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Concept of brands and branding in football

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 1789 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This review of literature looks at the concept of brands and branding in football, the notion of fandom, including different types of fan and the marketing of Leicester City Football Club.

Randall (2001) states that any definition would be too limiting or very unwieldy and Kapferer (2004) mentions that each expert tends to come up with their own definition. More recent studies (Shank, 2009; Shimp, 2000; Rein et al, 2006) define a brand as: a name, a word, a sign, a symbol, a drawing or a combination of these, which aims at identifying the goods and services of one company from that of competitors. However Davidson (1998) refers to a brand as an iceberg. You can only see a small part of an iceberg while the rest is out of site. This relates to a brand as you may only see a visible logo or name but not recognise other aspects such as the values and culture. Brands are becoming increasingly important in modern times. Bridgewater (2010) states that brands make financial contributions to firms. Perrier (1997) suggests that 70 percent of a firms earnings can be attributed to brands.

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Brand equity is defined as the assets linked to a brands name and symbol that add to a product or service (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000). Another view of Brand equity can be seen through Edwards (2010) who states ‘Brand equity is the cake, the words in the positioning statement are the ingredients, brand activation is like the method. Brand equity can be split into four categories: brand awareness, perceived quality, brand association and brand loyalty. Duffy and Hooper (2003) suggest that brand association and brand loyalty are important at influencing purchasing behaviour. Brand loyalty is when a brand becomes a meaningful part of the customers’ life (O’Shaughnessy, J. and O’Shaughnessy, N. 2003). For example a brand that may be relatively small but has an intensely loyal customer base can have significant brand equity (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000). In football the customers’ to a club are generally the fans and therefore a strong connection between them and the club should be seen. Generally supporters of a football club support the same team for life. Mullin et al (2007) state that customer retention maximises the customers’ lifetime value to the organisation. To create further business opportunities it’s essential to create a relationship with customers based on experiential value (Ferrand and Torrigiani, 2005). Experiencing the brand begins with the brand and desired values, then turns these into a promise for target customers, and delivers the promise in a way which brings the brand alive (Smith and Wheeler, 2002).

2.2.2 Football Brands

The sport market within the United Kingdom was estimated by Sport England to be worth £21.2 billion in 2008 and growing, even through a time of recession. It is widely recognised that football is one of the most significant sports in the world. Bridgewater (2010) mentions this factor and also states that football appeals to more fans across the world than any other sport. An example of the attracting fans on a global scale can be seen through the fans of teams such as Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid. As discovered later on in this project, fans may be disgruntled with the mention of brands and football together. However as Bridgewater (2010) discusses, brands are not necessarily commercial. Evidence of this is through organisations such as charities that may see themselves as a brand.

So what is a football brand? Bridgewater (2010) suggests that a football brand could be any of the following:

A football club

A football player

A national football team

A football body

A football competition or tournament.

There are external and internal aspects of a brand (Bridgewater, 2010). External factors include logo and name. Whilst internal factors may include core values, positioning, culture and personality. These factors can easily be related to football for example the importance of the club logo. As discussed by Marren (2011) a logo or symbol may conjure up an entire universe of different images, sounds, tastes and experiences. Therefore having a logo that stands out is important for football clubs. An example of a club adapting there logo to be more recognisable may be Manchester United, who included a red devil on their club badge in 1970 after being nicknamed the ‘Red Devils’ in the early 1960’s. Also more recently Manchester United dropped the words football club from their crest in an effort to turn the club into a ‘brand’ (Manchester United Fans Website, 2010). According to Brand Finance (2010) Manchester United is the second most valuable club slightly behind Real Madrid who have a brand value of £386 million. Both these clubs are rated as having an extremely strong brand rating. This shows the potential of business and money that can be generated through a strong and successful brand.

