Reasons beyond motives. Psychology or relationship marketing? A cross-cultural investigation of football fans' motivations

Using case studies of Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC

Master's Thesis, 2015

94 Pages, Grade: 66


Table of Contents


1. Introduction
1.1 Research problem
1.2 Study context
1.2.1 Marketing activities of Manchester United FC
1.2.2 Marketing activities of Chelsea FC
1.3. Dissertation structure

2. Literature Review
2.1. Introduction
2.2 Sports marketing: term and strategies
2.3 Football marketing
2.4 Relationship marketing
2.5. Building customer-based brand equity through marketing programmes
2.5.1 Brand and customer-based brand equity
2.5.2 Sports brand and customer-based brand equity in football
2.6. Are the internet and social media replacing traditional media in terms of brand equity creation?
2.7 Sports fan behaviour
2.8 Construction of identity through the symbolic consumption of football
2.9. Conclusion

3. Methodology

3.1 Research purpose and the objectives of the study

3.2 Philosophical underpinnings

3.3 Research design

3.4 Data collection

3.5 Sample design and population

3.6 Setting and process

3.7 Data analysis

3.8 Ethical issues

3.9 Limitations

4. Findings and discussion
4.1 Becoming a fan: main reasons of the non-UK fans
4.2 Symbolic consumption of football of the non-UK fans
4.2.1 Main motivations of the non-UK fans to consume football
4.2.2 How do non-UK fans demonstrate their love and loyalty?
4.3 Becoming a fan: main reasons of the UK fans
4.4 Symbolic consumption of football of the UK fans
4.4.1 Main motives and beliefs of the UK fans
4.4.2 Demonstration of love and loyalty of the UK fans
4.5 Role of relationship marketing and brand management in the formation and shifting fans’ motivation
4.5.1 Awareness of marketing activities of two clubs and attitudes towards them 51 communities
4.5.3 Relationship marketing
4.5.4 Dark side of branding in football
4.6 Differences and similarities of fans’ motivations within demographics

5. Conclusion
5.1 Key findings
5.2 Implications
5.3 Limitations


Appendix 1. Objectives and theories
Appendix 2. Participant table
Appendix 3. Interview guide
Appendix 4. Interview Transcript Examples
Sample 1. UK respondent
Sample 2. Non-UK respondent
Appendix 5. Summary of differences and similarities between the UK and the non-UK fans


I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor Charles Butcher for his endless
support, guidance and encouragement throughout this project. It was a great pleasure
to work with the person, who has not only had a valuable experience in his sphere but
also highly interested in football, what made this study as enjoyable as possible.

Furthermore, I would like to thank all participants for their interesting answers, my two
best friends Nargizs for their support and help in finding interviewees, and, of course,
my family and all the friends from back home, who motivated me and sent their love
filling me up with energy regardless the distance.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to every single person encouraging me
here, in Edinburgh, particularly, my best international friend and part-time psychologist
Kristina. So happy to have all of you by my side and I hope our friendship will last forever. I will miss you badly!


This cross-cultural study aims to investigate motivations of the UK and the non-UK fans, specifically the factors affecting fan behaviour and the role of marketing activities of the clubs in it. As the purpose of the dissertation is the understanding of behaviour, beliefs and motives, the results will be derived from the in-depth interviews, conducted with fans of Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC. Specifically, it attempts to discover main factors impacting football consumption; to explore the role of relationship marketing and branding in fans’ motivations, and to investigate how fans motivations vary within different demographics and nationalities.

The context of this study is two big English clubs - Manchester United and Chelsea, which have enormous fan bases not only in the UK but all over the world.

Literature in relevant fields will be reviewed and presented to build a ground for the further research and explore the current understanding of fans motivations and football marketing.

After coding and analysing the data from a series of 22 interviews, findings concluded that for the non-UK fans emotions derived from football, such as excitement, happiness and entertainment, are the most important factor to consume it.

On the other side, the main motivations of the UK fans, who attend matches, appeared to be the atmosphere of the stadium, experience with others, socialisation and excitement.

Furthermore, the results show that the relationship marketing of both clubs is not efficient enough to build and maintain the fan-club relationship.

The implications for marketing practitioners include segmentation and targeting fans based on their demographics and motivations, and creating efficient marketing programmes to attract more fans. Additionally, the results demonstrate the importance of the game experience and the growing interest in social media. Thus, creating an interactive and entertaining experience both at the stadium and on social media platform will increase the attendance, fan loyalty and merchandise sales.

