Brock research finds children influence parents’ sport fandom

When it comes to sports team loyalties, families come second according to research from Brock University.

Sport Management professors Craig Hyatt and Shannon Kerwin have been analyzing preliminary data from their research project, Understanding the intersection between fandom and parenting, and the indication is that many families are divided when it comes to the teams they support.

“It is becoming very common to find family members cheering for different teams,” says Hyatt, an associate professor in sport management.

“Traditionally, we think it is parents who influence their children’s fandom preferences, but what we are seeing, far more than we expected, is that children are motivated to pick teams in competition with another family member’s preferred team,” says Hyatt.

“We are frequently hearing comments such as, it would be great if my brother’s team lost so I can give him a hard time about it,” or “my dad likes to taunt me about my team,” or “I decided to cheer for that team to annoy my mom.”

The information being collected through Hyatt and Kerwin’s research, in collaboration with Professor Larena Hoeber and PhD student Katherine Sveinson in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, suggests that children are also impacting their parents’ fandom choices.

“There’s growing evidence that parents are choosing which teams to cheer for based on their children’s preferences. In instances where an individual’s team is eliminated, the parent will then start supporting their child’s team because it means something to them. Cheering for this secondary team provides a parent-child bonding opportunity,” explains Hyatt.

When asked to speculate the reasons behind this, Hyatt suggests it may be the combination of two important cultural shifts.

“Every generation of parent seems to be more involved in spending leisure time with their children. Parents are expected to be emotionally involved and actively encourage their child’s interests. As a result, we are seeing vast majorities of parents following certain sports and teams they would otherwise have no interest in.”

Advances in technology also put a lot of pressure on parents to keep up and stay informed.

“With 24-hour access to sport highlights and analysis, there is nothing a fan can do better to get information than go online. In the 1970s, we cheered for local teams because that is what we had access to, but now, it is possible to cheer for any team, anytime, without ever being in the same city.”

Hyatt and Kerwin hope to have their analysis complete later this fall with the goal of sharing their findings at the 2017 North America Society for Sport Management conference in Denver.

The study is still looking for parents who are fans of professional sport teams and who have children between the ages of 10 and 20. Contact Professor Hyatt ( for more information.

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