generate a total annual revenue of R19.5 billion in 2017. In a country with a passionate fraternity of sport followers, South Africa’s economy has reaped the benefits of substantial investment in the sports industry through major sports such as rugby, cricket and football (Pillay & Bass, 2009).

Particularly, football evokes great passion amongst a large portion of South Africa’s sport consumers, and although the exact number of viewers is widely disputed, several millions of South Africans actively consume the sport (Adonis, 2011; Onwumechili & Akindes, 2014). Football is the country’s premier sport from both a participation and spectator perspective (Baller, 2015; Department of Sport and Recreation, 2014). Despite the South African economy’s sluggish growth rate, the football industry has enjoyed phenomenal business success (Baller, 2015; Koortzen & Oosthuizen, 2012). Gedye (2007) argues that the sport is at its commercial pinnacle, attracting sponsorship and viewers at an unprecedented rate. Key indicators of this trend are investments, for instance, made by ABSA, the country’s largest retail bank, that invested more than R500 million over 5 years to secure the title rights as main sponsor to the Premier Soccer League, as well as the broadcaster SuperSport, which invests significant amounts annually (up to R1.6 billion) to secure international sports broadcasting rights for the Premier Soccer League games (KickOff, 2011).

Together with its commercial offering and significant economic contribution to the tourism, sport and leisure sector, football also played a prominent social role in South African history, providing meaningful experiences and social interaction opportunities as well as abolishing divides between people (Cornelissen et al., 2011). As South Africa’s foremost sport, football played a prolific part in creating social dialogue and offering people memorable experiences through a shared platform that creates feelings of community (Chain & Swart, 2010). It has contributed, perhaps most significantly, to providing communities with pleasurable and memorable experiences, delivering a vehicle to people to escape from their everyday lives (Cornelissen, 2007). Football in South Africa therefore has fulfilled the established role that sport has traditionally offered audiences around the world – that of capturing the passion and imagination of its followers and delivering a deeply profound internal rewarding experience (Potter & Keane, 2012).

It is clear that football plays both a commercial and social role in South Africa, contributing to domestic production as well as stimulating intrinsic rewarding experiences to its consumers, millions of South African spectators. It is thus surprising that the fundamental motive that drives spectators to consume the sport remains unexplored. Scientific inquiries into the factors associated with its consumption have not been launched (de Burca et al., 2015). This presents a real pragmatic and scientific problem as the drivers of football consumption are not comprehended and as such have not been leveraged on fully in terms of its economic and social potential. Although the economic benefits of football are understood, limited scientific inquiry into the factors associated with and psychological impact of its consumption by its consumers (or ‘spectators’) have been launched (de Burca et al., 2015). It is imperative to understand the factors that motivate South African football spectators to invest a financial, physical or timeous effort in the consumption of their preferred sport. This will assist the leadership fraternities (such as football clubs) of this sport to better service its consumer and develop targeted marketing - and engagement strategies in order to meaningfully contribute to economic growth - which is a key priority of the South African National Development Plan (2013). This research aims to examine the underlying motives for sports consumption and investigate its relation to intrinsic psychological reward in an effort to advise the sport to strengthen its position as an economic and social resource in the country.

Research purpose and objectives

From a consumer behaviour perspective, knowledge about the underlying motives that lead South African football spectators to invest in the sport will shed light in the resulting intrinsic psychological reward that motivation for sport consumption has on these spectators. This will subsequently highlight the factors that motivate engagement in sports consumption behaviour. Such understanding will contribute to the body of knowledge relating to football sector-specific consumer behaviour in the country, a sub-discipline which has not received much attention in industrial psychology research in recent years (Coetzee & Van Zyl, 2014a; 2014b; 2015).

The purpose of the research was to investigate how motives for sport consumption predict experiences of intrinsic psychological reward of South African football spectators. Specifically, the aim is to explore the underlying motives for consumption of sport of South African football spectators and investigate the effect that these motives have on the intrinsic reward perceived by such spectators during their consumption of the sport.

Literature review

In order to provide context to the aforementioned research purpose and objectives, a thorough synthesis of the literature relating to the motivational factors associated with sports consumption, intrinsic psychological reward and the relationships between these variables within the football spectator population will be presented.

Motivation for sport consumption

Trail and James (2001) were the first authors who attempted to understand the motivation of spectators in sport. These researchers’ interest was sparked by the notion of gaining a deeper understanding of the psychological affinity and deep level of meaningfulness gained by spectators when following sport (Cottingham, Phillips, Hall, Gearity & Carroll, 2014; de Burca et al., 2015; Trail & James, 2001). Spectators, in this instance, refer to more than passive viewers of a sports match, but imply those individuals who, according to Sloan (1989), are persistent, engaged and active followers of the sport and who willingly invest resources in such sport over a prolonged period of time. Monfarde, Tojari and Nikbakhsh (2014) state that spectators may share a basic psychological affinity to their preferred sport, but that such affinity is influenced fundamentally by unique attributes, shaped by the individual characteristics of the different spectators. It is also important to fully comprehend such attributes as it would enable more directed efforts towards targeted communication to engaged and involved sport spectators (Wang, Zhang, & Tsuji, 2011).

