Exploring the Relationship between Team (as Brand) Personality and Geographic Personality: Linking Consumer Perceptions of Sports Teams and Cities

Article excerpt

Executive summary

This work considers a possible link between geography and the marketing construct of team (as brand) personality (Aaker, 1997) with the central research question: Do professional sports teams (as brands) have personalities that reflect associative traits of the geographic locales in which they play? Two convenience surveys evaluate ten National Football League (NFL) teams and their home cities. In order to ensure diversity within the test group, data are collected in five different locations throughout the United States: Seattle, Washington; Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Oakland, California; and Charlotte, North Carolina. The between subjects design allows respondents to rate their 'home' city (and team) and two others (i.e. teams from New York, New York State; Boston, Massachusetts; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Tampa Bay, Florida; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

Results support the hypothesis that people tend to view a sports team similarly to the way they view the city in which the team plays. Analyses of team and city personality dimensions across all respondents show significant (p < .05) correlation coefficients ranging from .199 (the Sincerity of the Giants is not particularly correlated with the Sincerity of New York) to .673 (the Sincerity of the Colts appears to be highly correlated with the Sincerity of Indianapolis). Interestingly, all 50 correlation scores are positive.

More avid NFL fans tend to connect more strongly their team and their city than do less enthusiastic fans. This notion is supported by paired samples t-tests run on the self-rated group of NFL fans. Fewer statistically significant differences within the group implies that more enthusiastic fans see the teams as brand extensions of their cities (Boush & Loken, 1991; Broniarczyk & Alba, 1994). It seems that the city becomes a brand portfolio from which sports teams (and sports fans) derive cognitive brand associations (see Dacin & Smith, 1994; Brown & Dacin, 1997).

Essentially, people ascribe personality traits to both teams and cities and measurements of the two constructs tend to positively correlate. People frequently see teams as a reflection of the cities in which they play. This may be due to well-formed brand associations driven by tourism and/or sports marketing or perhaps from associative learning (often when we watch a game we see the cityscape, the parks, the historical landmarks, etc. Over time, we begin to link city images and personalities to team images and personalities). A city's culture, history and capital tend to cognitively solidify city images (Bale, 1989 & 1992; Philo & Kearns, 1993) which are then projected onto their professional sports teams. These strongly held associations have direct implications for the strategic creation and management of integrated marketing communications.

Introduction

While sports and geography have been linked previously (Bale, 1989), this study proposes that the logical starting place for an investigation into the complex relationship between marketing and geography is within the realm of professional sports. This is because professional sports teams are consistently associated with the cities in which they reside. For example, both fans and non-fans of the Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Yankees think of New York City when they think about the team. Through knowledge gained and attitudes formed about the geography of the area over time (landmarks and history of the city and images of the typical New Yorker) the Yankees are invariably tied to the city they call home. Moreover, while the population of sports fans is diverse, fans maintain varying levels of team-brand knowledge (Gladden & Funk, 2002). A person not very familiar with the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Miami Heat, for example, might logically ascribe image characteristics from the city of Miami to the team and thus label the team as sophisticated, exciting, and contemporary. …