Spectator-Based Brand Equity in Professional Soccer

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to assess brand equity in professional soccer teams. Through a preliminary analysis and further adaptation of the Spectator-Based Brand Equity (SBBE) scale, a refined model was tested among soccer fans. Results gathered from a confirmatory factor analysis indicated an acceptable fit of the model to the data and confirmed the relationship between Internalization, a single first-order construct, and Brand Associations, a second-order construct with ten dimensions. Review of the psychometric properties indicated all constructs had good internal consistency, convergent validity, and discriminant validity. A multi-group analysis showed the cross validity of the model, and a structural equation model revealed its predictive validity, indicating the proposed model as a valid tool for assessing brand equity in professional soccer teams. Managerial implications of these results are discussed, and some guidelines are suggested for future research.

Introduction

Strong brands are built on a foundation of trust that comes from the consumer experience (Blackett, 2009). This is especially true in professional sports such as soccer, given that the core product (e.g., games) is often intangible, unpredictable, and subjective in nature (Gladden, Milne, & Sutton, 1998). The concept of managing a team as a brand is a growing paradigm in the sports marketplace (Ross, 2006), and several European professional soccer teams provide good examples of this important strategy. From a financial perspective, a recent study conducted by Deloitte (2010) has shown the overall revenues for the top 20 clubs in Europe during the 2008/2009 season were over $5.1 billion. Additionally, Real Madrid was the first team in any sport to obtain revenues in excess of $521 million in a single year, while Manchester United and Barcelona have both exceeded the $391 million during the same period. Moreover, seven of the top 10 sport brands worldwide with the most Twitter followers and Facebook fans are European soccer teams (Sports Fans Graph, 2012), indicating the global significance of these brands.

From a consumer-based perspective, brand equity is often highlighted in the literature as a core aspect in teams' management (Gladden & Funk, 2002; Richelieu & Pons, 2009), and refers to the value consumers attach to the name and symbol of their favorite team (Gladden & Milne, 1999). However, the dimensionality of brand equity has not been unanimous, and there is some debate about the applicability of brand equity scales across different sport settings and cultures. Given these differences, sport consumer research should take into account the specific elements within each sport (Funk, Mahony, & Havitz, 2003). Furthermore, most research neglects the customers' experiences with the service in the creation of brand equity (Ross, 2006). This gap is certainly evident in professional soccer, given that the existing measurement scales are derived from models developed with physical goods in mind (e.g., Keller, 1993). Thus, the purpose of this study is to measure brand equity in professional soccer teams, utilizing a conceptual framework that recognizes customer experience as paramount (Ross, 2006).

Brand Equity

The concept of brand equity is often used to analyze how a brand can add value to a product or service and represents the outcome of the marketing strategies adopted for a branded product compared with the strategies adopted for the same product without regard to its brand name (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1993). Brand equity is typically classified according to two different perspectives: financial-based and consumer-based. From a financial perspective, brand equity represents the incremental cash flow resulting from a product with a brand name versus the cash flow that would result without the brand name (Shocker & Weitz, 1988). In the consumer-based perspective, brand equity represents the strengths and weaknesses of a brand, name, or symbol that add or subtract value to a product/ service from the perspective of the end user (Aaker, 1996). …