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Sports Branding/ Brand Association

SRM 420 Research Paper

Lucas Wilbanks

The topic of my choice was Sports Branding, with emphasis on Brand Association. I was
very curious on what I was hoping to discover while researching this topic. I came to the
conclusion that, I want to know why sport branding matters to individuals. What are some
decisive factors that determine as to why an individual likes a certain team, or wears a certain
clothing brand (i.e. Nike, Under Armour)? I felt like it was important to gather questions based
on my topic and distribute them to my fellow classmates and others to find the results that lead to
my answer(s). According to my research, there are numerous factors as to why brand association
is important to individuals. These include, but are not limited to, the following: logo, marks,
nickname, mascot, owners, players, head coaches, rivalries, stadium or arena. After gathering my
results, out of the 21 responses, 18 (86%) selected players as the main affiliation of brand
association. Another important question that I wanted answer was which factor contributes more
to brand association. Out of the five factors: team success, team history, rivalry, organizational

attributes, and stadium community. After gathering the data, 10 (52%) out of 19 responses
selected team success as the most important factor affiliated with Brand Association. Team
history was second with 9 (47%) selections. I feel confident in my findings about Brand
Association and the reasons behind it. Ive been able to distribute important questions regarding
Brand Association and have received adequate feedback. Ive discovered that my findings relate
that individuals want to feel as if they are a part of a team, or at least affiliated. With team
success receiving one more selection than team history, that tells me that those two factors can
really be interchangeable. If your team is winning than the history of that team is going to take
care of itself. I was expecting those two choices to be the majority picks, but was rather surprised
that star players werent more of a factor.
What & Why
The purpose of this paper is to identify factors that lead to a more loyal brand association.
Its important to understand what some factors are, and how they can have an impact. The
problem is that some get confused as to what brand associations is and what it stands for. Brand
Associations are not benefits, but are images and symbols associated with a brand or a benefit.
Associations are not reasons-to-buy but provide acquaintance and differentiation thats
replicable. It is relating perceived qualities of a brand to a known entity. Brand association is
anything, which is deep, seated in customers mind about the brand. Brand should be associated
with something positive so that the customers relate your brand to being positive. Brand
associations are the attributes of brand, which come into consumers mind when the brand is
talked about. It is related with the implicit and explicit meanings, which a consumer
relates/associates with a specific brand name. Brand association can also be defined as the degree
to which a specific product/service is recognized within its product/service class/category. While
choosing a brand name, it is essential that the name chosen should reinforce an important
attribute or benefit association that forms its product positioning. If the product, which the brand
depicts, is durable, marketable and desirable, then positive brand associations are developed. The
customers must be persuaded that the brand possesses the features and attributes satisfying their
needs. This will lead to customers having a positive impression about the product. Organizations
gain goodwill and obstruct the competitors entry into the market when positive brand
association is developed. Brands are critical for creating business value, and the sports business
is no exception. Strong brands command customer loyalty and premium prices, constituting
valuable assets that drive company revenue and growth. They are central to the many sports
business transactions, especially sponsorship deals and product merchandising.
I think its important to understand that with brand association, there can be several
reasons as to why we need to examine it. For one, it can create a positive brand image, which in
returns increases market share. Consumers tend to view a brands image as an integral part of the
product or service they are purchasing. They are not only buying the actual product or service,
but the status, prestige and perceived benefits associated with the organization that is doing the
selling intangible qualities that differentiate the item of choice from all other similar offerings
in the marketplace. So my question is, how can you create a positive brand image? The first step
is to find out specifically how members currently perceive the association. Some questions that
need to be answered is, are the members satisfied with the products and services offered by their
association? What does this certain association provide that members feel they would not get
from another? Usually if an association has something unique about it then it normally peaks the
members attention. An association, like any other, exists to fill a particular need within society
and to accomplish particular goals or objectives. The association must be sure what its mission is

in order to succeed. A market-oriented mission statement is helpful in defining an organization in

