Rival Conceptions of Rivalry: Why Some Competitions Mean More than Others

European Sport Management Quarterly, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2014

See all articles by B. David Tyler

B. David Tyler

Western Carolina University

Joe Cobbs

Northern Kentucky University - College of Business

Date Written: November 24, 2014


Research Question: Despite pervasive attention to the concept of rivalry, there is neither uniform definition nor universal understanding. The purpose of this paper is to explore sport rivalry and derby matches from the fan perspective and identify the most influential elements that characterize rivalry.

Research Methods: This work employs a sequential exploratory mixed method design. Study 1 engaged 38 fans through open-ended questions to explicate antecedents to 76 rivalries. Study 2 used an exploratory factor analysis based on survey responses (n=429) that measured a broader sampling of rivalries to quantify the importance of the rivalry elements identified in Study 1.

Results and Findings: We define a rival group as a highly salient outgroup that poses an acute threat to the identity of the ingroup or to ingroup members’ ability to make positive comparisons between their group and the outgroup. Study 1 identified 11 recurring elements of rivalry: frequency of competition, defining moment, recent parity, historical parity, star factors, geography, relative dominance, competition for personnel, cultural similarity, cultural difference, and unfairness. Study 2 confirmed these elements within three primary dimensions: Conflict, Peer, and Bias.

Implications: Our findings expand rivalry research by recognizing core rivalry antecedents useful for scholars investigating topics such as ticket demand, promotions, and sponsorship strategy. From a managerial perspective, these findings provide guidance to sport entities seeking to leverage rivalry to increase fan interest; conversely, when animosity surrounding a rivalry becomes overheated or violent, better understanding rivalry’s underpinnings can help managers deemphasize the rivalry’s most salient contributors.

Keywords: rivalry, derby, fan identification, sequential exploratory, competition

Suggested Citation

Tyler, B. David and Cobbs, Joe, Rival Conceptions of Rivalry: Why Some Competitions Mean More than Others (November 24, 2014). European Sport Management Quarterly, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2530260

B. David Tyler (Contact Author)

Western Carolina University ( email )

Cullowhee, NC 28723
United States

Joe Cobbs

Northern Kentucky University - College of Business ( email )

Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States

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