Existing research has primarily focused on sport teams as brands, overlooking the branding of professional sport leagues. Professional sport leagues are required to build and leverage their brand associations to be sustainable and to help affiliated teams. This study integrated existing team brand association research with brand architecture literature to examine league brand associations from a consumer perspective. A freethought listing pilot test (N = 22) was followed by semistructured interviews (N = 26) to uncover 17 brand associations linked with professional sport leagues. Online questionnaires among consumers of four sport leagues in Australia (N = 1182) were used to support 17 distinct identified league brand associations. One sample t tests and correlation analyses empirically revealed that 17 league brand associations were linked with attitudinal and behavioral outcomes related to sport leagues. Finally, ANOVAs identified that some league brand associations differed between four leagues as perceived by consumers, reflecting league specific characteristics.
Thilo Kunkel, Daniel Funk, and Ceridwyn King
Thilo Kunkel, Jason Patrick Doyle, and Alexander Berlin
Consumers’ evaluations of their favorite sport team’s contests are influenced by the value that the team provides to them. The current research contributes to the sport management literature through conceptualizing and measuring the dimensions that influence the perceived value consumers link with their favorite sport team’s games and testing the explanatory ability of this perceived value on their satisfaction with, and commitment toward, the team. Five semistructured expert interviews were conducted to conceptualize perceived value dimensions and measurement items. Next, a multidimensional Consumers’ Perceived Value of Sport Games scale (CPVSG) was developed and tested across two studies with football (soccer) consumers (N 1 = 225; N 2 = 382) in Germany. Results from confirmatory factor and structural equation modeling analyses indicate that five dimensions—functional, social, emotional, epistemic, and economic value—reflect perceived value dimensions that consumers associate with sport team games. Results also indicated these perceived value dimensions were predictive of consumers’ satisfaction with, and commitment toward, their favorite team. Thus, this research adds to the literature by providing the multidimensional CPVSG scale and demonstrating its value in explaining variance in attitudinal outcome variables.
Thilo Kunkel, Daniel C. Funk, and Daniel Lock
Understanding the role of the league brand on consumers’ support for individual teams is important for the successful management and marketing of both leagues and teams. In the current research, brand architecture and brand association literature are integrated to examine the role of the league brand on the relationship between the team brand and team-related behavior. Data from an online survey of professional soccer league consumers (N = 414) were analyzed using structural equation modeling with bootstrapping procedures. The relationship between the team brand and team-related behavior was partially mediated by the league brand. Findings of this research contribute new knowledge by empirically demonstrating that characteristics of the league brand have an influence on team-related behavioral intentions. Furthermore, we contribute a different analytical approach for brand association research using formative indicators to measure team and league brand associations. In the managerial implications, we outline how league managers can support individual teams and how team managers can leverage off the league brand to attract consumers.
Jason Daniels, Thilo Kunkel, and Adam Karg
Acknowledging the prevalence of new brands and rebranding activities in the present sport landscape, the current research examined consumer perceptions of new sport brands over time. Season-ticket holders and fans (N = 7,590) of eight teams were tracked over the first 5 years of a league’s existence. Brand associations were measured with a free-thought listing technique, and a coding process surmised 18 brand associations related to teams in the league, with six representing benefits and 12 representing attributes. Initially, responses were attribute dominant; however, benefits increased proportionately over the 5-year period of exploration. Findings extend knowledge on the development of consumer-based brand associations of new sport brands over time, highlight contextual differences between brands, and demonstrate the impact of star players on teams within sport-brand architecture. Given their application to global sport settings, these findings have implications for sport managers who introduce new brands to the marketplace.
Thilo Kunkel, Daniel Funk, and Brad Hill
Understanding brand relationships as perceived by consumers is important for the successful management and marketing of connected brands. Brand architecture and consumer behavior literature was integrated in this study to examine brand relationships between professional sport leagues and teams from a consumers’ perspective. Online questionnaire data were gathered from football consumers (N = 752) to test the influence of leagues and teams on consumer loyalty. Consumers were segmented into three theoretically identified sport brand architecture groups: league dominant, team dominant, and codominant. Findings of CFA, MANOVA, paired-sample t tests, frequency analysis, chi-square and linear regression analysis revealed that leagues and teams were in a codominant relationship with one another. Results revealed the brand architecture of leagues and teams as perceived by consumers, provide a reliable and valid tool to segment sport spectators, and showcase the influence of external factors on consumer loyalty with a team. Suggestions for league and team management and marketing are presented to better leverage their brand relationship and increase consumer loyalty with both brands.