Tables and figures

Table 1: Objectives and theories

Table 2: Participant table

Table 3: Summary of differences and similarities between the UK and the non-UK

Figure 1: The four domains of sports marketing

Figure 2: Proposed conceptual framework for relationship quality

Figure 3: The Psychological Continuum Model (PCM)

1. Introduction

1.1 Research problem

This research endeavours to enrich the existing literature using in-depth interviews as a method in attempt to draw a broader picture of the fans motivations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the fans of the two big English Premier League (hereinafter referred to as EPL) clubs, such as Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC.

This cross-cultural study attempts to understand the motivations of both the UK and non-UK fans, comparing and contrasting their beliefs, motives, behaviours and reasons of football consumption. Specifically, it seeks to provide insights into the role of marketing activities and relationship marketing in motivating individuals to consume football. Previous studies have focused primarily on the fans behaviour and motivations or the importance of customer relationship management in football. However, they failed to bridge these concepts together and to explore relationship marketing as a factor affecting fan behaviour. Additionally, by interviewing the UK and the non-UK fans, a comparison can be made, which will reveal if culture plays a significant role in becoming an individual a fan, his/her football consumption and motivation.

1.2 Study context

Beyond its massive popularity, football nowadays enjoys tremendous success as a global industry with many interconnecting parts in a complex architecture of organisations that embody clubs, regions, nations and even continents. Consequently, this dissertation will reveal not only the psychological and demographical factors encouraging individuals to watch/attend football, but also the business side of football and its effect, if any, on football consumers.

Recently Forbes published a list of world’s top 20 richest football clubs in 2015, where 8 of them were the EPL clubs. According to Deloitte’s report, Manchester United is on the 2nd place with £366m yearly revenue, whereas Chelsea is on the 7th with £273m (£274 and £215 respectively coming from the TV broadcasting and commercial & sponsorship) (TOTAL SPORTEK, 2015).

1.2.1 Marketing activities of Manchester United FC

Manchester United is the world's most valuable football brand (BBC News, 2005). Albeit winning no trophies last 2 seasons, the Manchester United brand is estimated to be worth £789m. Part of it due to the club’s profitable shirt sponsorship contract with Chevrolet, and a 10-year "record-breaking" kit supply agreement with Adidas accounting for £750m (BBC News, 2015).

According to (2015), over the last years, Manchester United have realised a practical approach to identifying, obtaining and supporting sponsors. They concentrate on expanding their business on a worldwide basis by broadening the product range, securing sponsorships with leading brands and improving distribution via development of the retail, wholesale, and e-commerce channels (, 2015).

Sport business in the European and North American markets has reached its maturity phase of the lifecycle (Nys, 1999). Thereby, football clubs have to target other markets in order to enlarge their fan base. The current target of Manchester United is not Europe but other continents and less developed countries.

For instance, they have been first in Europe targeting the untapped Asian market with its high population and the increasing number of football fans (Hill & Vincent, 2006). And, thanks to their global vision, they now still keep their first entry advantage. Furthermore, they were the first to organise regular tours to Asia during summer preparation and, consequently, their shirts are the most seen in Chinese streets and they are the team the most shown in news (Bridgewater, 2007). Nevertheless, last two summers they headed for the USA as the part of their contract with Aon, aiming to get more followers from there.

In addition, recently Manchester United signed a partnership contract with Bakcell, the leading mobile operator of Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Bakcell became Manchester United’s “first official telecommunications and broadcast partner in CIS countries”, providing a range of exclusive and unique content to the football fans. As part of this contract, Bakcell has got the right to broadcast the official TV channel of the club in Azerbaijan (, 2015).

Later, Manchester United announced a unique partnership with the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) and Bakcell, intending to improve grassroots football in the country. This new opened Manchester United Soccer School, armed with the best coaches from England, became the first soccer school of United in CIS countries (, 2015).

"This exciting initiative will link the club to a national football federation for the first time. Azerbaijan is a burgeoning football nation and is home to over a million Manchester United followers, so founding this relationship with the help of our friends at Bakcell is a fantastic development” - R. Arnold, Manchester United’s Group Managing Director (, 2015).

Moreover, the rapid growth of digital media consumption, social media and mobile platforms, presents the club with various perspectives. The digital media platforms, such as mobile applications, social media and mobile sites have become one of the primary ways by which Manchester United engage and communicate with their fans all over the world. At the moment, they have 60mln followers on Facebook, over 3.6mln on Twitter and over 1.9mln on Instagram (, 2015).

1.2.2 Marketing activities of Chelsea FC

Since 2003, Chelsea have been owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and became one of the most successful football teams and brands in the past decade (Dang, 2015). With the guidance of chief executive Peter Kenyon, there has been a diversified and effective rebranding around the core business of football (, 2007).

