Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Factors Influencing Chinese Consumers' Brand Love: Evidence from Sports Brand Consumption

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Factors Influencing Chinese Consumers' Brand Love: Evidence from Sports Brand Consumption

Article excerpt

Given the social significance conveyed by brands, consumers often develop strong emotional attachments to, or even fall in love with, brands that fulfill their needs. Indeed, the concept of brand love has been well recognized in the literature as a consumption-related emotion (Batra, Ahuvia, & Bagozzi, 2012). Although previous researchers have identified many factors that influence consumers' formation of brand love, most focused on consumers in developed markets. Thus, little is known about how brand love can be cultivated in emerging markets, like China, where consumers possess different characteristics.

Moreover, sports brand consumption, which we defined as the purchase and use of products of a particular sports brand, has been neglected in the brand love literature. Sports brand consumption carries emotional meaning in that consumers' purchasing choices may be determined by the teams they follow or sports figures whom they admire. In the sports brand consumption context, consumers' feeling of liking or emotion is an important criterion for purchasing decisions. This indicates the potential of brand growth through the promotion of the idea of brand love. However, to our knowledge, the relative role of brand love in the sports brand consumption context has not been previously tested. Therefore, we empirically tested the factors that may influence the formation of consumers' sports brand love, with a focus on young Chinese people.

Literature Review and Development of Hypotheses

Cultural experiences generate different systems of belief, influence consumers' needs and behavior during consumption activities (Arnould & Thompson, 2005), and can help to explain consumers' behavioral differences, which tend to persist. On the basis of three important aspects of Chinese culture- collectivism, interpersonal relationships, and social self-worth-we identified three psychological features of Chinese consumers: group affiliation, enjoyable communication, and identity expression. We then examined how these features influence Chinese consumers' tendency to form sports brand love.

Impact of the Need for Group Affiliation on Sports Brand Love

Chinese consumers are primarily characterized by their collectivistic orientation (Brewer & Venaik, 2011), such that collectivism is regarded as the core element that captures the nuances of Chinese culture. Owing to the collectivistic emphasis on the relationship between individuals and social groups, Chinese people acknowledge their interdependent natures, thinking in terms of "we" and striving to be part of the in-group. In addition, they place greater importance on their group affiliation than on personal standing.

Having a collectivist cultural orientation means that Chinese consumers are easily influenced by group-based incentives. Because they endeavor to conform to group norms, they tend to purchase the same product or brand that other group members possess. Thus, if a group membership has been established by a brand as the normative standard, Chinese consumers are more likely to choose that brand (Xiao & Kim, 2009). Previous researchers have indicated that when the need for group affiliation is met (White, Simpson, & Argo, 2014), consumers .will form a positive self-brand connection that is the basis of a strong emotional attachment to the brand. Thus, we proposed the following hypothesis: Hypothesis 1: The need for group affiliation that Chinese consumers fulfill through sports brand consumption will positively influence the formation of brand love.

Impact of Enjoyable Communication on Sports Brand Love

Chinese consumers' focus on interpersonal relationships operates intangibly as a function of their consumption behavior, for example in the tendency to regard the brands that they use as being part of their social life and their relationships. Thus, their brand choice is strongly influenced by recommendations and comments from people with whom they are interpersonally connected (Xiao & Kim, 2009). …

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