Soccer makes you happy

A new study by Professor Dr Gerd Nufer examines the halo effect in professional soccer

Prof. Dr. Gerd Nufer forscht zum Thema Sportmanagement.
Prof. Dr. Gerd Nufer hat in seiner neuesten Studie den "Halo-Effekt" im Profi-Fussball untersucht. / A new study by Professor Dr Gerd Nufer examines the halo effect in professional soccer.

Lena Jauernig

Professor Dr Gerd Nufer teaches marketing at ESB Business School and is the academic director of the part-time master’s programme International Retail Management, which is offered in cooperation with the KFRU. Professor Nufer is also head of the Sports Management research group at the Reutlingen Research Institute (RRI), Reutlingen University. Together with co-authors David Mariot and André Bühler, the ESB professor has now published a new study which examines the so called halo effect in professional soccer.

The term halo effect comes originally from social psychology, but is also used inter alia in marketing. The phenomenon describes a cognitive bias which consists of deducing unknown characteristics from a person’s known characteristics. The effect occurs when information about an outstanding feature shapes the judgement of other characteristics. If there is a positive bias, we also speak of a “halo effect“ and if it is negative of a “horn effect“. 

“In a sport-related context so far only little research has been done on the halo effect, although this could make a significant contribution to understanding the thinking and behaviour of sports fans“, says Nufer, who conducted an empirical investigation for his study in which over 4,000 fans from selected clubs from the German Soccer League were interviewed. 

“The key research question in the article asks: Is there a halo effect in soccer“, Nufer reports. The research team investigated three specific research hypotheses: 1) If a club experiences sporting success (failure), fans perceive the club’s management as positive (negative). 2)  If a club experiences sporting success (failure), fans perceive non-sporting aspects in their life as positive (negative). 3) Sporting success (failure) of their favourite club has an influence on a fan’s subjective happiness. 

The result: All three formulated research hypotheses were confirmed provisionally. The results of the analyses verify the bias of the fans‘ perception with respect to both sport-related and non-sporting aspects, triggered by the sporting success or failure of their favourite club. “Hence there is a halo effect: If the team experiences sporting success, both sport-related and non-sporting aspects are perceived more positively. The fans are even happier overall if their team performs well. In contrast, if their team fails, other aspects are also judged more negatively”, thus Nufer’s conclusion. From the current findings the three researchers have derived recommendations for sports management in practice.  

Nufer, Gerd / Mariot, David / Bühler, André (2019): Existiert ein Halo-Effekt bei Fans im deutschen Profi-Fußball?  – Ergebnisse einer empirischen Analyse, Implikationen für die Sportmanagement-Praxis und aktueller Bezug, in: Sciamus – Sport und Management, Heft 1, S. 1-25 (Is there a halo effect in fans in professional soccer in Germany? – Results of an empirical analysis, implications for sports management in practice and current relevance, in Sciamus – Sport und Management, Vol. 1, p. 1-25)