According to the motivation for sport consumption theory, spectators of a specific sport have different underlying psychological motives as to why they follow and consume such sport (Cottingham et al., 2014; Karakaya, Yannopoulos & Kefalaki, 2015; Trail & James, 2001). Because people are unique, their motives for following sport will differ (Karakaya et al., 2015; Shank & Lyberger, 2014). Thus, fundamentally stated, sport spectators will have different reasons as to why a particular sport attracts them. This may include, according to Trail and James (2001):

  • Vicarious achievement: the sense of empowerment people experience when they watch their favourite sport team play.
  • Acquisition of knowledge: the motive for learning new information by watching one’s favourite sports team or sport.
  • Aesthetics: by which an appreciation of the beauty and artistic appeal of a particular sport appeals to the spectator.
  • Drama: whereby the anxious uncertainty of a result causes some spectators to feel excited.
  • Escape: whereby sport serves as a vehicle to assist spectators to escape the realities of life or such circumstances as a menial job.
  • Physical attractiveness of the athletes: where the ‘sex appeal’ of certain athletes causes spectators to enjoy that sport.
  • Physical skills of the players: where the physical prowess and talents of the player, who is at an elevated level, causes spectators to enjoy the game.
  • Social interaction: which talks to established theories such as theorised by Alderfer and Maslow, outlying that sport provides spectators with a platform to exhibit their need for affinity and interaction with others.

Some authors, such as Choi, Martin, Park and Yoh (2009) have divided such motives into two categories, being psycho-sociological (personal or individual) and behavioural (game) related factors. From this perspective, personal or individual factors were associated with motives of vicarious achievement, aesthetics, the experience of drama or eustress and escape from daily life problems. Similarly, game-related motivational factors related to the spectator’s acquisition of game-related knowledge, the appreciation of the physical skill of the athletes, the physical attractiveness of players and the social interaction amongst spectators. The differentiation between personal or individual and game-related consumption factors provide a structured means through which to understand the psychological attachment of spectators to the sport (Baller, 2015; Choi et al., 2009).

As a collective, these factors primarily influence the decision of the spectator to consume sport and are directly related to buying behaviours (Cottingham et al., 2014; Izzo et al., 2014). In order to leverage the intentions of sport spectators to invest monetary resources in their preferred sport, these factors must be comprehended and adequately serviced (Kim, Greenwell, Andrew, Lee & Mahoney, 2008; Shank & Lyberger, 2014). This is also true of the South African football context. Considering the unprecedented growth that the sport has enjoyed with regards to its commercial positioning, a clearer fundamental understanding of its key stakeholder, the paying spectator, becomes paramount (Cornelissen et al., 2011). By servicing this stakeholder on the basis of one’s specific motives, direct consumer spend in the sport will increase, sustainable investment through sponsorship will be enhanced and the general economic value of the sport to the South African economy will be bolstered (Saayman & Rossouw, 2008). This will ensure that the vast economic potential of sport comes to fruition in South African football specifically (Vasilescu, Pirvu & Mehedintu, 2008).

Although the value of investigating these factors is clear, no research within the South African context pertaining to these factors, its impact or the measurement thereof could be found. The measurement of motivations relating to sports consumption is imperative to understanding these factors and to empirically link it to other individual or economic performance factors. The Motivation Scale for Sports Consumption (MSSC) is one such measure. Developed by Trail and James (2001), the MSSC has been used to assess the motivation for sport consumption of spectators in various sport contexts during the past decade. The instrument has been applied in various international contexts and has revealed valuable information about the motives that facilitate consumption of different types of sports (Shank & Lyberger, 2014).

It has contributed significantly to service those spectators in a way that is directed and specific (Kim, 2010; Wang & Matsuoka, 2015). However, the MSSC has never been used in a sample of South African sport spectators. This represents a significant research gap. By investigating the underlying motives of consumption of South Africa’s foremost sport, football, a directed marketing and engagement effort can be launched to leverage the growth potential of the sport and stimulate economic growth. Further, understanding how motivational factors associated with sports consumption link to individual positive psychological processes (such as intrinsic psychological reward) could provide valuable information for structuring football experiences to stimulate these positive experiences (sense of meaning and life satisfaction) for the spectator, which in return may enhance consumer spending (Baller, 2015; Guttmann, 2013).

Intrinsic reward of sport consumption

Literature is rife with information about the deeply meaningful experiences sport spectators enjoy as a result of their sport consumption (Karakaya et al., 2015; Samra & Wos, 2014). For example, Potter and Keene (2012) state that sport spectators experience their consumption of sport as intrinsically rewarding and meaningful which leads to the experience of positive emotional experiences. The consumer of sport often forms a deeply cultural and ritualistic affinity to one’s preferred sport or sports team, providing such consumer with a clear sense of identity and meaning or ‘purpose’ (Chun, Gentry & McGinnis, 2005; de Burca et al., 2015; Shank & Lyberger, 2014) through the generation of positive psychological experiences (e.g. experience of life satisfaction, or happiness). This acts as a self-sustaining behaviouristic positive reinforcement for its consumption (Guttmann, 2013; Wann, Melnick, Russell & Pease, 2001). The sense of meaning or purpose evokes positive emotions in the spectator as it creates belonging to a broader community and hence often predicts aspects of well-being such as social and psychological health as well as life satisfaction (Guttmann, 2013; Wann et al., 2001; Wann, 2006). This meaning or purpose and experiences of positive emotions and life satisfaction culminate in an individualised experience of intrinsic psychological reward associated with engagement in the sports activity (Wann et al., 2001).