Thilo Kunkel, Olan Scott, and Anthony Beaton
Michael Lahoud is a professional soccer player who currently plays for Miami FC in the North American Soccer League (NASL). He was born in Sierra Leone, where he escaped civil war when he was 6 years old. As a refugee, soccer helped him integrate in the United States, where he was drafted as the ninth overall pick in the 2009 Major League Soccer (MLS) superdraft. He is a community advocate who uses his sport to support charitable efforts such as the Wall Las Memorias project, the NoH8 campaign, and Schools for Salone. He was the MLS Humanitarian of the Year in 2010, and, together with Kei Kamara, he is the recipient of the 2015 FIFPro World Players’ Union Merit Award (a prize worth $25,000), which recognized their involvement in the Schools for Salone project that builds schools in their home country of Sierra Leone. His brand is Soccer can make a difference. This interview consists of two parts, with the first part being conducted in December 2015 when he was a player with the MLS team Philadelphia Union and the second part being conducted in July 2016 after two transfers within 4 months. The interviews provide an overview of his approach to athlete branding via social media and its impact on his career.
Jason Doyle, Kevin Filo, Alana Thomson, and Thilo Kunkel
Delivering community-based benefits is oftentimes cited to justify the high costs associated with hosting large-scale events. The current research is embedded in positive psychology to examine how an event impacts host community members’ PERMA domains, reflected through positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Adopting a longitudinal approach, the authors interviewed 15 host community members before and after a large-scale sport event to determine if and how the event impacted their well-being. The findings uncovered evidence that the event activated positive emotions, relationships, and meaning across both phases, and evidence of accomplishment within the postevent phase. The findings contribute to the knowledge by examining the links between large-scale sport events and well-being throughout the event lifecycle. This research forwards implications for event bidding committees, event organizers, and host community officials to maximize community well-being through hosting large-scale events and to help justify associated expenses from a social–psychological perspective.
Daniel Lock, Kevin Filo, Thilo Kunkel, and James L. Skinner
In this manuscript, we use Bitektine’s (2011) theory of organizational social judgments to develop a framework to Capture Perceptions of Organizational Legitimacy (CPOL). We outline a three-stage framework as a method to measure the perceived dimensions on which constituents scrutinize a sport organization’s legitimacy. In stage one of the framework, we defined the organizational context of a nonprofit sport organization in Sydney, Australia to establish the classification, purpose, and relationship of the focal entity to its constituents. In stage two, we distributed a qualitative questionnaire (N = 279) to identify the perceived dimensions on which constituents scrutinized organizational action. In stage 3 we distributed a quantitative questionnaire (N = 860) to test six perceived dimensions, which emerged during stage two of the CPOL framework. The six dimensions explained 63% of respondents’ overall organizational judgment, providing support for the CPOL framework as a context-driven process to measure constituent perceptions of the legitimacy of sport organizations.
Stirling Sharpe, Thilo Kunkel, Olan Scott, and Anthony Beaton
Thilo Kunkel, Rui Biscaia, Akiko Arai, and Kwame Agyemang
This research explored the role of athlete on- and off-field brand image on consumer commitment toward the athlete and associated team, preference by the athlete’s sponsor, and the mediating effect of consumers’ self-brand connection on these relationships. Data were collected from fans of soccer players through a cross-sectional survey promoted on social media platforms. A partial least squares structural equation model examined the direct effects of both athlete brand dimensions on athlete commitment, team commitment, and athlete sponsor preference, and the indirect effects mediated via self-brand connection. The results indicate that an athlete’s on-field image is significantly related to athlete sponsor preference, while the off-field image influences athlete commitment and team commitment. Self-brand connection is influenced by athlete off-field image and mediates the relationship between off-field image and athlete commitment. This study contributes to a better understanding of how to manage athlete brands and linkages between fans, athletes, and associated entities.