Last season Chelsea managed to become “the most watched Premier League team on television, with over 31,000 broadcast hours” (, 2015). Currently, Chelsea is one of the most popular and influential sports brands with over 500 million fans worldwide (, 2015).

Besides, the club has impressive plans to launch the EPL’s “most revolutionary global commercial programme, partnering with market-leading and innovative organisations from around the world”, as informed by (2015). This year’s agreement with Yokohama, along with being one of the biggest shirt sponsorship deals in the history of the sport (Badenhausen, 2015), brings “the club into a new era of innovative commercial partnership, that will underpin Chelsea’s strategy to be one of Europe’s leading football clubs with a self-financing model which is fully compliant with the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules” (, 2015). This 5-year contract with Japanese tyre manufacturer is worth almost £40 million annually (Badenhausen, 2015).

As Manchester United, Chelsea regularly crisscrosses England worldwide, allowing fans from overseas to see the last changes before the season ticket holders in London (Rea, 2015). Thus, this deal is very crucial for Chelsea, as it will help to drive their global expansion strategy on international markets, such as the USA and Japan, where Yokohama corporates very successfully, and two markets Chelsea is looking at closely, according to their chairman Bruce Buck’s words (, 2015).

One of the latest commercial programmes of Chelsea is the Goal Getters youth engagement programme between Chelsea Foundation and Deutsche Bank’s Born to Be (, 2015). The programme is designed to give the young women an opportunity to improve skills pertinent to the modern job market through coaching and enterprise workshops. At the same time, it encompasses a real-life business brief to promote women’s football and to motivate more families to attend matches (, 2015).

Moreover, their Chelsea Foundation’s Premier League Kicks project, launched in 2013, continues to prosper, promoting unique sports engagement in disadvantaged areas and with at-risk individuals. This nationwide programme is aiming to engage youngsters and bring communities together through football, helping more than 200 young people with further education and employment (, 2015).

With regards to social media, Twitter is the platform, which Chelsea uses most effectively among the UK clubs, where it has the biggest number of followers. On Instagram, they have 1.9 million “likes”, while on Facebook, they are the 4th popular football club with 41.5 million “likes”. Consequently, they are performing pretty well, as, according to statistics by, Chelsea has a quite high mentioned share amongst social platform (Dang, 2015).

1.3. Dissertation structure

The following chapter will review relevant literature, focusing on sports and football studies, and appropriate marketing and branding theories. Chapter 3 will discuss the used methodology and the philosophy behind it. Chapter 4 will indicate findings related to fans main motivations, the process of becoming a fan, symbolic consumption of football, the role of relationship marketing and branding in fans motivation and behaviour, and the dark side of branding in football. Eventually, chapter 5 will sum up the study results, its limitations, and provide recommendations for marketing managers and future research.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Introduction

This section will incorporate a wide body of literature, which will be discussed and analysed in order to give the reader detailed information about the ideas that are relevant to this dissertation. Studies from different fields, including sports outside of football, will be scrutinised and critiqued, providing added depth and evidence to the findings of this study.

Firstly, the literature presented on sports and football marketing will be examined for contributions to the question of this dissertation regarding the role of marketing in sport as well as football.

Secondly, in a more specific focus, the conceptual frameworks regarding consumer- based brand equity building, relationship marketing and social media marketing in sport and particularly football will be analysed and critiqued in order to find justified arguments and gaps in the previous studies that this study aims to cover. For instance, although there is a wide range of research studies undertaken in the areas of how football clubs build relationships with their fans and develop a strong customer-based brand equity, there have been few studies carried out on how these activities impact the motivations and self-identification of the fans with the football club and how these motives vary across cultures.

Finally, the literature on sports fan behaviour and construction of identity through the symbolic consumption of football will be discussed, as these fields address the motivational and psychological aspects of fans that this study is investigating.

2.2 Sports marketing: term and strategies

Sport is a unique phenomenon that crosses geographic, social and religious barriers and appeals to the masses. Nowadays, sport has become increasingly commercialised and is exploited in the marketing world, where highly profitable deals are negotiated. (Ventura & Dedeoglu, 2013; Hans et al., 2005).

The first manifestation of sports marketing can be traced to ancient Rome, where the patriarchs funded gladiators for the same reasons as contemporary marketers do - to earn public respect (Shannon, 1999).

Modern sports sponsorship first appeared in the 1950s, when the former US president Dwight Eisenhower asked the private companies Union Oil and Mutual of Omaha to sponsor the first presidential fitness programme (Lazarus, 1984 cited in Shannon, 1999).

