Abstract: This article reports the results of an experimental study in which four factors were manipulated in the context of an evaluation of two sports garments by 172 consumers: t-shirts and athletic shoes. These factors were intended usage situation (sport versus pleasure), brand name (national versus private brand,), price (discount versus no discount), and store name ('sports shop versus department store). Some significant interactions were obtained between some of the manipulated factors suggesting the necessity of qualifying the brand name, store name, and price discount effects on consumer perceptions. The results of the study are discussed in light of the existing marketing literature and the implications for sports marketing practice.
Keywords: Sports marketing, brand management, consumer behaviour
Although popular sports garments like t-shirts and shoes are typically marketed as products intended for the practice of sport activity, the majority of buyers in this market are not athletes and are attracted to these products essentially on the basis of their fashion appeal. In this study, we propose that four factors play a significant role in influencing the product evaluations of buyers of sport apparel: brand name, store name, price, and intended usage situation.
A survey conducted among 172 potential buyers of sports apparel revealed that national brand sports garments (e.g. Reebok) were better evaluated than private brand sport garments (e.g. Footlocker) and that consumers gave more favourable evaluations of a sport apparel offered in a sports shop over a similar product available in a department store. However, results indicated that the impact of some factors on buyer evaluations were contingent on other factors.
First, the perception of private brands relative to national brands was significantly improved when the corresponding sports products were offered in a sports shop rather than in a department store, suggesting that store brands of sports products such as t-shirts and athletic shoes have better chances of successfully competing with national brands if they are associated with a specialised store. Second, the study showed that the impact of brand name and price depended on the type of usage intended by potential buyers.
When the intended usage situation was sport practice, price did not impact on product evaluation. However, when the intended usage situation was for pleasure, offering a price discount on a private brand t-shirt was detrimental to the national brand.
This result suggests that sports marketing communication strategies should be adapted to buyers on the basis of their usage profile. Thus, marketing communications directed at the pleasure segment should emphasise product quality at a good price whereas those directed at the sport practice segment should stress product performance in relation to sport activity. This suggests also that manufacturers of national brand sports garments should not be concerned by the price competition of private brands as long as they position themselves as producers of products dedicated to sport activity.
The idea that products serve utilitarian functions and at the same time act as social and psychological markers of a consumer's self-concept is central to the field of marketing (e.g. Belk, Bahn and Mayer, 1982). One product category that exemplifies this fundamental duality is that of sports apparel. Each year, millions of sport t-shirts, shoes and the like are sold to consumers who are not accomplished athletes and may not even practice the sports for which these products were initially developed. Although Nike shoes are worn by millions of consumers around the world, not all of them use these products for the purpose of sport practice.
In the UK, it is estimated that up to 90 per cent of purchases of athletic shoes are made on the basis of their fashion appeal only (Marsh, 2001). …