The Launch of New Brands by Professional Soccer Teams: The Case of U.S. Lecce - Salento 12

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper explores the strategy of a professional soccer team introducing a new brand for selling merchandise. After reviewing literature on brand management, brand equity and brand associations (with a special focus on their application in the sports industry), this paper examines the case of U.S. Lecce launching the Salento 12 brand and discusses characteristics and key success factors of the project. A model of brand equity drivers of consumers' behavioural intentions towards Salento 12 branded products is designed and tested on a sample of 150 customers. Brand loyalty, perceived value and brand associations with the territory are found to positively affect behavioural intentions.

Keywords

soccer

new brand

brand associations

professional teams

sports marketing

Executive summary

A brand is a fundamental resource for clubs, and brand management is a key strategy for professional sports teams. Marketing and branding are increasingly important in the sports industry; however, they are still strongly under-investigated, especially in Europe. Merchandising is growing in importance as a potential source of additional revenue for soccer teams. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of empirical studies in this area so knowledge of best practice is lacking, particularly for teams that are not used to winning. Researchers tend to focus on major successful teams like Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United, whose strategies and results are not applicable to the business model of a regional team with local supportership. The few studies on brand extension in the sports industry have not looked at professional teams introducing new brands to sell their merchandise. This paper argues that launching a new brand can be a better option than trying to leverage the team brand. To investigate this hypothesis, we analysed the introduction by Italian team U.S. Lecce of a new brand, Salento 12, to sell team-related products. The launch is interesting for researchers and managers alike because it challenges most of the assumptions about the key success factors for brand extension strategies--for example, the team's strength of parent brand, success on the field, the use of the team name, and promotional support. For this research we designed and empirically tested, on a sample of 150 customers, a model of brand equity drivers of consumers' behavioural intentions towards Salento 12 branded products. Using Partial Least Square (PLS) we show that brand loyalty, perceived value and brand associations with the territory all positively affect behavioural intentions. Finally, we discuss managerial implications, underline the theoretical contribution of the study and provide guidelines for future research on the topic.

Introduction

Brand management is one of the most relevant topics in marketing literature, and the Marketing Science Institute has indicated that it is one of the top priorities for marketing managers and researchers. Sport is considered an interesting context for analysing brand management, mainly due to the highly intangible and symbolic nature of its core product: the game or athletic competition. Most of the studies on brand management in sport are focused on the analysis of brand equity and brand extension, examining professional leagues and professional teams. Research has investigated, among other things, the key drivers of the increasing importance of branding in the sports industry, the nature, antecedents and consequences of brand equity for sports organisations, and the key success factors for brand extension strategies. However, to the best of our knowledge, no study to date has examined the case of professional sports teams launching new brands. Hence, the goal of this study is to investigate brand launch in the context of soccer. We first reviewed the literature on brand management in sport, with a special focus on strategy aimed at developing a new brand, as opposed to a brand extension. …