The escalating interest in sport has increased this business-oriented focus on sports. With newer and more advanced facilities, million dollar payrolls and television contracts worth billions of dollars, there is no doubt that sport is a business venture (Shannon, 1999).

Despite sport’s already acknowledged contribution to national, local and global economies, there is no agreement between authors as to what exactly the term “sports marketing” means. What actions does this activity include? Is it limited to sponsorship or would advertisement and promotion fit within the “sports marketing” term as well? According to Shannon (1999), sports marketing can be subdivided into two major categories: the marketing of sports (marketing events and equipment to consumers) and marketing with sports (using sport as a vehicle or sponsorship platform for promotion of non-sport products and athletes to endorse these products). This view is supported by Fullerton and Merz (2008), who also posited these two dimensions of sports marketing and identified four strategic domains (theme-based, product-based, alignment-based, sports-based), depending on the level of sports integration and the type of product (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The four domains of sports marketing

Source: Fullerton and Merz (2008, p.97)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

With the advancement in technology in general and especially digital technology, customers and spectators receive an array of advertising messages every day through different media tools. Nowadays, sport is marketed and managed rather than administrated and understanding customers leads to a long-term loyalty and profitability (Garcia, 2001). Therefore, sports marketers have to create outstanding marketing strategies in order to reach their customers effectively.

The sports industry is particularly competitive and sports companies have to be innovative service sellers in order to stand out among their competitors (Hans et al., 2005). According to Garcia (2001), sports consumers are segmented culturally, socially and demographically and sports marketers try to shape the relationship between fans and a club, so that a customer becomes a true fan and his/her lifetime value is believed to be greater than that of an occasional spectator. However, the study in question fails to address the issue of how clubs/teams/sports marketers reach their customers, especially internationally, in order to attain new spectators and retain loyal fans.

2.3 Football marketing

Football has been historically the most popular world sport in terms of attendance, media presence and number of events. Even though in late-nineteenth century England it was a game for the rich who played with their peers, nowadays, it is a global phenomenon which is loved and practised all over the world (Madeiro, 2007). Therefore, a big business interest in football is more than justified. A number of studies have been conducted concerning the “new” consumption of football, claiming that football nowadays is more than just a game; it is a huge business with turnovers, investments and contracts worth billions of dollar (e.g. King, 1997; Garcia, 2001; Oppenhuisen & van Zoonen, 2006; Madeiro, 2007; Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004; Williams & Neatrour, 2002). According to King (1997), with this transformation of football many clubs have started to treat their fans not as “supporters” but as “customers”. This treatment shifts the fans’ relationship with the team from an emotional and social one to an economic one (Oppenhuisen & van Zoonen, 2006). Despite the changed political economy of football and its more commercialised nature nowadays, football is not exclusively a business. It develops sporting valour and transmits cultural, social, and political identities (Burdsey & Chappell, 2001 cited in Garcia, 2001).

But how and why is the football club marketed? One popular strategy is the political tactic of gathering football stars, not because of their professional capacities, but for their advertising appeal (Madeiro, 2007). A good example is Real Madrid in Spain, who have been practising this strategy for a long time. Even though in the 2014-2015 season the club had no achievement on the field, they still managed to become the most valuable club in the world ($3.26bln) (Ozanian, 2015), by virtue of their powerful “non- field”!marketing activities and superstars’!promotion.

Another pattern currently emerging is a growing “transnational capitalist class” circulation among Europe’s top clubs, which includes players, coaches and agents (Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004). Some well-known clubs have bought foreign players for promotional purposes. For instance, buying Asian players can stimulate a club’s merchandise sales in those regions, rather than enhance the team’s quality (Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004; Hill & Vincent, 2006). Hill and Vincent (2006) argued that sport, and especially football, in Asia has been marketed through English teams’ visits since the 1980s, Asian players signed by prominent English clubs (Manchester United - Park Ji-Sung, Everton - Li Tie, Manchester City - Sun Jihai, etc.), live broadcasts on TV and hosting of special events by Asian countries.

In their 2004 study, Giulianotti and Robertson explained another football marketing strategy - cultural “glocalization”. According to this theory, some transnational clubs (TNC) emphasise symbolic national or local figures (“hearts” of the fans) by, for example, making them captains (Manchester United captained by England’s Wayne Rooney, A.S. Roma by Italy’s Francesco Totti, Barcelona by Spain’s Andrés Iniesta, Bayern Munich by Germany’s Philipp Lahm, etc.). These players are famous footballers worldwide, but represent the national or local characteristics of the club for the fans. Additionally, clubs are recruiting “foreign” players from culturally similar countries looking to achieve global recognition (Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004).