terms of satisfying its customers. Once an association knows how it is perceived in its members
eyes, it then has a basis for internal evaluations (how can it improve services to better serve the
members) and external evaluations (how it is performing in comparison to the competition). The
answers to these questions can help associations discover their brand image with members and
then implement plans or programs to create, enhance or, in certain situations, change or
reposition the current image. In a marketplace cluttered by clones and homogeneous products
and services, it is important to create a brand image that differentiates itself from competitors and
suggests integrity, dependability, and high quality with an emphasis on excellent service. This is
the key to ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn translates into a larger market
share for the company concerned.
How and When
Research interest in branding continues to be strong in the marketing literature.
Marketing managers continue to realize the power of brands, manifest in the recent efforts of
many companies to build strong Internet brands. Despite the importance of brands and
consumer perceptions of them, marketing researchers have not used a consistent definition or
measurement technique to assess consumer perceptions of brands. Two scholars addressed this,
and have both developed extensive conceptual treatments of branding and related issues. Keller
referred to consumer perceptions of brands as brand knowledge, consisting of brand awareness
(recognition and recall) and brand image. He defines brand image as perceptions about a brand
as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory. These associations include
perceptions of brand quality and attitudes toward the brand. Similarly, Aaker proposes that brand
associations are anything linked in memory to a brand. In order to support my research question,
I thought developing a survey about brand association was appropriate to find my results. As I
recalled before, one of my questions regarding brand association, was which factor demonstrated
a sense of affiliation. The choices you could pick from whereas the following: players, stadium
or arena, rivalry, other. Out of the 21 responses, 18 (86%) selected players as the main affiliation
of brand association. Another question on my survey had to do with whether brand association
mattered to my responders. The question had to deal with Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas
Mavericks. The question is as followed, Does brand association matter to you? For example,
Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, because of that, would that make you like
them more than if he wasnt? Out of the 21 responders 13 (62%) said no. This means that 62%
agreed that because Mark Cuban is the owner, no affiliation would change if he were not the
owner. I asked my responders to rank which factors they saw as being the most important when
discussing brand association. The possible choices to select from whereas the following: team
success, team history, rivalry, organizational attributes, and stadium community. Out of the 19
responses, team success was chosen as the most important factor with 10 selections, which made
up 52 percent of the responses. Team history was the second most chosen factor with 9
selections, making up 47 percent of the responses. Its safe to say that team history and team
success were the most important factors when discussing brand association. In my opinion, I
thought the question regarding the favorite team(s) and the reason behind that affiliation was one
of the more intriguing questions from the survey. The cool thing about this question was the
variety of answers. I had answers from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, to
Real Madrid and of course the local-ish teams, such as Auburn, Alabama, UNA, Atlanta Braves
and Hawks. The one thing I noticed from the list of teams was the majority of the teams were
from the local area, even if it was a couple of hours away. Its still considered local-ish. Some of

the reasons behind these choices vary from one factor to another. The majority of the reasons
behind the likeness for a certain team were due to team success and history. Other factors
included star players, excitement about the youth on the team, rivalries, and logos. Some more
information that I was intrigued by was what percentage numbers I would get from my
responders providing an estimate regarding which affiliates were deemed more important than
others. The choices are of the following: team success, team history, commitment/affiliation,
brand mark, (logo, symbol, colors) and rivalry. After gathering my results, I found that
commitment/affiliation was the highest percentage out of the affiliates regarding brand
The results I found from my research involves brand association demonstrations of
likeness for a certain team. The leading vote getter was the players at 86% and it consisted of 18

When it came to the type of brand knowledge that best describes them. The majority
chose Strong Favorable & Unique Brand Associations, which includes image and benefits. The
important factor contributing to brand association was team success with 10 responses,
responsible for 52% of the field. Team history made up the second most important factor with 9

Contributors to Brand Association

Team Success

Team History

As I mentioned earlier, I asked my fellow classmates as well as others to list their favorite teams.
The results varied from different sports, but there was also a flavor of local teams. Alabama led
all the teams with 5 selections, accounting for 33% of the field. The Atlanta Braves and Auburn
Tigers had 2 selections apiece contributing to 26% of the field. Altogether, Alabama, Auburn and
the Braves combined for 9 selections and a whopping 59% combined, but that is to be expected
considering those three teams are within 4 and a half hours. The consensus I found was that out
of that 59%, the selections were from local areas.


Atlanta Braves

I wanted to get everyones opinion regarding the factors that are affiliated with brand association,
I wanted everyone to give their percentages as to which seemed more important to them. After
gathering my results, Ive come to the conclusion that commitment/affiliation had the highest
percentage at nearly 80%. Also from looking at my results, it looks pretty even, although the one
factor outweighs the other by a smidge.

There are sixteen dimensions categorized with brand association. They are broken down
into three parts: ATTRIBUTE (success, head coach, star player, management, stadium, logo
design, product delivery, and tradition) BENEFIT (identification, nostalgia, pride in place,
escape and peer group acceptance) ATTITUDE (importance, knowledge and effect) in your own
opinion, which of three (3) parts would you say is more important? After gathering all the data,
attribute checked in with the most selections at 13, which is good for 62%.

In conclusion, team success and team history were the most influential factors that lead to
Brand association. The favorite teams that made up nearly 60% of the survey were local-ish
(Auburn, Alabama, and Atlanta Braves). When it came to what affiliation deemed as the reason
behind your favorite team, players were chosen the most (86%). The brand knowledge that
described the majority of the class was Strong Favorable & Unique Brand Associations (Image
and Benefits). This made up nearly 62% of the field.

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Associations: Creating a Positive Brand Image to Increase Market Share - Rockbridge
Associates, Inc. (2013, December 9). Retrieved May 2, 2015, from
Brand Association. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2015, from