Participation and interest in disability sport has grown tremendously, resulting in expansion of the responsibilities of promoters of adaptive sport. Prior research has provided insight regarding consumers of disabled sport, although one factor, spectators' relationship to disability, offers great potential for use of market segmentation practices. This research, conducted at a national wheelchair basketball event, examined differences in motivation between spectators with and without relationships to disability and between those who did or did not identify themselves as having a disability. The results of this research indicate differences in motivating factors among the groups, supporting practitioner use of market segmentation.

Disability Sport Marketing

The responsibilities of disability sport practitioners have expanded in the last 20 years. In addition to providing recreational sport opportunities, practitioners are now frequently managing elite and professional sport (IWRF, 2008). This has created additional expense as well as additional opportunity. Walliser (2003) asserted that increased spectatorship motivates additional sponsor investment, although disability sport organizations might need to invest additional resources in disability sport marketing (IPC, 2008) in order to realize significant spectator growth. Because of this, many disability sport professionals are actively pursuing ways to increase spectatorship, with the expectation that it will lead to increased sponsorship, something that is vital to program sustainability (Cottingham, Gearity, Byon, & Hill, 2011).

Prior academic research related on disability sport has examined marketing, revenue, and public relations. Studies examined athletes' perspectives on their marketability (Hardin & Hardin, 2004; Hargreaves & Hardin, 2009), justification for additional funding by way of social justice arguments (Hums, 2002; Hums, Moorman, & Wolff, 2003; Stoll, 2011; Sylvester, 1992), the visibility of athletes with disabilities in a mainstream magazine (Hardin, Hardin, Lynn, & Walsdorf, 2001), and consumer behavior in the context of disability sport (Byon, Carroll, Cottingham, Grady, & Allen, 2011; Byon, Cottingham, & Carroll, 2010; Cottingham, Chatfield, Gearity, Allen, & Hall, 2012).

While efforts were made to better facilitate and market disability sports (e.g., Byon et al., 2010; Cottingham et al., 2012), previous studies tended to focus on mass marketing, not differentiating segments of disability sport consumers. To our knowledge, only one study, Byon et al. (2011), adopted a demographic segmentation (i.e., gender difference), providing disability sport marketers the ability to tailor marketing programs more effectively based on gender. According to Huddell (2011), market segmentation is an effective way to categorize groups of consumers based on common needs and similar characteristics (i.e., demographic variables) so that marketing resources may be spent in more efficiently. However, a limitation of Byon et al.'s (2011) study is that it only examined differences between motives of male and female spectators at a disability sport function while ignoring what may be the most crutial demographic characteristic related to disability sport consumption—specifically, spectators' relationship to disability.

The purpose of this study is to examine the differences between spectators who do and do not have disabilities and those who do and do not have close friends and family members with disabilities. If significant differences exist between these groups then disability sport promoters may find it to their benefit to employ arious strategies to segment the market and attract specific populations of spectators to events.

Market Segmentation

Market segmentation is defined as "the process of partitioning markets into groups of potential customers with similar needs or characteristics who are likely to exhibit similar purchasing behavior" (Zhang et al., 2003, p. 229). Shank (2009) identifies six types of segmentation in a market: (a) demographic, (b) socio-economic, (c) lifestyle, (d) geographic, (e) behavior, and (f) benefits (Shank, 2009). Demographic segmentation involves grouping consumers based on variables including but not limited to age, gender, and ethnic background. Socio-economic involves grouping consumers based on income, level of education, and/or occupation. Lifestyle segmentation refers to grouping consumers based on psychographics such as daily routines, hobbies, personality, opinions, and interests. Consumers may also be segmented based upon where they reside (geographic segmentation) or on the basis of behavior (e.g., purchasing). Finally, benefits segmentation involves grouping consumers based upon the benefits they desire to obtain. For example, one of the benefits fans of wheelchair rugby seek is vicarious achievement (Byon et al., 2010).

