Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to present the theoretical conceptualisation that led to the communication improvements needed for water polo in Greece. The paper also studies the implementation process. The proposed improvements were: (a) arrangement of symbols on the players' caps; (b) addition of team logo and name on players' caps; (c) redesign of players' caps; (d) addition of colour to players' caps; and (e) introduction of a full-body swimsuit. The result was that all but one (e) of the proposed modifications was implemented and adopted during the 1996-2000 National League periods of the Greek men's water polo Division A1.
In the late 1990s water polo in Greece was in the 'saturation' stage of its life cycle and needed new forms of marketing/communication to promote growth. The packaging of the sport was identified as the first element requiring modification (where 'packaging' is considered to be either the players' caps or the athletes' appearance).
For the implementation of any communication process, the coding of a message is essential. In sport, the message relating to which team an athlete belongs is conveyed by his/her uniform where the symbol/sign/logo of the team is depicted.
Greek water polo teams, however, did not have their logos on players' caps. As a result, the sport's image in the mass media was reduced, because it excluded basic communication elements in the form of extrinsic stimuli needed for the transferring of meaning to sports fans. Theoretical models, listed below, were selected to drive the changes because they provided short and clear sequential steps that helped senior management through the process of marketing communication.
1. Shimp's (1990) communication objectives
In common with classical marketing practice, the objectives for the model included: building product category wants, creating brand awareness, enhancing favourable attitudes towards the brand, influencing brand purchase intention and facilitating purchase at the point of sale.
2. The VIEW (Visibility, Information, Emotional appeal and Workability) model for the evaluation of the sport's package (Twedt (1968) in Shimp, 1990)
Using this model, all but one (e) of the following elements were modified in the Greek men's National League of water polo Division 1 between 1996 and 2000:
a Arrangement of symbols on the players' caps
b Addition of team logo and name on players' caps
c Redesign of players' caps
d Addition of colour to players' caps
e Introduction of a full-body swimsuit.
3. The Johnson, Scheuing & Gaida's (1986) New Product Evolution Model
This model was used to formulate and test strategic development issues relating to the sport. For example, a series of further measures was proposed as the second stage in the development of the sport in Greece. These included the use of team mascots, the publication of a promotional flyer explaining the sport's rules, an exhibition match featuring players with full-body swimsuits and an official nationwide beach water polo tournament. The use of mascots and the national beach tournament were rejected on cost grounds, but the other two proposals were accepted and implemented.
The paper demonstrates that, despite using theoretical models to smooth the process, there was considerable resistance to change among all of the parties involved in the adoption and implementation process. Internal politics and a culture of resistance among administrators was one problem. The cost of implementing new ideas was another factor.
There were, however, practical issues that led to opposition to the proposals, such as referees arguing that introducing players' caps would make it more difficult to identify teams. And the players objected to wearing the full-body suits on the grounds that …