It is this intrinsic psychological reward that was established to be a significant driver of buying behaviour, in other words purchasing of the product or service (Mpinganjira & Dos Santos, 2013). Botha (2013) articulates that the intrinsic psychological reward a consumer experiences as the result of a particular purchase is a sustainable driver of repeated consumption and will motivate such consumer to more readily invest in consuming the product over an extended period.

Explanation for this is offered through the perspective of the attachment theory of Ainsworth and Bowlby (1991). This theory argues that people develop an intense emotional attachment to only a few products, brands or services that they regularly consume (Schouten & McAlexander, 1995). According to Bowlby (1979), the extent of that emotional attachment will determine the regularity to which the consumer will seek interaction with that product or brand. When such emotional attachment is significant and deeply rewarding, the consumer will actively look towards investing repeatedly in that product. That emotional attachment is a significant predictor of the extent to which the consumer will make a financial sacrifice and pay a premium price to consume the product or service (Thomson, MacInnes & Park, 2005). The intensity relating to the experience of life satisfaction and personal meaning, as components of intrinsic psychological reward, is a major predictor for financial investment and repeated consumption of a service (Guttmann, 2013). Further, Shuv-Ami (2014) has argued that passionate sport spectators derive life satisfaction and meaning from supporting their favourite teams through the happiness and joy they experience through their interactions with such teams. Applied within the South African football environment, it is possible to argue that a deep intrinsic psychological reward (i.e. experiences of life satisfaction and meaning), which is associated with the consumption of the sport, will harness the affinity required to stimulate repeated investment in the product.

From this perspective, intrinsic psychological reward is defined as the deeply significant experiences of purpose and meaningfulness as well as the internal positive emotional experience of overall life satisfaction and gratification sport spectators derive through their motives of consuming sport. Although various factors attribute to the experience of intrinsic psychological reward, both the presence of meaning or purpose and the experience of life satisfaction seem to be the strongest predictors (Park, Park & Peterson, 2010). Applied within this study, the intrinsic psychological reward experienced by football spectators is composed of the presence of meaning and life satisfaction. The former refers to the perception a person has that one’s life has a clear purpose, direction and significance (Steger, Frazier, Oishi & Kaler, 2006). The latter describes the extent to which an individual evaluates one’s life conditions and find those conditions as favourable, thus reflecting the status of such a person’s overall happiness (Diener, Oishi & Lucas, 2003; Van Zyl & Rothmann, 2012; Van Zyl & Stander, 2014). Both constructs are concerned with inherent reward and personal growth (Ryff & Singer, 1998; Van Zyl & Rothmann, 2014). Santos, Magramo, Oguan, Paat, and Barnachea (2012) established meaning and life satisfaction to be highly related constructs. Park et al. (2010) comment that meaning and life satisfaction cannot be separated as both are required for the well-being of people.

In the context of the attachment theory, it is possible to postulate that these deeply intrinsically psychological rewarding experiences associated with the consumption of football will lead South African spectators to repetitively engage in cyclical financial investment in products and services associated with the sport (Thomson et al., 2005). To investigate the relationship between motivation for sport consumption and intrinsic reward of South African football spectators, a breakdown of the different motives for sport consumption in relation to inherent psychological reward experiences is required.

Relationship between motivation for sport consumption and intrinsic reward

The various motives for sport consumption as identified by Trail and James (2001) reveal close linkages with the intrinsic psychological reward factors of meaning and life satisfaction. As described in the MSSC Manual developed by Trail (2012), several dimensions of motivation for sport consumption are closely related to these constructs.

Firstly, vicarious achievement describes the motive that an individual has for social prestige, self-esteem and empowerment that come through the association with a particular sport team. This is directly related to both the eudemonic dimensions that are meaning and satisfaction (Ryff & Singer, 1998; Van Zyl & Rothmann, 2014), as this motive fundamentally influences how the sport consumer views oneself through the sport team that one identifies with. According to Sari, Eskiler and Soyer (2011), the identity which sport spectators find within their teams, as a result of the positively meaningful experiences derived from consumption, significantly impact their self-esteem, as they view the successes and failures of that team as a reflection of their own worth as people. Resultantly, the extent towards which the spectators’ identities are tied to the given sport or team influences their experiences of overall life satisfaction and meaning (Guttmann, 2013). Thus, a spectator who has the motive of vicarious achievement is likely to seek a team that is successful and as such will positively respond, on a personal level, to the achievement of such team (Sari, Eskiler & Soyer, 2011).