Another trend, especially in the EPL, is that foreign managers increasingly buy players they know. For example, Arsenal is a team managed by a French coach who has consistently excluded English players from the team, while ensuring that French players are dominant in the transfers. Henderson (2011) explained this phenomenon as follows: (1) managers come to England having little information about English players and (2) their compatriots are supposed to act as a “cultural guard” for them among a homogeneous group of the players representing the dominant culture.

In addition, a common characteristic of the football industry in Europe is the incorporation of a club or the league with a broadcaster or a media company (Williams & Neatrour, 2002). Fininvest in Italy and Canal+ in France being shareholders in local clubs and Sky TV having shares in the EPL are a good example of this integration. Meanwhile, the internet allows big clubs to broadcast their matches abroad and offer “e-season tickets”, which are likely to generate lucrative returns (Williams & Neatrour, 2002).

Moreover, the transfer of world-class football stars to less developed leagues in their mid/late 30-ies (e.g. David Beckham, David Villa, Xavi, Ronaldinho) is explained by brand considerations and constitutes an example of the increasing significance of marketing aspects in sport management. Such players are used as an icon, as a brand to attract non-motivated people to the stadium, while, at the same time, enhancing the profitability of organisations: ticket-selling, advertising, brand awareness and promotion of the less popular leagues.

2.4 Relationship marketing

Relationship marketing has received substantial attention from sports organisations recently because it tends to be the most effective way of improving communication strategies between two participants: the team and targeted customers. Marketers are focusing on long-term customer retention and integration of different techniques in order to maintain and develop customer relationships (Bee & Kahle, 2006).

Relationship marketing to sports consumers is “a set of marketing activities to establish, enhance, and maintain a relationship with sport consumers for the mutual benefit of both the sport organisations and the sport consumers” (Kim & Trail, 2011, p. 58). A careful examination of these relationships is vital for team marketers and merchandising, as it helps to better position the sports brand in an appealing way and to tighten the bonds between suppliers and customers.

Bee and Kahle (2006) discussed how three levels of social influence - compliance, identification and internalisation - mediate the effects of relationship marketing on expected results (e.g. the purchase of sport-related products and tickets, and attendance at sporting events). Their research was based on psychological theories encouraging the consideration of the impact of distinctive trust levels on the relationship, considering the sophisticated nature of sports customer trust. Other factors affecting sport consumer behaviour and attitudes toward the formation of the relationship were commitment, involvement, and shared values (Bee & Kahle, 2006).

Later, Kim and Trail (2011) introduced the conceptual model of relationship quality in sport, comprising three main components: relational constructs, representing the quality of the organisation-sport consumer relationship; important behavioural outcomes of this relationship; some potential circumstances in which distinctive effects of the relationship quality on behavioural outcomes are likely to occur (Figure 2).

The model includes five different but related components of relationship quality: trust, commitment, intimacy, self-connection, and reciprocity. Additionally, the framework indicates that the relationship quality affects word-of-mouth, media consumption, licensed-product consumption, and attendance behaviours. Moreover, the relationship personality and demographics were believed to be two potential factors shifting the impact of relationship quality on behavioural aspects of consumers (Kim & Trail,2011).

Figure 2: Proposed conceptual framework for relationship quality

Source: Kim and Trail (20П, p.60)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Clowes and Tapp (1998) also supported the view of previous authors and argued that in this highly competitive environment it is crucial for football clubs to offer a relationship driven approach, justifying the importance of this strategy and introducing necessary steps to initiate it. Market segmentation techniques and the theory of relationship marketing were recommended as a basis for football clubs to help them change their approach from a traditional marketing mix strategy (4p’s) to a relationship marketing paradigm (relate, retain, recover).

This is consistent with McCarthy et al. (2014), who pointed out that football fans should not be considered as typical sports consumers. The relationship between the club and fans is not a transaction-based customer relationship; rather, it is a strong sense of community among the club and fans, as football is about emotion and passion. For example, most of the professional UK clubs were established in their local communities, ergo their spirit had never been profit maximisation (Williams & Neatrour, 2002). This induces some tension between supporter and club. Subsequently, it is necessary to launch and integrate relationship driven approaches maintaining true supporters, to enhance their satisfaction, which will boost merchandise sales, ticket selling and attendance. Moreover, a substantial part of marketing effort should be focused on converting potential customers who are "less certain" into those who are "more certain” (Pan & Baker 2005).

It is one of the objectives of this dissertation to investigate how relationship marketing, practised by different clubs, works specifically for Manchester United and Chelsea, what fans get in return, how and why they consume the game, how the clubs assist in the construction of their identities and how this varies across distinct nations and cultures.

