DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT AND SOCIAL IDENTITY OF SPORTS FANS: THE CASE OF PREMIER LEAGUE TEAMS ON FACEBOOK
This article examines digital engagement of sports fans in digital social networks as an expression of their social identity. The observation is of Facebook fan pages of the Premier league teams, the professional English football league. Analysis of these fan pages showed that the number of fans varies significantly from one team to another. Such differences may be associated with a team’s historical performance. Analysis of comments revealed significant differences in the magnitude, composition, and attitude of fans’ digital engagement, depending on whether the matches resulted in victories, ties or losses. This differentiated reaction can be associated with concepts of social identity theory, such as basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) and cutting off reflected failure (CORFing), which suggests that the degree to which fans connect with their teams depends on the team’s performance.