Secondly, acquisition of knowledge reflects the extent to which the sport consumer has a need to learn about the players and the particular sport team through various interactions. With regards to its link with intrinsic reward, we learn from the love of learning character strength as put forward by Peterson and Seligman (2004). These authors describe this character strength as the inherent willingness to acquire new knowledge and attribute it as an important element of personal resourcefulness and well-being as applied within a given context (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). This psychological strength is a strong predictor of life satisfaction and the presence of meaning as components of intrinsic psychological reward (Lee, Foo, Adams, Morgan & Frewen, 2015).

Thirdly, aesthetics refer to the appreciation for the artistic beauty of sport as a motive some consumers have that move them to consume such particular sport. Aesthetics is closely related to the character strength ‘appreciation of beauty and excellence’ as conceptualised by Peterson and Seligman (2004). Appreciation of beauty is a character strength that defines people’s ability to appreciate, recognise and take pleasure in beauty in both physical and social contexts (Allan & Duffy, 2014; Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Zhang et al., 2015). It has been argued that this character strength is regularly manifested in physical bodily reactions to the emotion of being in awe, such as experiencing goosebumps or shedding a tear in appreciation of something with high aesthetic value. These physical experiences are indicative of deeply rewarding internal emotive states pertaining to the presence of meaning and life satisfaction (Lee et al., 2015; Peterson & Seligman, 2003; Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Fourthly, the dimension of drama or eustress reflects the motive some sport spectators exhibit to experience positive stress and arousal from the uncertainty in the outcome that some sport events bring. It has been described by Trail and James (2001) as the motive that attracts people to the edge of their seat whilst watching a closely contested sport game. Pham (1992) describes this motive as the arousal that some spectators derive from the pleasurable stress that comes from watching sport that leads such fans to experience pleasure. Pleasure is a major component in the experience of overall happiness, which directly relates to both meaning and satisfaction in life (Grimm, Kemp & Jose, 2015; Van Zyl & Rothmann, 2014).

Fifthly, escape as a motive for sport consumption reflects spectators’ need to find emission from the monotonous activity of their everyday lives, workplaces or realities towards a space which provides them with fulfilment and excitement. This is captured through the work of Sonnentag and Zijlstra (2006), who in their well-being research have highlighted that those active resources should be available to people to escape from their working lives in order to recover from strain and buffer themselves against stress. In this regard, Segrave (2000) offers an enlightening perspective: ‘one of the sources of sport’s enormous contemporary appeal is that it provides an escape, a brief and often intoxicating respite from the complexities and confusions of everyday life’ (p. 61). Therefore, the experiences associated with psychological and emotional detachment from current life–related stressors through sports consumption provides experiences of life satisfaction (Branscombe & Wann, 1991; Sonnentag, 2012).

Sixthly, physical attractiveness of athletes is a major contributing factor associated with the motivation to consume a sport. They argue that some spectators make the decision to consume sport because they find the sex appeal and athleticism of the sport participants appealing. In the domain of advertising, appealing physical attributes have long been used in marketing, as it is perceived that it will help to sell product (Klug & Vigar-Ellis, 2012). Ouwersloot and Duncan (2008) argue that sex appeal in marketing has the ability to ‘grab’ the consumers’ attention through stimulating positive emotional experiences. Physical attraction towards the athletes may in effect predict experiences of life satisfaction as it stimulates sexual desire within the spectator (Knoppers & Anthonissen, 2008).

The seventh motive for sport consumption relates to the physical skills of the players, where the spectator appreciates the level of physical superiority athletes have and enjoy the great execution of certain sport actions or tasks. Smith and Stewart (2007) stated that sport spectators develop a deep sense of pride in the superior abilities of their favourite team’s athletes and relate this to their own identity. Kupfer (1988) refer to the ‘great moments in sport’ that sport spectators crave, to which they look forward to and which provides them with a deep sense of personal reward and internal satisfaction if they are realised. These great moments may refer to a beautifully executed move, an innovative scoring opportunity or a rarely seen act of brilliance from a player (Kupfer, 1988). Jacobsen (2003) argued that the often perceived superior ability of professional athletes assists the sport spectator to develop a deep sense of self-worth as such spectator will relate such superiority to one’s own self-concept. Social identity theory dictates that, when the spectator establishes congruence between one’s definition of self and the perceived physical abundance of potential in the athletes of one’s chosen sport team, that spectator will be left with feelings of inherent satisfaction and purpose should these athletes perform well (Fink, Parker, Brett & Higgens, 2009).

Finally, social interaction as a motive refers to the need to interact with others and interact with people who share the same interests as oneself. Sport consumption has long played a pivotal role in satisfying people’s need for social interaction. It provides a powerful generic platform where people from diverse backgrounds can unite in their shared interest and exchange ideas (Cornelissen, 2007). It is this relatedness need that shape individuals’ well-being, as healthy, enjoyable relationships with others play a critical role in whether a person flourishes (Keyes, 2005). Sport provides a universal platform of engagement, where social exchanges can be made between like-minded people, who experience these exchanges as deeply meaningful and pleasurable, offering them meaning and positive emotional experiences attributing to life satisfaction in those exchanges (Funk & James, 2001).