Of those approaches to segmentation, demographic and socio-economic segmentations are the most widely used approaches because demographic information is more easily obtained (e.g., survey or census) than other forms of information (Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 2007). For example, Byon et al. (2011) used survey research to examine gender differences affecting sport consumption behaviors of spectators of collegiate wheelchair basketball. The researchers found that knowledge and physical skill influenced male spectators' consumption behaviors, while female spectators were attracted to attend the events by knowledge, vicarious achievement, and drama factors. An interesting phenomenon observed in terms of spectator demographics of wheelchair rugby events in Byon et al.'s (2010) was that there were very few spectators who had a disability (i.e., 5.8%). However, approximately 54% of the spectators stated that they had either a family member or friend who had a disability. This finding is also consistent with a study involving spectators of wheelchair basketball (Byon et al. 2011). These findings provide support for market segmentation of spectators of disability sport on the basis of the following characteristics: (a) people with and without disabilities, and (b) people who and do not have family members or friends with disabilities

Marketing to Consumers with Disabilities

Research that identified consumers with disabilities as a distinct and unique target market and recommended marketing strategies for these consumers began to appear after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. Reedy (1993) noted that individuals with disabilities are viable consumers for a range of products beyond medical supplies, and provided extensive demographic and operational information to help organizations target consumers with disabilities. Stephens and Bergman (1995) reviewed the basic requirements of the ADA and provided guidelines for marketers to encourage respectful as well as compliant marketing efforts.

Additional research has focused on the depiction of persons with disabilities in advertising or reactions by persons with disabilities toward advertising or marketing. Parashar and Devanathan (2006) analyzed print advertisements and concluded that, in general, disability was depicted in a negative way. Hardin (2003) conducted qualitative research with ten wheelchair basketball players who discussed their desire for additional media coverage and their hope that such coverage would focus on athleticism and effort rather than disability. Bauman (2003) argued that portrayals of disabled athletes in the media might not serve to normalize disability due to the focus on individuals who are highly physically attractive or highly athletic in appearance.

Burnett and Paul (1996) and Burnett (2006) conducted research that examined differences between consumers with and without disabilities. Burnett and Paul analyzed the responses to television and print advertising by consumers with and without mobility disabilities, finding that, in general, research participants with disabilities were more likely to "not like advertising" (p. 58) although participants' responses indicated that direct marketing efforts were well-received. Burnett and Paul (1996) speculated that negative attitudes toward advertising among participants arose from the perception that content did not address the needs of individuals with disabilities. According to Burnett (2006), Internet advertising was perceived as irrelevant by participants with disabilities and seen to interfere in productive use of the Internet for gathering or exchanging information.

The influence of reference groups, peers, siblings and family members on consumer behavior is well established in marketing research (e.g., Bearden & Etzel, 1982; Childers & Rao, 1992; Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995). Therefore, it is not surprising that Reedy (1993) asserted that appropriate marketing strategies could encourage loyal patronage by the friends and family members of individuals with disabilities. Stephens and Bergman (1995) likewise noted that marketing targeted at individuals with disabilities was potentially of interest to their "spouses, relatives, and caregivers" (p. 165). As Mason and Pavia (2006) found, the presence of a family member with a disability influences the consumer behaviors, experiences, and expectations of the entire family unit. Clearly, persons with disabilities, as well as their friends and family members, demonstrate unique attitudes, priorities and behaviors in their response to marketing.


Context and Data Collection

Data were collected at the Collegiate Wheelchair Basketball National Championships. This three day compass draw tournament was selected based upon the opinion of practitioners that it represents one of the most well attended annual adaptive sporting events in the United States. The tournament includes seven men's and four women's teams, all competing for their respective national championships. Data were collected at seven games. Due to the influx of spectators in to the venue immediately preceding games a true random sample was difficult to obtain. Instead, trained volunteers were posted at entrances, exits and in heavily trafficked areas of the venue (e.g. the student section, alumni section). Volunteers were instructed to select to the best of their respective abilities, every third spectator

Participants were presented with a consent form and asked to complete a survey. Surveys were provided before and after games as well as during half time. The only eligibility criterion was that participants must be at least 18 years of age. Those who agreed to participate in the research were given an information sheet produced by the IRB of the primary author's institution, a consent form, and a copy of the survey. Of 470 surveys completed by participants, 12 were discarded due to incomplete responses. Of the remaining surveys, 418 had no missing data, 37 lacked a response to a single item, and 3 were missing 2-4 responses to items. According to Hair, Black, Babin and Anderson (2010), mean substitution is appropriate when there are "relatively low levels of missing data" (p. 55). Thus, a total of 458 were used for the subsequent data analyses in this study.