2.5. Building customer-based brand equity through marketing programmes

2.5.1 Brand and customer-based brand equity

Brands play different roles in consumer decision making that can emerge from a number of mechanisms, such as psychological (brand associations), sociological (brand communities), and economic (brand as a signal during uncertainty) processes (Erdem et al., 2006 cited in Ventura & Dedeoglu, 2013).

According to Keller (2003), brand is something that exists in the consumers’ mind. Consumer knowledge about a brand is characterised by the personal meaning he/she gives a brand and what resides in his/her memory, including all evaluative and descriptive brand-related information (Keller, 2003).

A few theoretical models have been developed and referred to as “brand equity” to evaluate the added value a brand endows on a product or service (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1993). Aaker (1991) introduced brand equity as a sum of advantages and disadvantages that one relates to a brand and that control the value of a product or service. This was the first study to focus on customers when assessing a brand. One of the most prevalent conceptual frameworks was developed by Keller (1993), based on Aaker’s theory, who introduced a customer-based brand equity model with the customer in mind.

According to Keller (1993), customer-based brand equity is “the differential effect that brand knowledge has on consumer response to the marketing of the brand”!(Keller, 1993, p.2). Additionally, he elaborates two dimensions that impact brand equity - brand awareness and brand image. Brand awareness is referred as to the ability of customers to recall the brand in different situations. After brand awareness occurs, customers can convey brand feelings built on brand imagery and brand judgments based on brand performance (Keller, 2001). Aaker (1996) believes that these associations are a significant part of the brand equity concept and management, and contribute to the consumers’ decision-making.

2.5.2 Sports brand and customer-based brand equity in football

Existing academic literature explains the process of how consumers perceive (Gladden & Funk, 2001, 2002) and develop connections with sports brands (Funk & James, 2001, 2004, 2006). Strong service brands, such as sports brands, are built by making an emotional connection with their consumers, by communicating and reflecting customers’ core values (Underwood et al., 2001). A number of external (location, culture) and internal factors (psychology, demographics) are believed to influence the connection sport fans have with a particular sport brand (Kunkel et al., 2014). According to Kunkel et al. (2014) and Funk and James (2001), external factors of brand, such as attractive characteristics and attributes, more easily influence attitude formation and development than internal factors of consumers, such as motives or culture. Consequently, adjusting the characteristics or attributes of a sport brand to better satisfy consumers’ needs and wants may positively affect the relationship between consumers and their favourite sport brand (Funk & James, 2001 cited in Kunkel et al., 2014).

There are two widespread concepts used in the literature to understand sports brand building: consumer-based brand equity and brand association (Gladden & Funk, 2002 cited in Kunkel et al., 2014). Keller (1993) summarised brand association factors in three main categories: benefits, attitudes and attributes. In the case of a football club, it is the image a consumer has of the football brand. For example, Manchester United makes individuals recall football, the UK, and the colour red. According to Blumrodt (2014), a strong positive brand image is the most influential part of brand equity as it illustrates key traits of the club, which make customers attend matches (or watch on media) and purchase merchandising products. Brand image can influence the purchasing behaviour of fans and lead to competitive advantages (Guenzi & Nocco, 2006 cited in Blumrodt, 2014). Furthermore, it is argued that team performance and uncertainty of outcomes are not the only reason why spectators attend a match (Blumrodt, 2014; Hans et al., 2005). Other factors should be taken into account and improved to boost the brand image, such as entertainment off the field, non-product related attributes (Hans et al., 2005), community engagement and customer-oriented communications. In other words, stadiums should become more customer friendly

(Blumrodt, 2014).

Hans et al. (2005) were the first to measure sports brand equity from a customer point of view. They investigated the impact of brand equity on the economic success of German football clubs and concluded that brand equity has a positive effect on purchase intention, brand loyalty and price premiums (Hans et al., 2005).

Later, Kunkel et al. (2014) reformulated sports brand development strategies from the consumers’!perspective. They concluded that market penetration, market development and product development are three brand development strategies that professional sports clubs can practice to evoke positive consumer-based brand associations and fulfill their consumers’ wants and needs (Kunkel et al., 2014).

Moreover, Giulianotti and Robertson (2004) in their study also defined the factors affecting brand equity, such as competitive success, positive emotional associations delivered through victories, exciting games (Real Madrid and Manchester United), buying world-class players and coaches (Real Madrid), the promise of spectacle, and redesigning kits. However, they also acknowledged that in football, negative brand equity could emerge when some clubs alienate other potential consumers who decide to root for rival clubs. Nevertheless, such counteractions could still enhance present brand identification and, thus, reinforce economic relations of football’s international matrix (Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004).