The dimensions delineated above contribute collectively to intrinsic psychological reward as it is directly associated with the experience of meaning and life satisfaction, two closely related well-being constructs that leave people with an heightened perception of purpose and internal gratification (Park et al., 2010).


The literature review and problem statement highlight the need to investigate the relationships between the motivation for sports consumption and intrinsic reward of spectators of the South African premier football league. Specifically, the study aims to develop a predictive model for intrinsic reward through factors associated with the motivation for sports consumption within this context. It is expected that football spectators of the South African premier football league’s motivation for sports consumption will have a direct effect on the experience of intrinsic psychological reward (in terms of meaning and life satisfaction). As such, the following hypothesis is presented for the study:

H1: Motivation for sports relates positively to intrinsic psychological reward (meaning and life satisfaction).

Research method

Research design

A cross-sectional survey-based research design was used to explore the relationships amongst the variables. The design is appropriate for exploratory research as it highlights the prevalence of conditions, relationships and associations of factors at a given time stamp within a specific population (Van Zyl, 2013). However, no causal factors, relationships or associations can be inferred (Graziano & Raulin, 2004).


A census-based sampling strategy was used to gather data from a diverse group of football spectators (n = 806) at a number of South African Premier League football matches in Soweto (see Table 1). The majority of the sample were black (85%), Sesotho speaking (26.2%) men (67.4%) between the ages of 31 and 40 years (30.6%) with a Grade 12 level of education (37.7%). Participants were members of the local football team’s branch (57.6%) who attended four or more games per year (70.1%) and spent less than R1000 on official football merchandise a year (32.6%). The majority of the participants accessed their favourite football team’s official digital platforms (social media, websites) three or more times a week (42.6%).

TABLE 1: Respondents’ demographic and biographic information (N = 806).
Measuring Instruments

The following measuring instruments were used as part of the study:

A self-developed biographic questionnaire was developed to gather biographic and demographic information relating to participants gender, race, age, home language, level of education, membership of local football branch, physical game attendance per annum, annual spending on official football merchandise as well as digital media engagement.

MSSC, developed by Trail and James (2001), was used to measure the motivational factors associated with sports consumption. The MSSC is a multi-dimensional self-report measure consisting of 24 items measuring factors associated with individual (‘It increases my self-esteem’; ‘It provides me with an opportunity to escape the reality of my daily life for a while’) and game-related (‘I can increase my understanding of the strategy by watching the game’) motivational factors associated with sports consumption. Self-reported data on items are captured on a seven-point Likert-type rating scale ranging from 1 (Strongly disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree). The internal consistency of the measure is represented by Cronbach’s alpha values ranging between α = 0.75 and α = 0.91 (Trail, 2012).

The Intrinsic Psychological Reward Scale comprised two factors (life satisfaction and meaning) measured by six items taken from the satisfaction with life scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985) and the meaning in life questionnaire (Steger et al., 2006). Three items of each original questionnaire (Satisfaction with life: ‘In most ways my life is close to my ideal’, ‘The conditions of my life are excellent’ and ‘I am satisfied with life’. Meaning in Life: ‘My life has a clear sense of purpose’; ‘I have a clear sense of what makes my life meaningful’; ‘I have discovered a satisfying life purpose’) which showed the highest level of internal consistency across population groups (Diener et al., 1985; Pavot, Diener, Colvin & Sandvik, 1991; Steger et al., 2006; Temane, Khumalo & Wissing, 2014) were used to measure intrinsic psychological reward. A seven-point Likert-type rating scale ranging from 1 (Strongly disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree) was used to capture self-report data. The internal consistencies of the measures are represented by Cronbach’s alpha values of higher than 0.70 (Diener et al., 1985; Pavot et al., 1991; Steger et al., 2006; Temane et al.,2014)

Research procedure

Permission to conduct the research was obtained through the football association’s management team. Pen-on-paper self-report questionnaires were administered to participants at the stadium. Each questionnaire included a cover page explaining the purpose of the study, highlighting the rights, roles or responsibilities of all stakeholders and inviting voluntary participation in the project. No personally identifiable information was captured as part of the project. The data were then captured in a Microsoft Excel worksheet and imported into SPSS 22, whereby the dataset was cleaned and coded. Thereafter, an Mplus data file was generated.

Statistical analysis

Both the SPSS 22 (IBM SPSS Statistics, 2013) and Mplus version 7.3 (Muthén & Muthén 2014) statistical analysis software packages were used to process the data. Firstly, descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, skewness and kurtosis) and Spearman correlations were used to describe the data and to determine relationships amongst the variables. The confidence interval of statistical significance was set at 99% (p ≤ 0.01) in accordance with the guidelines of Steyn and Swanepoel (2008). Cohen’s (1988) promulgated effect sizes were used as indicators of practical significance, whereby 0.30 (medium effect) and 0.50 (large effect) were set as cut-off points.

