Over the years, we’ve seen a big shift toward faster broadband, smartphone adoption and apps that allow fans to track their health. After working closely with Rangers FC fans and the Rangers Charity Foundation in 2019/20, we created a version of our Fan Fit app for fans called ‘Fit Bears which can be downloaded here‘. We collected a range of data over time from survey to interviews, focus group and social media research with netnography. In 2022, we published some of the interview and focus group data in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The study is open access so it is open to everyone to read and is titled Football Fandom as a Platform for Digital Health Promotion and Behaviour Change: A Mobile App Case Study and examines how fans responded to Fit Bears and built a sense of community. The wider Fan Fit project aims to promote physical activity and mental wellness among sports fans by creating apps branded to their favourite team for health promotion and building a sense of community through social capital.
The published research looked at the impact of this digital health intervention with Rangers FC fans for maintaining physical activity as part of football club membership, alongside the very successful Football Fans in Training programme. Our study highlighted that fans will adopt healthier behaviours as a result of the app’s sense of fan community and behaviour change. The findings reported here are based on an implementation of the FanFit app and, in particular, on those who participated in a more in-depth study. These 30 participants were Rangers FC supporters with a mix of genders (19 men and 11 women). Focus groups and interviews were conducted with participants to understand users’ perspectives on the most effective methods for nudging users toward adopting and maintaining a pattern of fitness behaviours. The findings show that the user community was interested in fitness and wanted to live a ‘healthy lifestyle,’ which was fuelled by the app’s competitive design. Furthermore, the data revealed a new fan-health discourse about a person’s developing wants, talents, and identities as embodied beings. We developed and presented links between the use of sports club apps and health programmes and we believe Fan Fit can be useful for sports programmes and other organisations looking for branded smartphone apps that provide community support through building a sense of community and creating opportunities to support men and women.