The Internationalisation of a Sports Team Brand: The Case of European Soccer Teams

Article excerpt

Abstract

Today, in the sports arena, the status of a sports team brand is vital. The purpose of this paper is to describe and explain how a team can become an international global brand. Following a conceptual approach, it articulates a model for a team's brand internationalisation and proposes four strategies relevant to the sports arena--Brand Reputation; Brand Affinity; Brand Challenger; and Brand Conquistador. It illustrates this internationalisation process via three case studies: Football Club Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille.

keywords

branding internationalisation strategy soccer

Executive summary

Building on previous research, the academic contribution of this research lies mainly in the conceptualisation of the internationalisation of a sports team brand as well as with an explanation of how a sports team can position itself as an international global brand. In this paper, we articulate a model on the internationalisation of a sports team brand. After a thorough analysis of the literature, we propose four strategies, which are relevant to the sports arena: i) Brand Reputation (think local, act global / the brand reputation specialist); ii) Brand Affinity (think local, act global / the brand affinity specialist); iii) Brand Challenger (think local, act global / the brand recognition specialist); and iv) Brand Conquistador (unifying local brands / the brand recognition specialist).

We illustrate the internationalisation of a sports team brand using three case studies: Football Club Barcelona (FCB), Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Olympique de Marseille (OM).

PSG and OM are both national brands and FCB is an international continental brand. The difference is mainly explained by a lack of on-field performance by the two French clubs. In order to grow its brand internationally, PSG could follow the Brand Challenger scenario through co-branding. OM could use the Brand Affinity strategy, taking advantage of legitimate product and brand extensions to crystallise the emotions its fans live. FCB could envision implementing the scenario based on the Conquistador strategy in order to definitively become an international global brand and to start tackling the conceptual stage. FCB could favour co-branding initiatives, as well as product and brand extensions.

In the next step of our research, we intend to draw parallels between continents and between sports. This could lead us to propose an integrated model of internationalisation that would fit most sports team brands, and take into consideration the importance of cultural context.

Introduction

Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees ... all international team brands that transcend both their local market and their sport. As underlined by Richelieu (Jolicoeur, 2008, p.26): "Nowadays, some people wear the New York Yankees logo in the same way some others sport a Gucci or a Lacoste." The internationalisation of sport is a reality today. Sports gain fans and media exposure all over the world. But as the vice-president of marketing of FCB, Ingla i Mas, pointed out in an interview as part of this research: "There might only be room for five or six global sports team brands worldwide."

International development must therefore be guided in order to maintain what constitutes the essence of a sports team: local identity and fan loyalty (Hill & Vincent, 2006). Fan loyalty is the key to survival for sports teams, just as for any other brand (Bristow & Sebastian, 2001). Furthermore, the strong emotional connection that exists between a sports team and its fans, as well as the myths and symbols associated with a team (Pimentel & Reynolds, 2004), emphasise the importance of considering a sports team a brand in its own right (Richelieu, 2004).

The purpose of our paper is to explain how, from a conceptual point of view, a sports team can become an international global brand. …