In order to determine the internal consistency of the constructs, both Cronbach’s alpha values (lower bound limit for composite reliability) (Allen & Yen, 2002; Olckers & Van Zyl., 2015; Van Zyl, 2013) and composite reliabilities were used (Hair, Black, Babin & Anderson, 2010; Raykov, 2009; Wang & Wang, 2012). As Cronbach’s alpha has been shown to be a serious underestimate for scale reliability (Raykov, 2009), phi was used to determine the upper limit (bound) level of internal consistency or ‘composite reliability’. Colwell’s (2015) composite reliability calculator was used to estimate composite reliability in Mplus.

Structural equation modelling was used to develop a predictive model (Hair et al., 2010; Wang & Wang, 2012) for intrinsic psychological reward through motivational factors for sports consumption. Observed variables were classified as continuous variables. The maximum likelihood parameter estimate with standard errors (SEs) and the Satorra-Bentler χ2 test statistic for robust skewed data (non-normality) was used as an estimator for model construction (MLM; Muthén & Muthén 2014). The Satorra-Bentler (Satorra & Bentler, 2010) method was used to determine, compare and evaluate χ2 changes between different measurement models.

The following fit indices were used in the analysis:

  1. Absolute fit indices - Changes in the Satorra-Bentler χ2 test statistic; root-mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and the standardised root mean residual (SRMR);

  2. Incremental fit indices - Comparative fit index (CFI) and the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI) and

  3. Comparative fit indices - Akaike Information Criterion and Bayesian Information Criterion.

Table 2 provides an overview of the acceptable values and cut-off points for the various fit indices as suggested by Hair et al. (2010), Muthén and Muthén (2014) as well as Wang and Wang (2012).

TABLE 2: Fit indices: acceptable values and cut-off points.

As such, three measurement models were evaluated and the best-fit model was used as the foundation for the structural model. Measurement models deal with the relationships between the observed and latent variables, whilst a structural model deals with the associations between the latent variables (Hair et al., 2010).


A three-phased approach was used to evaluate the hypotheses within the study. Firstly, descriptive statistics and Spearman correlations are reported. Secondly, competing theory–driven measurement models are reported to assess which model fits the data better. Finally, the structural model determining the associations between the variables is presented.

Descriptive statistics and relationships

The descriptive statistics, the alpha coefficients (α), composite reliabilities (ρ) and Spearman correlations of all the measured constructs are presented in Table 3.

TABLE 3: Descriptive statistics, alpha coefficients, composite reliabilities and Spearman correlations (N = 806).

Table 3 shows that the composite coefficients (ρ > 0.70: Wang et al., 2008; Wang & Wang 2012) and the alpha coefficients of the scales used were acceptable (α > 0.70: Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). The results indicated that all factors are not normally distributed.

The results further showed that game-related motivational factors (r = 0.65; p ≤ 0.01; large effect) as well as both the components of intrinsic psychological reward, Life Satisfaction (r = 0.40; p ≤ 0.01; medium effect) and Meaning (r = 0.40; p ≤ 0.01; medium effect), correlated significantly positively with individual motivational factors. Further, both components of intrinsic psychological reward, Life Satisfaction (r = 0.50; p ≤ 0.01; medium effect) and Meaning (r = 0.40; p ≤ 0.01; medium effect) correlated significantly positively with game-related motivational factors but with a medium practical effect. Finally, both factors of intrinsic psychological reward related positively to one another (r = 0.58; p ≤ 0.01; large effect).

Competing measurement models

Competing theoretical measurement models were systematically compared through structural equation modelling in order to determine which fitted the data best. Only one item of the MSSC (item 1) was removed in the final model because of a poor factor loading (≤0.40) (Muthén & Muthén, 2014). No other items were removed, correlated or parcelled. Error terms were left uncorrelated. Further, continuous observed variables (responses on items) were used as indicators of first-order latent variables within the competing measurement models.

A series of confirmatory factor analyses was used in order to determine which factor structure fitted the data best. Three competing measurement models were assessed and the fit statistics are shown in Table 4:

  • Model 1: A two-factor model for motivations for sports consumption, namely individual factors (consisting of 12 items) and game-related factors (consisting of 11 items), as well as a two-factor model for intrinsic psychological reward, namely life satisfaction (consisting of 3 items) and meaning (consisting of 3 items). Item 1 of the MSSC was removed (‘I support my football team because it increases my self-esteem’) to enhance fit.
  • Model 2: An eight-factor model (vicarious achievement, acquisition of knowledge, aesthetics, drama, escape, physical attractiveness of the athletes, physical skills of the participants and social interaction) for the motivations for sports consumption in relation to a two-factor model for intrinsic psychological reward [life satisfaction (three items); meaning (three items)] was tested. All factors relating to the motivation for sports consumption were measured by three items with the exclusion of ‘Drama’, which was measured by four. No items were removed.
  • Model 3: The original eight-factor model (vicarious achievement, acquisition of knowledge, aesthetics, drama, escape, physical attractiveness of the athletes, physical skills of the participants and social interaction) for the motivations for sports consumption was tested. Each factor was assessed by three items, with the exclusion of ‘Drama’, which was measured by four. Further, a one-factor model for intrinsic psychological reward (measured by six items) was assessed. No items were removed.
TABLE 4: Fit statistics of competing measurement models.

