Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University
Dr. Luke Brenneman works for the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University. He completed his PhD in Communication in 2017 with dissertation research from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Dr. Brenneman’s research focuses on enhancing the fan experience and leveraging the unifying power of sport to reduce prejudice and foster positive contact between fans of various group identities. He has developed strategies and templates for organizing events to achieve these goals based on his research at the 2016 Rio Olympics, 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2014 FIFA Men’s World Cup, and other events. He has also taught courses on conflict and negotiation, intercultural communication, and other topics.
You Had to Be There: Extending Intergroup Contact Theory to Positive Contexts through a Participant-Centered Analysis of Fans’ Experiences at the Olympics
This paper, extracted from my dissertation, investigates positive intergroup contact in the experiences of fans at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Guided by Intergroup Contact Theory (ICT) and my research at the 2014 and 2015 FIFA World Cups, I asked fans at the Olympics to discuss their experiences of 18 factors contributing to positive intergroup contact. These factors are shown in previous ICT literature to reduce group-based prejudice and foster positive intergroup relations. The participants, fans from nations on every continent, provided experience-based rationales for how the 18 factors influenced each other and created models of their individual experiences of intergroup contact at the Olympics. The study uses participant-centered, in-depth qualitative interviews with Interpretive Structural Modeling (ISM) software.
Based on an integration of ICT, communication theories, bonding and bridging social capital, and calls from the International Olympic Committee and mega-sporting event industry, the paper includes a composite meta-structure of all 18 factors based on fans’ experiences, which identifies how the factors work together to foster positive intergroup contact. Through thematic analysis, the research also explores where and when in fans’ experiences the factors emerge and are active. Finally, the study identifies the functions that each factor serves in fostering positive contact and offers suggestions for practitioners and organizers about how to plan fan experiences. Other themes include: national identity and supranational unity (specifically among Africans), identification and affiliation of sports fans (particularly from Africa), fan cultures, and the role of memory and heritage in fans’ identities and relations with others. The study also provides a comprehensive list of ICT factors empirically shown to reduce intergroup prejudice, a preliminary model of group membership transformation for contexts similar to the Olympics, and promising future directions given the unique and unexplored features of the Olympics and other mega-sporting events.