This study investigates the relationship between levels of social identity complexity and tolerance. Social identity complexity refers to the nature of the subjective representation of multiple group identities and is postulated to be made up of two underlying sub-constructs, namely overlap complexity and similarity complexity. Tolerance is assumed to be constructed of dimensions including ethnic/religious tolerance, sexual tolerance, social deviance, cultural pluralism and affirmative action principles. In addition, gender and age groups are assumed to be potential moderators of the underlying relationships between the various construct measures.
The study used Blue Bulls supporters as the sample to be investigated. A quantitative study of 102 Blue Bulls supporters was conducted using a combination of an online survey and personal interviews at the Blue Bulls stadium. The data determined the social identity complexity levels of these supporters and their various tolerance levels. The results were then analysed using descriptive statistics and various other statistical analysis to determine differences and relationships between the social identity measures and tolerance constructs.
The results showed the average Blue Bulls supporter to own average social identity complexity levels and were more tolerant towards out-groups than previous literature had proposed for sports fans. Age showed certain trends in relation to social identity complexity and tolerance levels. However, age and gender made no significant differences to the measures and constructs.
Understanding that a sports supporter is more than just an individual who supports a team on one social identity level but possesses multiple social identities is important to understand for many stakeholders within the sports business. Decisions around marketing campaigns, the management of the fan base online and in the stadium and how to get supporters to be more loyal revolves around this understanding of supporters being a sports fan on one dimension, but either a mother or a lawyer on another. The way that these supporters manage their perceptions of out-group members may influence how a brand manages its advertising campaigns or communicates with its fan base.