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Cycling event promoters often have control over several event attributes that can help them to tailor their event to participant preferences. In order to determine the most desirable mix of attribute levels, we conducted a conjoint analysis using salient event characteristics for racing cyclists. While conjoint analysis has been used to study consumer decision-making and improve product marketing (Green & Srinivasan, 1978) and to uncover recreation and leisure preferences (e.g. McFarlane, 2004), it has rarely been used in a competitive sporting event or cycling context (Morey, Buchanan & Waldman, 2002; Oh, Ditton & Riechers, 2005). In summary, this study aimed to (a) investigate the relative importance of cycling event attributes using conjoint analysis, (b) identify market segments based on cycling event attributes, and (c) explore the effects of recreation specialisation on prioritised cycling event attributes.
Data (N = 199) were collected at three cycling events in three southeastern US states. The event selection was reviewed by a panel of cycling experts (N=4) to ensure the events were of typical size and scope. Study participants completed a questionnaire that included 11 demographic items and nine recreational specialisation items. It also included ratings of 16 event scenarios that differed in the following attributes: travel distance, entry fee, overall prize purse offered, course type and series affiliation. The event attributes and their levels were established with the feedback of the panel of expert cyclists, each with 10 or more years of competitive cycling experience.
The conjoint results of all responses revealed that travel distance (60.6%) was regarded as the most important road racing event attribute followed by prize purse (16.7%), entry fee (9.3%), series affiliation (8.9%) and course type (4.5%). Among the attribute levels examined in this study, the idealistic cycling event would be a race that is located within a one-hour driving distance, requires an entry fee of $20, is held in residential or rural areas, is affiliated with local or state point series and offers a total prize purse of $13,500. K-means cluster analysis was conducted to segment cyclists who had similar attribute preference patterns and it revealed two ('distance-bounded' and 'distance-bounded payoffs-count') or three ('distance-bounded', 'points & fees' and 'prize') plausible clusters with different ideal event profiles. To examine the effects of recreation specialisation on the prioritised event attributes, a cluster analysis was conducted on individual scores of behavioural, cognitive and affective involvement in cycling. The results suggested three clusters: (a) 'highly specialised', (b) 'non-behaviourally specialised' and (c) 'less specialised'. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed a significant main effect of cycling specialisation on travel distance: F(2, 196)=4.79 at p < .001; and prize purse, F(2, 196) = 8.96 at p < .001.
The results of this study highlight the event attributes that matter most to competitive cyclists and establishes differential preferences based on recreational specialisation. Additionally, the cluster analysis which established 'distance-bounded' and other 'value-sensitive' groups offers a new avenue of investigation and creates a potential market segment for practitioners.
Road cycling event preferences for racing cyclists
When one conjures up images of what sports marketers do for work, the vision is quickly filled with big league professional sports, selling tickets, understanding fan behaviours and selling ancillary merchandise. Less frequently considered are sporting activities that involve individual participants paying registration fees and associated expenses to engage in organised sports competitions. In the US, millions of Americans take part in these 'participant-based' activities in unstructured recreation and leisure contexts as well as within organised events. These events can range from golf tournaments to club tennis to endurance sports such as running, triathlon and cycling. What sets all of these apart from the traditional vision of sports marketing is the focus on the participants as consumers instead of fan/spectator-consumers. The sport of cycling is one such realm for participant focused marketing.
More than 35 million Americans participate in cycling and nearly five million of them do so more than 110 days per year (National Sporting Goods Association, 2009). Additionally, retail sales in the US bicycle industry have consistently been estimated at over five billion dollars annually in recent years (Bicycle Retailer, 2007). Cyclists ride on roads, off road and on purpose built facilities such as velodromes and BMX tracks. The overall enthusiasm and frequent participation spills naturally into substantial competitive cycling pursuits. The most popular form of cycling competition is road racing. In 2008 there were more than 39,000 licensed road racing cyclists and over 2,600 competitive road cycling events in the US alone (USA Cycling, 2008). A vast majority of these events are at a local 'grass roots' level and rely extensively on the revenue generated by participant fees for survival and profit. Additionally, the increasing attraction of participants allows for the effective sale of sponsorship properties to bolster event revenue. Because of this compounded importance of attendance to event revenue, it is critical that the promoters of cycling events maximise the attractiveness of their event(s) to their potential race participants. Cycling event promoters very often have control over a variety of event attributes that can help them tailor their event product to participant preferences. In order to determine the most desirable mix of attribute levels, we conducted a conjoint analysis using salient event characteristics for racing cyclists. While conjoint analysis has frequently been used to study consumer decision-making and improve product marketing (Green & Srinivasan, 1978) and to uncover recreation and leisure preferences (e.g. Haider, Anderson, Beardmore & Anderson, 2004; McFarlane, 2004), to date it has rarely been used in a competitive sporting event (Oh, Ditton & Riechers, 2007) or cycling context (Morey, Buchanan & Waldman, 2002).
Recent recreational participation studies have established that participants' self-reported level of involvement, recreational specialisation, is related to consumption patterns, decision-making and activity preferences (Stebbins, 2001; McFarlane, 2004; Thapa, Graefe & Meyer 2006). Identifying not only event attribute preferences, but also how these preferences vary across potential attendees' degrees of sport involvement, can guide managers and marketers in event design and promotion.
Intuitive behaviour determines how consumers consider the distinct characteristics of a product or service when they are deciding whether or not to purchase/consume. The settings of sporting events and recreational participation should lead to similar decision-making. Even in this setting of 'experience' goods, while far removed from standing in a market examining 'hard' goods to purchase, consumers do typically have some information about their product options and will presumably integrate at least some of this information into their decision-making process.
There have been numerous studies concerning the importance of product attributes for the marketing of spectator sporting events. For example, Madrigal (1995) investigated an overall model of fan satisfaction at women's college basketball; Sutton et al (1997) studied fan identification in professional sports; Kelley and Turley (2001) specifically discuss event service attributes; while Zhang (1995, 1997, 2003) and Trail (2000, 2001) extended the frontier of spectator sports consumer research with structural equation modeling and rigorous scale developments.
However, all of these studies primarily focus on psycho-social consumption motivations for spectators and related measurement issues and they do not address many controllable event attributes beyond basic discussions of service quality. While these studies in general focus on the spectator and service quality for professional sports, there are many more sporting events held annually that are participant focused with vastly different attributes. These events have the added feature of many manager-selected attributes that can significantly alter the event attractiveness to consumers (participants). This would clearly distinguish them from spectator sports and the fixed core product where the competitive event itself is rightly considered to result from an exogenous (to the marketer) stochastic process.
Little or no research has …