2.6. Are the internet and social media replacing traditional media in terms of brand equity creation?

Global use of the internet in different industries has recently increased dramatically. Undoubtedly, it is generally accepted that the internet is leading marketing to another level. As a marketing medium, it has made a huge impact and its benefits cannot be denied. It is cheap for both organisations and customers, convenient, ubiquitous and unrestricted by time constraints (Strauss and Frost, 1999 cited in Beech et al., 2000). Sports and football clubs which have become commercialised nowadays, have also benefited from these advantages of the internet, using it as a means to communicate with fans, build relationships with them and offer products and services (ticket selling, merchandising football related products, etc.) (Beech et al., 2000; Kriemadis et al.,2010). According to Kriemadis et al. (2010), the internet can assist football clubs in intensifying their marketing activities and boost their revenue, facilitating promotion and distribution of products and services.

Social media sites have become an increasingly popular virtual meeting place for friends and acquaintances (McCarthy et al., 2014). From a marketing perspective, they are considered an additional marketing channel via which organisations can communicate with their consumers. To elucidate, football clubs use their own fan pages on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, as a platform to communicate with their fans and to keep them informed about updates, transfers, campaigns, etc.

In a recent study across three distinctive sectors, Bruhn et al. (2012) investigated the comparative impact of traditional media and social media on brand equity. They concluded that both social media communications and traditional communications have a strong impact on brand equity, however, their contributions vary. While social media affects brand image, traditional media have a strong influence on brand awareness. Additionally, their findings suggest that firm-created social media communications have a significant impact on functional brand image, whereas user­generated social media communications strongly contribute to symbolic brand image (Bruhn et al., 2012).

Furthermore, Auty (2002) claims that social media is a place where fans can share information and ideas. As fans can use social media to express themselves (Auty, 2002), fan engagement strategies (using social media) tend to make football consumers feel important and valued, fulfilling their wants and needs and, consequently, strengthening their connection with the club (Kunkel et al., 2014). This is consistent with Drury (2008), who stated that marketing is no longer one-sided, it is a two­dimensional process engaging a brand and its audience. Social media helps not just to transmit a message, but it also contributes to receiving and exchanging ideas and perceptions (Drury, 2008).

On the other hand, Beech et al. (2000) showed the link between football club websites and relationship marketing and discovered varying awareness levels of relationship marketing at football clubs. However, this study did not investigate consumer (supporter) behaviour.

Nevertheless, McCarthy et al. (2014) and Bruhn et al. (2012) acknowledged and scrutinised the issues that football clubs can face building brand equity through social media. Both argued that social media development might cause the diminution of marketers’ control over the football brand. This may occur when businesses try to optimise revenue generation of the football brand, whilst fans contest to control the brand’s image, identity and values (McCarthy et al., 2014; Bruhn et al. 2002). Therefore, they suggest to improve the web presence, changing the revenue generation approach to a more complex strategy of brand building-interactivity and marketing communications (McCarthy et al., 2014; Bruhn et al., 2002).

2.7 Sports fan behaviour

Every year, millions of sports spectators around the world spend time, money and energy to support their teams. In doing so, fans engage in different types of behaviours. Some behaviours are adaptive, such as enthusiastically cheering their club on to win and sharing positive emotions with like-minded fans, while others are less adaptive, such as engaging in fiery discussions about one’s team, and some behaviours are noticeably maladaptive, such as making fun of supporters of the rival team (Vallerand et al., 2008).

Researchers in several earlier studies have attempted to investigate and better understand the factors that motivate individuals to attend sporting events (e.g. Funk et al., 2001; Izzo et al., 2014; Parry et al., 2014; Vallerand et al., 2008; Trail & James, 2001; Cunningham & Kwon, 2003; Tokuyama & Greenwell, 2011; Derbaix et al., 2002; Trail et al., 2003). However, not all fans are motivated by the same factors (which will be analysed further) and their behaviours differ significantly based on their demographics, motives, beliefs or experiences.

Motivational factors have a strong impact on consumers’ decision-making process, as they directly affect behavioural characteristics, such as number of games attended, buying team merchandise, emotional reactions to attended games and support for a team (Tokuyama & Greenwell, 2011). Understanding these factors may have direct and indirect benefits for sports organisations and will improve the marketing communication efficiency between the provider and the customer (Cunnigham & Kwon, 2003; Won & Kitamura, 2006). For example, passion is believed to be one of these factors (Vallerand et al., 2008). Being passionate about a club may drive fans to associate themselves with that club, to devote themselves to it and to build their lives around it (Vallerand et al., 2008). Furthermore, some enjoyable activities appear to be so self-defining that they describe features of an individual’s identity. For instance, supporting any football team, those who have a passion do not cheer just for Manchester United, for example, but also for themselves. Therefore, the sports team which spectators support is part of their identity (Wolfson et al., 2005 cited in Vallerand et al., 2008).

