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Brad D. Carlson and D. Todd Donavan

By integrating social identity theory with brand personality, the authors test a model of how perceptions of human brands affect consumer’s level of cognitive identification. The findings suggest that consumers view athletes as human brands with unique personalities. Additional findings demonstrate that athlete prestige and distinctiveness leads to the evaluation of athlete identification. Once consumers identified with the athlete, they were more likely to feel an emotional attachment to the athlete, identify with the athlete’s team, purchase team-related paraphernalia and increase their team-related viewership habits. The findings extend previous research on human brands and brand personalities in sports. Marketers can use the information gleaned from this study to better promote products that are closely associated with well-recognized and attractive athletes, thereby increasing consumer retail spending. In addition, the findings offer new insights to sports marketers seeking to increase team-related spectatorship by promoting the image of easily recognizable athletes.

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Yonghwan Chang, Yong Jae Ko and Brad D. Carlson

The researchers explore consumers’ emotional responses toward athlete brands by developing the associative evaluation–emotional appraisal–intention (AEI) model. The AEI postulates that unconscious (implicit attitudes) and conscious (explicit affective attitudes) levels of emotional responses systematically flow following assessments of perceived fit in athlete endorsements. Implicit attitudes were measured through the implicit association test, whereas pleasure, arousal, and pride captured explicit affective attitudes. Contrary to dominant beliefs about successful athlete endorsements, findings from a lab experiment indicate that low perceived fit affected implicit attitudes, which in turn affected arousal for consumers with high involvement. Pleasure, arousal, and pride were interrelated and systematically determined behavioral intentions of viewership and online friendship with athletes. Studies investigating athlete brands and endorsement success should consider the influence of both implicit and explicit attitudes on fan behavior. Managers should strategically utilize both low and high fit endorsements to facilitate emotional experiences and optimize desired consumption behavior.