Social Identity and Brand Equity Formation: A Comparative Study of Collegiate Sports Fans

in Journal of Sport Management
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The authors empirically tested Underwood, Bond, and Baer’s (2001) social identity–brand equity (SIBE) model in the context of fans of a university men’s basketball team. Their model proposes that service marketplace characteristics (venue, team history, rituals, and social groups) enhance one’s social identity to a team. This heightened social identity, in turn, is seen to build brand equity of the team brand. Using the SIBE model as a conceptual framework, a comparative study was conducted across 3 distinct fan groups of the team: current students, alumni, and the general public. Results provide strong support for the effect of social identity on brand equity; regardless of the type of fan, a heightened social identity to the team enhanced the perceived equity of the athletic program (i.e., brand) overall. How social identity was formed, however, differed by fan group. For example, team history showed a significant relationship to social identity for alumni and the general public. Students were most influenced by their sense of the basketball program being part of the local community as a whole. These finding are valuable in knowing how to craft marketing communications for various fan constituencies, as well as understanding how identification to 1 team might be leveraged across all sports in a collegiate athletic program.

Boyle and Magnusson are with the John Cook School of Business, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO.

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