The results indicated that the hypothesised model (Model 1), distinguishing two components of motivation for sports consumption (individual and game-related motivational factors) as well as two components of intrinsic reward (life satisfaction and meaning), fit the data well on all of the proposed fit indices: χ2(375, N = 806) = 637.50 (p < 0.001; TLI = 0.95; CFI = 0.95; RMSEA = 0.03; SRMR 0.05). This model estimates better model fit than any of the alternative measurement models.

Further, the Satorra-Bentler scaled χ2 correction (Satorra & Bentler, 2010) was used to estimate and compare differences in the χ2 as the data were non-normally distributed. The following formula was used: S-B χ2 = (F0c0 - F1c1)(d0 - d1)/(c0d0 - c1d1).

Table 5 indicates the Satorra-Bentler (2010) differences in χ2 between competing models. The results showed a large comparative discrepancy between Model 1 versus Model 2 or Model 3 in the S-B χ2. Through the change in S-B χ2 between these models further evidence for support of best fit for Model 1 is presented.

TABLE 5: Satorra-Bentler scaled χ2.

The standardised regression coefficients (β-values) for the motivational factors for sports consumption as represented by individual-related motivational (β: 0.74; SE: 0.04) and game-related motivational factors (β: 0.94; SE: 0.01) as well as for the components of intrinsic psychological reward through life satisfaction (β: 0.97; SE: 0.06) and meaning (β: 0.95; SE: 0.01) in Model 1 were all significant (p ≤ 0.01).

Assessing the structural model

The structural model was estimated based on the best-fitting measurement Model 1 (c.f. Table 5). Measurement Model 1 was indicative of best fit and most parsimonious. The structural model showed acceptable fit: χ2(375, N = 806) = 637.49 (p < 0.001; TLI = 0.95; CFI = 0.95; RMSEA = 0.03; SRMR = 0.05). The structural model is presented in Figure 1. The model predicting internal psychological reward through motivational factors associated with sports consumption (β: 0.72; SE: 0.04) was statistically significant. In the MLM-estimated equation for the structural model, motivational factors associated with sports consumption declared 52% of the variance in intrinsic psychological reward.

FIGURE 1: Structural model for motivation for sports consumption and intrinsic psychological reward. SE, standard error.


The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between the motivational factors associated with sports consumption and intrinsic psychological reward within a sample of premier league football spectators within South Africa. The results indicate support for the assumptions that (individual or personal and game related) motivational factors associated with sports consumption attribute to the experience of intrinsic psychological reward (experiences of life satisfaction and meaning) within a sample of premier football league spectators in South Africa. Further, all the measuring instruments used as part of the study produced acceptable levels of lower limit (Cronbach’s alpha) and upper limit (composite) reliability, which indicates internal consistency. Although the data were not normally distributed (high skewness and kurtosis), corrective procedures were used to ensure accurate estimations of relationships and predictability.

Firstly, the results confirmed that positive relationships exist between individual and game-related consumption factors (as components of the motivations for sports consumption) and the components of intrinsic psychological reward (life satisfaction and meaning). This implies that as experiences-associated individual and game-related consumption factors are activated, the presence of meaning and life satisfaction may be apparent. This finding is in line with the work of Mpinganjira and Dos Santos (2013), who have alluded to the importance of products and services creating deeply meaningful and psychologically rewarding experiences for consumers. Secondly, the results confirmed that intrinsic psychological reward can be strongly predicted through the (personal or individual and game related) motivational factors associated with sports consumption within this sample population. This implies that both individual and game-related factors are strong predictors of psychological experiences relating to intrinsic psychological reward. When spectators’ individual or personal and game-related needs are met, it may lead to an experience of deep psychological attachment (meaning) and positive affective experiences (life satisfaction) as it provides a means through which temporary hardships and struggles could be escaped, social support mechanisms could be established, beauty and aesthetics could be appreciated, new learning can take place and self-esteem and identification can be enhanced (Baller, 2015).

This established association between and prediction of intrinsic psychological reward through the motives that drive sport consumption is widely supported in the literature. Pertaining to the individual factors clustered together in the study (vicarious achievement, aesthetics, the experience of drama or eustress and escape from daily life problems), Guttmann (2013) commented that the inherent sense of identity stimulated within the spectator through one’s association with the sport team provides that spectator with inherent gratification. Segrave (2000) describes sport as a context that provides its consumers with a platform to escape everyday life, which may refer to trying and difficult life circumstances, a perceived mundane professional existence or the constant pursuit of goals. Thus, the individual draws inherent value from consuming sport. From the perspective of the game-related factors that drive sport consumption (acquisition of game-related knowledge, the appreciation of the physical skill of the athletes, the physical attractiveness of players and the social interaction amongst spectators), Fink et al. (2009) argue that sport offers its spectators a comprehensive entertainment experience, which provides them with deep intrinsic reward. Wiid and Cant (2015) state that the game-related factors surrounding sport consumption are multi-faceted and provide the spectator with the totality of consumer reward.

