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Exploring the Driving Forces Behind Football Fans and Players


May 7, 2023 By Andreas Monberg, Agency Director, dentsu X Sweden

There's more to our decisions than meets the eye, as they reflect our innermost thoughts and motivations. In this blog, we'll examine the fascinating psychology and drivers behind consumer purchasing, exploring everything from cognitive biases to environmental influences. This article is taken from ahead 2023 – Why Motivations Matter, where dentsu X experts from around the world share their insights on the many factors that shape our decisions and how brands can use this knowledge to connect with their audiences and drive growth.

We want to see them leave everything on the pitch. We want to see them bleed for the jersey. That’s the feeling we as spectators had when we watched the 2022 football World Cup. We wanted our national teams to sacrifice themselves, to bring honour and glory to our homelands. 

Not everyone can win, of course. That’s the nature of the game. You will always have a winner and a loser, and for the football community worldwide it can quickly become a discussion on success and failure. It’s that black and white. But this spurred a thought in my mind about what constitutes success for the teams, and especially for the players? What is their inner motivation? 

A famous Swedish handballer, Kim Ekdahl du Rietz, was in his prime when suddenly he announced that he would retire at a young age. He lost the desire to play at a professional level and wanted to seek new adventures. In interviews, he stated that for him it was never really about being the best in the world. He had fun playing the game with his friends in the beginning and felt compelled to pursue a handball career because he was good at 

it, not because he really wanted to. We all know that football players have very different factors motivating them to pursue their professional careers yet they rarely acknowledge those motivations. 

Football fans are, not unlike players, also motivated by a variety of different factors. Arsene Wenger, the former manager of Arsenal, once created a scale of the types of football fans, ranging from the die-hard ultra-fans who live and breathe for their favourite teams to the people who show up once in a while and enjoy a hot dog in the stands. Their motivations to come to a football stadium or watch a game at home are completely different – and from those differences stem very different behavioural patterns. 

There are some fans who have a real sense of community around sports and are driven by the Affection Motivation as they want To Belong to
the team they love so dearly. They view their team’s wins as their own achievements and are led by affiliation. Others see the coveted status of World Champions as a symbol of status for their country and, by extension, their own status. They want To Compete and To Achieve, ultimately driven by the Accomplishment Motivation. 

The underlying Motivations are what determine spending habits for many sports fans. Knowing what drives fans to make decisions, and how to tap into this, is a key element of successful sports marketing.

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the motivations behind consumer behaviour, and how to use this knowledge to drive growth for your brand, download ahead 2023 – Why Motivations Matter. With insights from dentsu X experts around the world, it's an essential resource for anyone looking to unlock the secrets of human decision-making.