Frequency analysis indicated that the proportion of gender for completed surveys was approximately equal (male = 53%). About 70% of the respondents were between 18 and 30 years old, and around 20% were ages between 41 and 65. Notably, 21% of respondents stated their houseold income was over $80,000. The majority of respondents reported being single (69%) and more than 90% of the respondents reported they posses at least some college education. Among spectators who completed the survey, 21% indicated they had a disability and 67% indicated that they had close friends or family members with a disability (see Tables 1 and 2).


Each survey questions included all items from the Motivation Scale for Disability Sport Consumption (MSDSC; Cottingham, Philips, Carroll, Drane, & Gearity, 2011). The MSDSC was based on earlier instruments (Trail, 2001; Trail & James, 2010) although the items were adapted to reflect disability sport consumer motivation. This is a 33-item scale that includes two disability sport specific consumer motives: inspiration (5 items, e.g., Seeing wheelchair basketball evokes emotions making me want to engage in life in a different way) and the supercrip image (5 items, e.g., I enjoy watching wheelchair basketball players overcome their disabilities). The MSDCSC also includes 9 motives used to examine consumer behavior in non-adaptive sport contexts: drama, (3 items, e.g., I enjoy it when the outcome of the game is not decided until the very end), physical skill/aesthetics (4 items, e.g., I enjoy watching a well-executed performance), violence/aggression (4 items, e.g., I enjoy the hostility that is part of wheelchair basketball), escape (3 items, e.g., The game provides a distraction from my everyday activities), acquisition of knowledge (3 items, e.g., I know the rules of wheelchair basketball), social interaction (3 items, e.g., I enjoy talking with other people when I watch a game) and physical attraction (3 items, e.g., An individual player's "sex appeal" is a big reason why I watch wheelchair basketball).

The survey also included demographic items such as gender, age, income level, and education. Two further items, originally used by Byon et al. (2010), were included to determine whether participants described themselves as having a disability and whether participants identified close friends or family members with disabilities.

Cottingham et al. (2011) demonstrated through exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis that the most appropriate model for the MSDSC was a 9 factor solution which showed appropriate model fit (Χ2/df = 1.645, CFI = 0.922, and RMSEA = 0.053. These results are comparable to scales designed and applied to non-adaptive sport contexts (e.g., Lee, Trail, & Anderson, 2009; Robinson, Trail, & James, 2001; Robinson, Trail, & Kwon, 2004; Trail, Robinson, Dick, & Gillentine, 2003). In addition, all factors had interfactor correlations below .70 suggesting discriminant validity. all but three standardized factor loadings for individual items were greater than .60, demonstrating adequate convergent validit. Finally, no issues of multicollinarity were present in the Cottingham et al. (2011) study. These evidences would ensure the psychometric properties of the MSDSC.

Data Analyses

Frequency was calculated for demographic variables (i.e., gender, age, income, marital status, education, do you have a disability, does a close friend or family member have a disability) to profile respondents in this study. A composite score was calculated for each of the 11 dependent variables. Two one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) were conducted to examine differences in consumer motivation to consume wheelchair basketball events for groups consisting of: (a) individuals with or without disabilities and (b) individuals who did or did not have close friends or family members with disabilities. For the multivariate test statistic, Pillai's trace (V) was used for the multivariate test statistic due to its robustness to violations of multivariate normality when compared to other tests (i.e., Wilk's Lambda, Hotelling trace, and Roy's largest root; Field, 2009). Once the multivariate test was shown to be statistically significant, analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on all of the dependent variables to examine how group was different in terms of consumer motivation. To control for Type I error, the Bonferroni correction was utilized to calculate an adjusted alpha level (α/p, where p is number of dependent variables and α is equal to .05; Hair et al., 2010). Since there were a total of 11 dependent variables, the adjusted alpha level that was used to evaluate ANOVAs was .0045.


