A pheneomenological exploration on Chinese sports fans' experience of using social media to maintain fanship

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University of New Brunswick


The use of social media in sports has attracted increasing attention from both business and academia perspectives. Against the backdrop of China's sports market becoming increasingly appealing to sports leagues and associations worldwide, social media offers an important channel. However, the Chinese sports fans with whom they are attempting to interact are a new population with distinctive features and taste on social media, offering no straightforward recipes to follow. Using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, this study aimed to understand Chinese sports fans' lived experience of maintaining fanship via social media, further acquiring insights at how that experience impacts their identification to a team(s). Purposive sampling was used to recruit 7 participants. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. van Manen's detailed approaches were used to guide data analysis while the Team Identification theory was adopted to provide a theoretical framework. The findings suggest that social media offers diverse fan experiences in relation to practicing fanship. Fans maintained fanship and enhanced team identification after constantly using social media to show support. Emotional affiliation between fans and teams became stronger. Fanship, from the perspective of fans, became more valuable. Findings of this study also suggest that using social media to practice fanship may benefit fans in the long run. The participants suggested they experienced improving psychological wellness and social ability because social media afforded them an opportunity to live vicariously through teams.