Nevertheless, previous research has shown that intentions to consume a sport event may have also resulted from positive attitudes towards that event (Cunningham & Kwon, 2003). Cunningham and Kwon (2003) concluded that past behaviour, subjective norms, positive attitudes and perceived behavioural control could stimulate the desire to attend a hockey game. However, this quantitative study did not consider the actual behaviour, focusing on intent only, and analysed the data gathered from students attending ice hockey games in the United States, which may call into questions its generalisability to other sports and fans. Thus, more intense and detailed research is needed to enrich the existing literature, using qualitative methods and depicting the actual behaviour and real motives of football fans across the world, since the actual behaviour may be different from the intended one and this may not be discovered by quantitative research.

Additionally, Tokuyama and Greenwell (2011) stressed the effect of psychological commitment on sport consumption behaviours, highlighting that consumers with high commitment to watching (or playing) a sport are more likely to actually watch (or play) that sport.

When it comes to statistical justifications of the above-mentioned theories, different models and measurement scales were developed and evaluated by various researchers. For example, Trail and James (2001) and Funk and James (2001) introduced the Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC) and the Psychological Continuum Model (PCM), respectively.

The latter model commences with the awareness level, in which the consumer becomes aware of the product (team). The second level, attraction, pinpoints that the individual acknowledges having a favourite sport or team based on different social-psychological and demographic-based motives. At the third level, attachment emerges. This is when a psychological connection and the associations with the particular team strengthen. On the final level, allegiance, loyalty occurs and results in producing long-lasting and consistent behaviour (Figure 3) (Funk & James, 2001).

Figure 3: The Psychological Continuum Model (PCM) - A conceptual framework for understanding an individual’s psychological connection to sport (3As to Allegiance)

Source: Funk and James (20П, p.122)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

On the other hand, Trail and James (2001) developed the MSSC model and tested nine factors, representing psychological motives of baseball ticket holders: aesthetics, acquisition of knowledge, achievement, drama/eustress, escape, family, physical attractiveness of participants, the quality of the physical skill of the participants and social interaction. The results illustrate that fans can be motivated to visit a game by the wish to run away from the responsibilities of everyday life and to interact with other fans before, during and after the game (Trail & James, 2001). Furthermore, some motives were associated with identification with the coach, the team, the particular player or university (Trail et al., 2003). However, this study did not explore the cultural factors that are crucial in fan behaviour. Therefore, Kwon and Trail (2001), assuming that sports fans' motivations differ across cultures and social contexts, compared and contrasted American and international students’ motives. The only minor difference was “drama”, ranking the highest for both groups. The results of these studies are consistent with the research study of Izzo et al. (2014), with the only difference being that entertainment and socialising also emerged as the motives guiding Eastern European sports fans. However, all these studies utilised quantitative research methods and analysed a specific group of people (students, who were not necessarily sports fans, baseball fans, American or Eastern European fans). As a consequence, their results may not be representative of Western European football fans and further research, preferably using qualitative methods, is needed to investigate and provide insights into fans’ beliefs and motives across different cultures.

According to Kotler and Armstrong (2004), “...the international researchers deal with differing markets in many different countries and these markets usually vary greatly in the levels of economic development, cultures and customs, and buying patterns”

(Kotler & Armstrong, 2004; p.166). Thus, more cross-cultural studies are needed to find out how sports fans’ motivations differ by region or culture to improve the existing theories (Izzo et al., 2014).

2.8 Construction of identity through the symbolic consumption of football

“Football isn't a matter of life and death. It's more important than that” (Bill Shankly, former manager, Liverpool FC).

In the contemporary world, individuals construct their identity through consumption and make choices based on the social benefits a brand produces and the value it provides (Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001 cited in Fillis & Mackay, 2014). The concept of such identity construction is first introduced by Levy: “people buy things not only for what they can do, but also for what they mean” (Levy, 1959, p. 118). Giddens (1991) distinguished four main identity groups: actual self, social-self, ideal self and ideal social-self. In order to attain the ideal self and to raise his/her status, a person will start to consume everything that carries a symbolic meaning for him/her.


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Reasons beyond motives. Psychology or relationship marketing? A cross-cultural investigation of football fans' motivations
Using case studies of Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC
University of Edinburgh
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reasons, psychology, using, manchester, united, chelsea
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Narmin Mustafayeva (Author), 2015, Reasons beyond motives. Psychology or relationship marketing? A cross-cultural investigation of football fans' motivations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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