Prior to the analyses, homogeneity of covariance matrices were examined to ensure that the variances in each group were approximately equal. It was found that Box's test is sensitive to unequal sample size of the group and deviations from multivariate normality (Huberty, & Petoskey, 2000). Huberty and Petoskey recommended examining variance-covariance matrices of the dependent variables for the group of interest, instead of solely relying on Box's test when sample sizes are unequal. It is suggested that as long as a corresponding covariance is greater than three times each other, MANOVA results are robust (Huberty, & Petoskey, 2000). Based on the evaluation of the variance-covariance matrices for the groups, the assumption of homogeneity of variance was not violated.

A MANOVA examining differences in consumer motivation for individuals with or without disabilities revealed that the sets of consumer motivation variables have a statistical difference between the group [V = .27, F(11, 455) = 15.05, p < .001, partial η2 = .27]. Results of subsequent univariate tests on the four consumer motivations (i.e., inspiration, violence, acquisition of knowledge, and supercrip image), suggest statistically significant differences between spectators with or without disabilities. More specifically, consumer motivations that were stronger for those without disabilities included inspiration F(1, 465) = 10.26, p = .001, partial η2 = .02 and supercrip image F(1, 465) = 43.72, p < .001, partial η2 = .09, while motivations that were stronger for those with disabilities included acquisition of knowledge F(1, 465) = 41.46, p = .001, partial η2 = .08 and violence F(1, 465) = 33.79, p < .001, partial η2 = .07.

A second MANOVA investigating differences in consumer motivations for respondents who did or did not have a close friend or family member with a disability revealed that when using Pillai's trace, the dependent variate significantly influenced the group [V = .13, F(11, 453) = 6.04, p < .001, partial η2 = .13]. ANOVAs as follow-up analyses indicate that three motivations (i.e., vicarious achievement, violence, and acquisition of knowledge) are statistically different between respondents who did or did not have a close friend or family member with a disability. Specifically, The motives of vicarious achievement F(1, 463) = 9.29, p = .002, partial η2 = .02, violence F(1, 463) = 9.79, p = .002, partial η2 = .02, and acquisition of knowledge F(1, 463) = 55.61, p < .001, partial η2 = .11 were all statistically significantly higher for individuals who had a friend or family member with a disability.

Table 1
ANOVAs with Spectator Motivations as Dependent Variables and Self-Disability as Independent Variable

Do you have a disability

Do you have a disability

F(1, 465)
Acquisition to Knowledge
Supercrip Image
Vicarious Achievement
Physical Skill
Social Interaction

Note. Since the Bonferroni correction was utilized, the adjusted alpha level was .0045 (p < .0045).

Table 2
ANOVAs with Spectator Motivations as Dependent Variables and Peer-Disability as Independent Variable 6.38

Does a close friend or
family have a disability

Does a close friend or
family have a disability

F(1, 465)
Vicarious Achievement
Acquisition to Knowledge
Supercrip Image
Physical Skill
Social Interaction

Note. Since the Bonferroni correction was utilized, the adjusted alpha level was .0045 (p < .0045).


Differences Between those With and Without Disabilities

Inspiration and the supercrip image. Hardin and Hardin (2004) noted that, while inspiration and the use of the "supercrip" image were common in disability sport promotion, athletes themselves reported concerns about being marketed as "supercrips" to persons without disabilities. Berger (2008) found similar results in which athletes with disabilities took issue with being labeled as inspirational but felt they could be an inspiration to those with a disability. In contrast, the results of this research suggest that individuals without disabilities were more likely to report affiliation with the "supercrip" image and inspiration motivations, which were described by Silva and Howe (2012) as "the hegemonic characteristics of disability sport promotion."

