Being in the Zone: Staging Retail Theater at ESPN Zone Chicago

John F. Sherry, Robert V. Kozinets, Diana Storm, Adam Duhachek, Krittinee Nuttavuthisit, Benét Deberry-Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Experiential consumption is a topic of growing interest in the social scientific and managerial literatures. While consumer experience is profoundly shaped by the built environment, a critical eye has been cast on the oppressive nature of themed environments. While offering multisensory sensual opportunities, themed retail environments cater primarily to the visual impulse and have been theorized to both direct and misdirect attention in ways beneficial to marketers. In this ethnography of the servicescape of ESPN Zone Chicago, the ways in which retail theater encourages consumers to animate a themed sporting venue and the ways consumers respond to these cultural prompts are explored. The authors explore the instrumental relationship between retail space and consumer experience in themed environments and attend to the interrelated role of the visual, the sacred, brand, mass media, and sport. Conclusions find that consumers watch marketers in these spaces as much as marketers watch consumers—a finding termed obverse panopticism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)465-510
Number of pages46
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001
Externally publishedYes

Cite this