In the post modern era, a product or service has four potential representations: experiential; social; democratic; and an element of an organisation, a network or a universe. This paper looks at post modern product representations in the sports industry that are supported by marketing decisions. These decisions could provide guidelines to sports managers who want to strengthen the emotional connection between the team and the fans.
In the post modern era, creating value for consumers seems increasingly challenging. Indeed, consumers want to live a memorable experience, develop social ties, co-produce their own experience and are inclined to enter a universe of consumption which transcends the product itself. In this context, a product or service may be envisioned as experiential, social, democratic, and as an element of an organisation, network or universe. Taking professional sports as our research field, this paper looks at product representations in the sports industry that are supported by marketing decisions. These decisions could provide guidelines to sports managers who want to strengthen the emotional connection between their team and fans.
The methodology is qualitative and the research exploratory in nature. We followed a two-step methodology. We used an ethnographic approach for fans in stadiums and then used content analyses of sports teams and equipment manufacturers, websites, interviews with managers of professional sports teams in Canada and Europe, and scientific papers, sports articles, team documents and media articles (print and electronic).
Our exploratory research enabled us to focus on situations where sports clubs can capitalise on the emotional attachment of their fans, get the fans involved in the production of their own experience and even transcend the sports arena and the geographical boundaries of the local market. Committed fans are consumers who could strengthen and nurture the team's brand if managers were able to funnel fans' efforts into the team's own script.
However, we found that, in general, the examples used for the purposes of this paper are isolated and consequently the effect of these tools diluted. To maximise the leverage potential of a post modern product conception, these tools should be integrated into the marketing/branding strategy of sports clubs. Thus sports teams could find a way to enhance the experience of the fans at the stadium, strengthen fan loyalty and reinforce the team brand equity. This in turn would enable teams to transcend the results on the field and protect themselves against the changing moods of fans associated with the ups and downs that are an inevitable in professional sports.
Furthermore, different consumers are looking for different attributes when in contact with the team brand. By capitalising on the commonalities that bind fans, sports clubs can create spaces where these fans can, physically and virtually, interact with one another and share their attachment to the team.
We should also mention that with the increasing importance of 'fashion fans' (Hip Hop/Urban), sports teams might face the challenge of having to avoid alienating die hard sports fans while being able to capitalise on the financial bonanza that the Hip Hop/Urban segment represents. However, because fashion fans have already adapted many sports teams' brands, they not only influence sports fashion but could also influence, positively or negatively, the brand image and brand equity of sports teams.
The post modern era we are experiencing and the strong post modern wave breezing through (Lyotard, 1979; Maffesoli, 2000; 2003) are inviting both researchers and practitioners in marketing to espouse a larger view of the notions they are working with, beginning with the product or service (Boulaire & Deroubaix, 2004; Cova & Cova, 2001; Firat & Venkatesh, 1993, 1995; Sherry, 1991). …