Acquisition of knowledge. Byon et al. (2011, 2010) and Cottingham et al. (2012) noted that acquisition of knowledge was the single strongest predictor of future consumption intentions. However, an association, or correlation, between two variables does not prove causation, in particular when there is no information available about temporal precedence. Therefore, acquisition of knowledge may not impact future consumption behavior. In fact, given that acquisition of knowledge was regularly reported as a motive by participants with disabilities, it may be that initial sport consumption behaviors resulted in individuals' participation in the sport, which then resulted in interest in acquisition of knowledge. To explore these issues further, researchers should consider providing consumers with more information about opportunities to attend wheelchair basketball events

Violence. There is scant research on violence as a motive within disability sport. What little research that does exist has focused on the context of wheelchair rugby. When examining the documentary film, Murderball (Mandel & Shapiro, 2005), Tollestrup (2009) stated that the threat of violence by a quad rugby athlete in the film shows that he is "a strong and capable masculine icon…who demands respect by his embodiment and attitude" (p. 31). As wheelchair basketball and quad rugby have a common derivation (with rugby being developed by quadriplegics unable to compete effectively in basketball), it stands to reason that these sports and the physicality of the athletes can be related. Based on the results of this research, it appears as though individuals with disabilities are more willing to embrace violence involving athletes with disabilities than those without.

Differences Between Those With and Without Relationship to Disability

Perhaps the most interesting finding is that neither "supercrip" image nor inspiration was significantly higher for those without friends and family members with disabilities. Coupled with the fact that those who did not have a disability were significantly higher in both of these motivations, it can be inferred that those who do not have disabilities but who have relationship to those with disabilities are motivated by inspiration and the supercrip image in the same way as their counterparts who do not have a relationship to people with disabilities. This would suggest that those who are related to disability may not be able to look past the hegemonic social views of disability as inspiration, at least in the context of collegiate wheelchair basketball.

Vicarious Achievement. Ryan and Cole (2009) note that those close to people with disabilities can be strong advocates for their cause which can even influence their consumption patterns (Stephens & Bergman, 1995). It would stand to reason that those who might be closer to those with disabilities would feel they are sharing in the successes of the athletes but we would also point to Decrop and Debaix (2010) who note that subcultures take pride in sport and their team's performance more than general populations. Disability sport is, according to Peters (2000) a subculture of the disability community. Future research is needed to determine how much of this vicarious achievement is related to advocacy of friends and family members or bonding identification of subcultures.

Acquisition of Knowledge. As noted previously, knowledge has previously been reported as the most impactful variable related to disability sport consumption (Byon et al, 2012; Byon et al, 2011). Those who have closer relationship to disability, friends and family of those with disabilities may be more moved to examine knowledge do to their investment in disability or the athletes specifically or simply put, knowledge in part is a snowball experience and being knowledgeable can in fact desire to be more knowledgeable (Tsang, 2002).

Violence. Persons who have a relationship with disability, like those who have disabilities, reported violence as a motivating factor. As stated previously, there is little research on violence in disability sport which might explain or clarify this finding. It may be that violence in disability sport is seen as a normalizing factor that acts as an attraction for those who have friends or family members with disabilities.


These results, while of interest, were based on data collected at one event and participants were not necessarily representative of the population of consumers of wheelchair basketball. This could be due to any anomalies at this data collection site or the selection criteria by which participants were identified. Also, differences found among spectators of wheelchair basketball are not necessarily generalizable to consumers of other forms of disability sport. Future research might examine differences in consumer motivation in a variety of contexts (e.g., power soccer or quad rugby).

Future Research

The results of this research point to several directions for further research, in addition to those suggested in the discussion above. First, to better understand how relationships with disability influence motivation of disability sport spectators, examination of the nature and duration of individuals' relationships with and exposure to others with disabilities could be enlightening. Another area of interest is the growing number of online consumers of disability sport, who, at present, outnumber in-person consumers (IPC, 2008). Similarities and differences in motivation between these two groups have not yet been analyzed. Finally, disability sport organizations would benefit from research that provides additional direction to increase future consumption through examination of areas such as use of social media and attraction of additional types of sponsors.


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