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The development of stronger team identity has previously been explained through the social identity aspect of belonging. Although this has contributed much to our understanding of sport fans, it has neglected an alternative explanation for team identity, specifically the search for distinctiveness. How then do fans develop stronger team identity by 'standing out' as opposed to 'fitting in'? This paper provides evidence of seven identity management strategies used by fans with a strong psychological connection to their chosen team. Saturation sampling was employed to interview 29 South African rugby union fans via semi-structured interviews, followed by a directed approach to content analysis. The results contribute a stronger explanation of how the psychological need for optimal distinctiveness functions within the attachment process towards stronger fan loyalty, and provides a more complete explanation for the way in which fans can 'stand out' while still belonging.


This work is a pre-pint version of an article published by Inderscience and available at