The New Faces of Soccer: Case Study analysis of Vancouver Whitecaps FC & Athletic

Gréta Benediktsdóttir & Simon Rubæk

Student thesis: Master thesis


The aim of this thesis is to show what factors should be prioritized when increasing fan engagement in the North American Soccer leagues. A qualitative method research design has been employed, involving only primary qualitative methods, studying two club case studies, namely: Vancouver Whitecaps FC, represented in Major League Soccer and Hartford Athletic, represented in United Soccer League Championship. Theories, models and researches from Giulianotti, Sashi, Cialdini et al. and Funk & James have been used to support our analysis of the two clubs. To find out what factors should be prioritized to increase fan engagement, a spectrum model has been developed. This was done with the help of the respondents, to find out what kind of soccer fans exist. Four categorizations have been defined; The Entertainment Seeker and The Soccer Fan on the far left as low, committed fans and The Active Follower and The Devoted Supporter on the right wing of the model as highly committed fans. Research on BIRGing and CORFing has assisted us in developing the model. Additionally, the Psychological Continuum Model has been used, since it is important for the two clubs to gain fans from the awareness stage through to the allegiance stage. The third stage, Attachment, is a central stage for clubs when trying to increase fan engagement through social media platforms. However, Sashi’s Customer Engagement Model is also essential for this. Designated Players are also one of the key findings from the interviews and are a crucial factor in the North American soccer league to increase fan engagement. The history and the community associated with a club is a factor both clubs use as a highly prioritized tool. With Whitecaps’ long history in soccer, it is a tool for them to create a conversation with fans, but whereas Hartford is a newly founded team in 2019 with barely any history. The absence of the promotion/relegation system in North American soccer results in the lack of attracting both players and fans from outside of the continent. The focus then becomes community rather than international based, and the teams both make great efforts to enrich their respective communities which contributes to increasing fan engagement.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMaster of Business, Language and Culture; Business and Devlopment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages197
SupervisorsSven Junghagen