2.3 Marketing

2.3.1 The marketing of Leicester City Football Club

A study by Pierpoint (2000, cited Garland et al 2000 p.29-38) discovers the ways in which Leicester City Football Club (LCFC) use marketing initiatives to promote the club. The study is a bit dated as it was made in 2000 and LCFC have had many developments since the study was undertaken. However the study gives a good insight to what the current marketing initiatives of LCFC may be. Pierpoint (2000, cited Garland et al 2000 p.31) states that LCFC has pioneered initiatives in the field of marketing, which with the help of improved performance on the pitch, increased the clubs turnover from £2m in 1991 to an expected £24m in 1999. The club moved to a new stadium in 2002 and Pierpoint (2000, cited Garland et al 2000 p.34) discusses how the marketing initiatives that had been made could be improved upon when the move to the new stadium was completed. Even the change in stadium allowed for a marketing initiative. Bridgewater (2010) states that when stadia close and clubs relocate, it is not uncommon for fans to buy sections of turf, turnstiles, the seat in which they sat, the barrier in which they leaned on. When LCFC moved stadium they presented a unique opportunity for supporters to have their names inscribed on a brick that will be laid on the outer wall of the new stadium. Bridgewater (2010) also discusses how she was even donated a brick from LCFC’s old stadium when she was given a tour whilst undertaking her research. Other innovative ways of marketing LCFC are demonstrated by Banks (2002) who describes how LCFC also market their stadium for conferences and banqueting on non match days.

LCFC have recently been taken over by a Thai consortium. The new owners of the club have been compared to marketing geniuses. Panyaarvudh (2011) states that the takeover could be a good deal for LCFC as the people behind the takeover are both ambitious and wealthy. The new owners also own ‘King Power’ a Thai duty free company with great success and reputation. As part of the takeover the clubs shirts are now sponsored by King Power and the stadium is due to be named the ‘King Power Stadium’ (Panyaarvudh, 2011). Recent new additions to the current stadium have been made and LCFC.com (2011) state that the match day experience at Leicester City takes on a new dimension, with the Club set to install two state-of-the-art giant video screens. This is an example of money being spent by the new owners in investing in the future and enabling them to market LCFC in more modern techniques. Evidence of LCFC wanting to become more of a brand can be seen through the appointment of former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. Sven Goran Eriksson is known practically worldwide and it is this reputation that Jones and Moxey (2010) say that helped sway the new LCFC owners to appoint him.

2.4 Fans and Consumers

2.4.1 Fandom

Fans of sport can be defined in to different types. Funk (2007) places fans into four categories; casual fan, fairweather fan, homer fan and diehard fan (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Different types of fan.

Type of Fan

Definition of fan type

Casual Fan

A casual fan is a below average to average follower of their team. They will wear just enough team clothing to show you who they like. Most of the time, they only know of a few star players on their team, but not the entire roster.

Fairweather Fan

A fairweather fan is one that only follows or cheers for their team when they are successful. These type of fans have been known to purchase team merchandise when the going is good, but not when all is bad.

Homer Fan

A homer is a fan who lacks objectiveness and an open mind about their own team. These type of fans strongly believe their team is invincible, and will often get confrontational with anyone who puts their team down or bashes them. The good thing about homers is that they will support their team strongly, but can come across as obnoxious when talking about them.

Diehard Fan

No matter how their team is doing, a diehard fan will always support them. A diehard fan follows their team religiously, and will not miss any games or news at all about them.

It is crucial that when targeting fans through marketing, that the organisation is aware of these different types of fan. Desarbo and Madrigal (2011) identify another type of fan, called the avid fan. Fan avidity is defined (DeSarbo, 2009, 2010) as the level of interest, involvement, passion, and loyalty a fan exhibits to a particular sports entity (i.e. a sport, league, team, and/or athlete). This type of fan is an easy target and a marketers dream as these fans tend to spend considerably more money, time and effort in following their team than a non avid fan. Fans almost always stay loyal to their chosen team, club or sport (Trenberth, 2003). However, being loyal does not necessarily translate into purchase behaviour. A loyal fan may follow their teams’ results and talk about their team with friends. Yet they may never go to a game or buy services and products from their team (Trenberth, 2003).

After reviewing the literature and seeing how football clubs have turned to creating the club into a brand. Its clear football clubs are using fans emotional attachment to sell them merchandise and services they may not usually purchase. With this in mind the question is,

How important is branding to Leicester City Football Club and its supporters?


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