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Murray State instructor scores Sport Marketing Association research fellow recognition

Daniel Wann is a psychology instructor at Murray State University.
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Murray State University
Daniel Wann is a psychology instructor at Murray State University.

A Murray State University psychology instructor was recently recognized as a research fellow by the Sport Marketing Association.

The SMA is a group geared toward developing and expanding the knowledge of sports marketing and the forces that drive it. The association announced earlier this month the selection of MSU’s Daniel Wann as a research fellow.

Wann has been primarily focused on studying the psychological connection between a sport team and its fans as far back as his time in graduate school at the University of Kansas in the late 1980s. He could apply for research fellow status once he had published seven peer-reviewed papers in Sport Marketing Quarterly and presented ten refereed presentations at the Sport Marketing Association Annual Conference.

“Really any aspect of sports fandom, from a psychological perspective, I’ve probably looked at,” Wann said. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I’ve got 250 publications and who knows how many conference publications.”

Since its founding in 2002, the SMA has selected only 21 research fellows. While the business-minded mission of the Sport Marketing Association might not initially seem linked to psychology, Wann said it’s relevant because psychological principles intersect almost every aspect of modern life.

“The kind of neat thing about it to me is that I’m not a sport marketer, but I happened to pick a topic to research that sport marketers really use,” he said. “I’ve never taken a marketing class in my entire life. For that matter, I’ve only had one sport class, and that was Sports Sociology years and years and years ago. But because marketing is all about trying to tap into the psychology of fandom, so much of the stuff that I do, they’ve borrowed from it.”

After nabbing his Ph.D at the outset of his career, Wann wasn’t entirely sold on conducting research — until he discovered that the classes he could teach at Murray State aligned closely with the specialties he had developed as a student.

“Then I got here, and I started doing research, and I realized that I liked it even more when I was doing it voluntarily than I did when I was in grad school, where I was kind of doing it because I had to,” he said. “I’ve had an exceptional amount of autonomy in the time that I’ve been here.”

Next semester, Wann will teach a class called “The Psychology of Sport Fandom,” based on the Sport Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Fandom textbook that he co-wrote with Jeffrey James, a sport management instructor at Florida State University.

“From aggression to well-being to superstitions, we’re covering it all,” Wann said. “I get a lot of fans in it, of course, but I’ll also always have one or two non-sports fans take that class that are trying to figure out what in the world is the hype all about out there.”

His current research project, once complete, will compare how individuals use sport fandom to meet such basic psychological needs as belonging, distinctiveness, meaning and structure.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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