Date of Award
Ph.D. in Health and Kinesiology
University of Mississippi
The advent of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) heralds a new era for digital collections. Based on blockchain items and a tradable market, the National Basketball Association (NBA) Top Shot program, for example, provides several digital assets containing moments of NBA highlights. By the second quarter of 2021, NBA Top Shot had attracted one million consumers and produced more than $800 million in sales. Following its success, several other North American sports leagues entered the NFT sector, such as the National Football League’s All Day and Major League Baseball’s Candy programs. As new and complementary avenues for fan engagement, sport-related NFTs have opened a new chapter in sport marketing. Despite this, there is limited attention to exploring critical determinants that create an engaging NFT experience and examining the processes by which sports fans become engaged with this phenomenon. Given the proliferation of new and forthcoming NFT projects, it is imperative to mount a comprehensive inquiry into why and how sports consumers engage with NFTs.
The developed framework (TECH Engagement Model) horizontally describes each phase of user-level engagement (i.e., point of engagement, period of engagement, and disengagement). It includes the vertical meaning of users who are absorbed in or actively utilizing a particular technology and strengthening their fan connection with a team or athletes (fan level). Furthermore, this model is underlain by three distinct classes of user-level engagement attributes: technological, contextual, and heterogeneous (TECH). Specifically, users evaluate and form expansive views of technological features, such as aesthetics, novelty, and interactivity. External and internal elements that emerge from the settings (i.e., different forms of technology) and within the user, respectively, help explain why someone engages with technology or the general manner in which they employ technology. User engagement can be influenced by the heterogenous nature of demographic, geographic, or sociographic features, given differences in an individual’s characteristics (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) and social identity with a particular target (e.g., a sport, league, or team). Namely, this paradigm enlarges and refines a variety of variables that people exhibit at the outset and during their technological engagement.
To achieve the study’s purposes, five research hypotheses are proposed. At the user level, a testable research model consisting of four hypotheses integrates a total of ten constructs, such as aesthetics, novelty, interactivity (user-to-system and user-to-user), perceived investment, trust, self-efficacy, sport fandom, absorption, and difficulty-in-use. For all constructs to be measured, a reliable and valid scale was developed using a multi-stage methodology that incorporates qualitative (e.g., literature review, expert panels) and quantitative studies (e.g., factor analysis). Following the item development, an empirical test of path analyses was conducted to determine whether the proposed hypotheses are supported. A two-step modeling approach was applied to the data analysis: (1) evaluation of the overall measurement model using a series of confirmatory factor analysis and (2) examination of research hypotheses through structural equation modeling. Rather than concentrating solely on path coefficients and their significance levels, f-square statistics were also be used to calculate effect sizes. At the sports fan level, the study employed a longitudinal approach by collecting data through an online survey distributed at different times to investigate whether fan engagement increases when sports consumers become involved in sport-related NFT platforms.
A pool of 50 potential items was drawn from the literature and the content validity evaluation for the item development. The identified items underwent exploratory factor analysis (EFA) using a sample of 205 individuals with experience engaging with sport-related NFTs. Based on the results of the EFA, the instrument encompasses ten latent constructs of user-level engagement, including aesthetics, novelty, interactivity (user-to-system and user-to-user), perceived investment, trust, self-efficacy, sport fandom, absorption, and difficulty-in-use. The reliability of the final instrument was confirmed through Cronbach's alpha, which exceeded the threshold of 0.70, indicating satisfactory internal consistency. Following that, the study investigated the sequential relationships among the user-level engagement variables verified within the TECH framework. With a final valid sample of 350 questionnaires, the results demonstrated that interactivity (user-to-system and user-to-user), perceived investment, self-efficacy, and sport fandom positively influenced absorption. Absorption was negatively associated with the difficulty-in-use of sport-related NFT platforms. Finally, a longitudinal sample of 254 participants was formed through three-time survey distributions. The findings of the one-way repeated measures analysis of variance indicated that none of the variables related to non-transactional or transactional behaviors exhibited significant differences over the 9-week study period. Nevertheless, as a preliminary analysis of a binary logistic regression analysis using data from the first time point (n = 402), the frequency of platform access per day emerged as a significant predictor of increased fan engagement in non-transactional and transactional behaviors.
In conclusion, these several studies provide a holistic and thorough understanding of the topic of interest, serving as a cornerstone resource for future research on emerging technologies, such as NFTs, in the sports business. The present study expands the scope and comprehension of sports fan behaviors by developing a theoretical framework integrating users' technological and fan engagement. These research findings offer practical insights that can guide the industry's growth and development through new technologies. These findings are valuable for practitioners in developing effective strategies to enhance fan interest, increase user registration, and explore new avenues for fan engagement within the sports industry.
Lee, Seomgyun, "Why and How do Sports Consumers Engage with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)?" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2693.
Available for download on Thursday, July 24, 2025