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© 2018 Sport Ecology Group

Testing the sport participant sustainability behavior model (2019)

Sport and event managers have engaged in environmental sustainability efforts for the last several years with increasing sophistication. These fan engagement campaigns have varying outcomes from bringing awareness to the organization or event’s environmental sustainability initiatives to promoting sustainable behavioral change at events or in everyday life. It is common to know the exemplar organizations, but what is less common is understanding what makes campaigns successful or much less how to create successful campaigns. Trail and McCullough seek to increase the level of sophistication in the preparation, creation, evaluation, and adaptation of such campaign efforts. They argue that the same approach that is given to other consumer behavior campaigns in sport (e.g., ticket sales, event registration) should be afforded to environmental sustainability campaigns. As such, they propose the Sport Participant Sustainability Behavior Model. The model proposes that psychographics  (personal values, beliefs, needs), points of attachment (e.g., to the team, town, player, coach, sport), and communication mediums can help segment an determine the effective messages that will resonate with each respective segment to promote more deeply committed sustainable behaviors across the segments. The model has many applications from sport participants (e.g., runners in 5k and marathons) to sport spectators and receptivity of social media followers to individual athlete’s posts concerning climate action. However, the main strength that has been empirically demonstrated show that the model is effective at determining the relationship between the various variable in the model – that is, the need for sophisticated campaigns as they proposed are necessary for effective behavioral change among sport participants or spectators. As a result, the model can be used to inform and create campaign strategies and messaging, evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign messages, and propose adaptations. These results can also help inform current and prospective sponsors concerning the value to their respective brands for associating with such fan engagement efforts.


Cite: Trail, G. T. & McCullough, B. P. (in press. 2019). Marketing sustainability through sport: Testing the sport participant sustainability behavior model. European Sport Management Quarterly, 1-35.

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