[pic] [pic] [pic] | | | | |A key reason sports brands are so successful is the relationship they have with each of their consumers, or fans. Being a sports fan—and | |loving a team brand—transcends a person’s job, family or social status. “Fans experience pleasure and satisfaction with successful teams,” | |writes Baylor University marketing professor Kirk L.
Wakefield in his book, Team Sports Marketing, “but, they also experience feelings of | |delight or excitement that deeply resonates within the identity of the individual fan, such that the effects are likely to be long-term. … | |Sports teams develop a faithful fanatical following primarily due to high levels of identification…” | |It is this identification that professional and amateur leagues in general, and teams in particular, play on (or prey upon).
Wakefield | |points out that a dedicated sports fan has “an enduring involvement with the sport and situational involvement with the event. ” A fanatical | |soccer fan, for example, will have “an ongoing interest or concern with the sport on a day-to-day basis. ” That same fan, if dedicated to a | |particular team, will also watch or attend games, check scores online, follow the team’s star players and buy team merchandise. This is the | |kind of brand involvement some product brands can only dream about. | | | | | | | | | | |Identifying with a particular team brand is a strong fan motivator. Highly identified fans are likely to Bask In Reflected Glory [BIRG] by | |doing such things as wearing team-identifying apparel after a team win, describing team wins in terms of what ‘we’ did, and, in general, | |seeking to enhance their public image by connecting with positive aspects of the team,” Wakefield writes. “The result of BIRGing is | |enhancing self-esteem in the highly identified fan. According to Wakefield, the more identified a fan becomes, the higher the level of his | |or her team involvement. | |Incredibly, Wakefield writes, “identification with a sports team seems to shield against the potential consequences of death…evidence | |suggests that one’s identification and involvement with a sports team in some ways makes the highly identified fan feel immortal. ” Now | |that’s the ultimate in brand loyalty. | |There is a hierarchy of sports brand fanaticism.
Some fans of a particular sport might identify with a league or association, such as the | |International Soccer League, the NBA (National Basketball Association) or NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). Others | |might identify with different sports under the same umbrella brand, such as the Olympics or the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic | |Association). Or fans might be intent on supporting a single team brand, often because of school or hometown affiliation.
And then there are| |the multisport fanatics, supporting several sports, leagues or teams at once. Typically, each of these leagues or teams positions itself as | |a distinct brand with its own logo, merchandise and marketing program. | |This presents a big branding challenge: There are so many sports brands in existence that sports fans in general may be spread thin. In | |their book, The Elusive Fan, authors Irving Rein, Philip Kotler and Ben Shields say competition among sports brands for market share is | |increasingly intense because of fragmentation.
They believe there are six distinct sports sectors vying for fans’ attention: older sports | |(such as European soccer and Major League Baseball), reemerging older sports (such as cricket, rugby and golf), school sports (high schools,| |youth development teams and the like), new sports (extreme sports and paintball, for example), declining older sports (such as boxing and | |horse racing) and sporting goods (including team merchandise and sports equipment). | |That means each sports team needs a multifaceted branding strategy to keep fans loyal.
Traditionally, teams hitch their stars to star | |athletes. But now these brands, say Rein, Kotler and Shields, “must also broaden their star power mix to include facilities, food, teams, | |places, events, and individuals, such as owners, who have not been a part of the storyline. Star power needs to be redefined to connect with| |more fans, maximize all the attributes that a sports product has to offer, and ensure a constant flow of sports branding material to convert| |into star status. | |The authors point to Manchester United as an example of a team that “has been transformed into a highly profitable company and an | |identifiable global brand. ” Manchester United became a megabrand due to developing the best talent, careful attention to managing and | |growing the business, and an aggressive distribution strategy.
Today its arsenal includes branded restaurants, stores, a cable television | |network, a stadium, the use of new media and unorthodox ways to expand into new markets, such as a marketing partnership with the New York | |Yankees. | |In a ranking of the world’s most valuable sports properties published in the July 2009 issue of SportsPro magazine, Manchester United was | |the second-highest-ranked European team property, with a value of US$ 1. 495 billion, right behind the Ferrari Formula One team, valued at | |US$ 1. 55 billion. | | | | |American sports brands made up the top four in the ranking: the NFL (National Football League) was first, followed by MLB (Major League | |Baseball), the NBA and NASCAR. The FIFA World Cup (soccer), valued at US$ 1. 7 billion, was fifth.
But the big surprise was the two-year-old | |Indian Premier League (cricket), the newest property in the top ten, valued at US$ 1. 6 billion. | |Despite the huge brand values of leagues and teams, the soft economy is undoubtedly a concern. At a May 2009 panel discussion hosted by The | |Wall Street Journal, commissioners of the NBA, NFL, MLB and the NHL (National Hockey League) agreed that ticket prices in each sport might | |need to be cut. According to Reuters, MLB teams are facing “an attendance decline of as much as 10 percent this year. All four leagues have| |experienced cutbacks of one kind or another (“U. S. sports bosses say economy forces more price cuts,” Reuters, May 6, 2009). Also according | |to Reuters, “smaller teams and leagues, especially those without hefty broadcast rights deals…will be squeezed as sponsors and fans slash | |spending…” Thought to be particularly vulnerable are the new leagues, Women’s Professional Soccer and United Football League (“Smaller | |teams, leagues suffering in downturn,” Reuters, Nov. 27, 2008). |Sports leagues and teams continue to attract and retain sports fans, as well as commercial sponsors, but for the first time in a long time, | |the sports world is feeling a money pinch. In fact, a recent study indicates that over half of companies surveyed “plan to cut 2009 | |sponsorship spending, including sponsorship in the sports world, while almost as many are seeking to get out of current deals…” (“Over half | |of firms to cut sponsorship spend – study,” Reuters, March 10, 2009). | |That may be why sports brands are beginning to look for new and novel ways to generate revenue from their fans.
For example, the storied New| |York Yankees, MLB’s most valuable team, just opened a new Yankee Stadium this season. Soon afterward, the Yankees organization announced it | |would market its own grass: Yankees Sod. “It may cost a few thousand dollars to cover a large backyard, but the sod comes with a certificate| |of authenticity from Major League Baseball, complete with the counterfeit-proof hologram, declaring it to be the official grass of the New | |York Yankees” (“Yankees Grass Is Now a Brand,” The New York Times, March 22, 2009). | |It remains to be seen if Yankee fanatics will dig that idea. |[10-Aug-2009] | | | | | | | | | | | |[pic] | | | |[pic] | | | Emotional, Sensory Experiences Help Nike, IBM, And Other Top Brands Posted by Anthony Zumpano on September 21, 2009 11:00 AM [pic]Nike was a winner in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2009, gaining 4% in Brand Value. One of several companies to break through the recession-year clutter with promotions that built an emotional bond, Nike teamed up with Apple (up a dazzling 12%, cracking the BGB top 20 for the first time) for the virtual-but-actual Human Race, in which runners from all over the world race locally, but are connected globally via the iPod-based Nike+ running system.
Other brands maintained their relationship with customers during rough times by offering personal, tangible experiences — what Interbrand’s report calls a “sensory customer journey”: T-Mobile’s well-documented flash mob event that drew 14,000 people to Trafalgar Square to sing the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”; IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, highlighted by a four-day crowdsourcing event called the Smarter Planet University Jam; the McDonald’s McCafe that retrofitted its familiar restaurants with coffee bars; and Disney’s online world that lets Tinker Bell’s fans become fairies themselves. The common element in these messages is that they avoid simply directing a one-way bombardment of stimuli at the customer. All offer an interactive exchange that connects a customer to the brand.
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