The term supercrip suggests extraordinary feats but is sometimes applied to any proficiency demonstrated by an athlete with a disability. This use of the term potentially undermines spectator appreciation for achievements of the upper echelon of disability sports participants. Prior disability sport researchers have suggested that a comparison of individuals’ perceptions of athletic heroes with and without disabilities has potential to help disability sport marketers counter the supercrip stereotype. The purpose of this research was to explore differences in perceptions by comparing participant descriptions of role models with and without disabilities. Research participants, who consisted of undergraduate students at a large southwestern university, viewed video recorded scenarios of athletes with and without disabilities and participated in focus group interviews. Our findings supported those of prior researchers who suggested that participants were most likely to describe relatable circumstances as inspiring. Our participants also critiqued the depth of the stories presented in the scenarios based on their prior exposure to disability narratives. Disability sport marketers might benefit from emphasizing multiple elements of athletes’ backgrounds to appeal to potential consumers. Marketers should also consider that consumers might have developed preexisting expectations about style of presentation of athlete interest stories.


Disability Sport, Sport Marketing, Focus Groups, Qualitative Research, Descriptive Research

Author Bio(s)

Sheryl L. Chatfield, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Public Health at Kent State University. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: schatfi1@kent.edu.

Michael Cottingham II, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Sport and Fitness Administration in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: mcotting@central.uh.edu.


We thank Fernanda Velasco and Brianna Florida for assistance with this research.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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