Finally, although the two-factor model for the motivations for sports consumption fitted data the best (in line with Choi et al., 2009), the original eight-factor model proposed by Trail and James (2001) could not be replicated. Although the original factor structure has been confirmed in various international studies within uni-cultural contexts (see Trail, 2012), only limited studies have found contrasting factor structures in the literature. Within the given study, the contrasting findings relating to the original factor structure may be attributable to multi-cultural context dynamics within the given population group (Donald, Thatcher & Milner, 2014; Grobler & de Beer, 2015; Suzuki & Ponterotto, 2008). Although the sample was predominantly black people, the cultural differences (as represented by language groups) are significantly apparent (dominated by both seSotho and isiZulu groups), which could influence the way in which some of the items and concepts are understood. Although the two-factor model makes both theoretical and practical sense and is shown to have high levels of internal consistency or reliability, a thorough investigation into the conceptualisation of the motivational factors associated with sports consumption with the multi-cultural South African environment needs to be conducted.

Practical implications

The results from the study suggested that the motivational dimensions that drive consumer behaviour amongst football spectators could be related to the experience of intrinsic psychological reward. This puts forward two practical considerations. From a moral point of view, the research suggested that these motivational dimensions may be related to the well-being of football spectators. Thus, by targeting particular motivational dimensions for football consumption through informed interventions, the professional football leadership fraternity can leverage of the collective potential offered through the generic platform of the sport. This can serve substantially in the quest to use sport as a platform for societal development in South Africa (Cornelissen et al., 2011). Equally important, when considering the attachment theory of Ainsworth and Bowlby (1991), it is possible to argue that the inherent psychological reward that spectators experience through their motivations to invest in football should lead to repeated and enhanced consumption of the sport. This is because a deep emotive bond is formed between a consumer and one’s chosen product or service offering when such product or service provides the consumer with deeply rewarding feelings (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991).

The football leadership fraternity is thus advised to examine closely which motivational factors are most correlated and associated with intrinsic psychological reward, in particular demographic segments of football spectators, in an effort to leverage the social and economic potential the sport yields. This can only be achieved by exploring the motives of specific and different portions of the overall football spectator community and designing marketing and engagement interventions that service those specific portions of spectators’ needs.

Limitations and recommendations

As is the case with all cross-sectional research designs, the study runs the risk of common method bias (Stander, De Beer & Stander, 2015). Exploring the effect of the motivational dimensions on psychological reward experienced by football spectators longitudinally may provide contextualisation for the identification of causal factors influencing the relationship, not only in South Africa but also in the wider sport marketing and consumer context. The study was further only conducted in football. Future studies can also be piloted in some of the country’s other major consumer sport codes, such as rugby or cricket. This should serve as a validation of the results presented here and establish whether different motivations exist for sport consumption in different types of sport.

Further, in order to serve the South African football spectator fraternity, it is important to cluster the motivation needs that inspire consumption, dividing it into various football spectator segments. For example, it may be that a certain part of the demographic of spectators of the sport in South Africa is moved to consumption based on varying motivational dimensions. These dimensions must be further researched to gain an understanding of their relevance to the different segments of spectators and in terms of their inherent potential to predict psychological reward of those spectators. Through a robust understanding of which of the motivation dimensions most strongly predict psychological reward in a particular part of the football spectator community, we are able to best advise the sport’s administration and leadership teams to direct targeted interventions geared towards leveraging of these dimensions. This should lead to enhanced investment, which will ultimately grow the commercial potential of the sector in total.


In the realm of football, which remains South Africa’s foremost sport from a commercial perspective (Department of Sport and Recreation, 2014), the insights produced from the study prove to be particularly relevant. Through investigating the motivational dimensions that drive sport consumption of South African football spectators within the study, a more comprehensive understanding on how to serve those spectators’ unique needs may have been established. Through addressing these needs, sports-based enterprises could focus on enhancing the intrinsic psychological reward associated with spectator sport consumption, which may in turn stimulate greater levels of emotional and financial investment from consumers. According to Smith and Stewart (2007), this may further grow this buoyant part of the South African sport tourism and leisure sector and directly contribute to economic growth through enhanced retail, merchandising and general hospitality enterprise.

Further, the study was the first to explore motivational factors that drive sports consumption amongst any sample of South African sport spectators. Secondly, it was also the first study to relate the established dimensions of motivation for sport consumption theory to the experience of intrinsic psychological reward. This is significant, particularly from an economic perspective, as the experience of psychological reward is a key prerequisite for repeated and enhanced investment of resources by consumers. The study revealed a direct relation between the motivational dimensions and psychological reward experienced by South African football spectators. This stimulates the need for future research and investigation into the specific motivational factors associated with sports consumption in order to develop business development initiatives to better provide in the need of spectators and enhance the value proposition of sports-related initiatives.


Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

F.W.S. (North-West University) and L.E.v.Z. (North-West University) contributed equally to the writing of this article. This is a Kaizer Chiefs Innovation Centre knowledge project.


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Crossref Citations

1. Constructing a positive narrative for African sport consumerism
Frederick W. Stander
Journal of Psychology in Africa  vol: 27  issue: 3  first page: 299  year: 2017  
doi: 10.1080/14330237.2017.1321867