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Following a decade that produced astonishing player salaries, continued player mobility, widespread corporate involvement, and skyrocketing ticket prices and broadcast rights fees, North American major league professional sport teams enter the 21st century encountering a number of significant challenges. An analysis of the aforementioned trends yields valuable insight into the future of professional team sport management in North America and leads to the identification of a primary concern of team owners and operators, that of managing the franchise's brand equity. With team owners increasingly reaping profits from the long-term appreciation of the team's value while continuing to lose money on a yearly basis, there will be an increased focus on strengthening team brands. This new focus will lead management to build and maintain brand equity through two primary means: the acquisition of assets and the enhancement of customer relationships. Each of these predictions is explained in depth in this paper and examples are provided.
J.M. Gladden is with the Sport Management Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-1820. R.L. Irwin is with the Sport and Leisure Studies Unit at the University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152. W.A. Sutton is Vice President, Team Marketing and Business Operations with the National Basketball Association (on leave from the University of Massachusetts).