Team Brand Communities. Potentials and Pitfalls of the Brand Community Concept in the International Sport Brand Management

Diploma Thesis, 2010

94 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1. Introduction
1.1 Research question
1.2 Current status of research
1.3 Structure of the thesis

2. Branding and Communities - Theoretical Basis
2.1 Brand management
2.1.1 The meaning of a brand
2.1.2 Brand equity
2.1.3 Relationship marketing
2.2 Community and Consumption
2.2.1 Definition and evolution of the community concept
2.2.2 Constitution of communities
2.2.3 Consumption-centred communities

3. Brand Community - A Definition
3.1 Constituting a community around a brand
3.2 Core commonalities
3.2.1 Shared consciousness
3.2.2 Rituals and traditions
3.2.3 Moral responsibility
3.3 brand.comm
3.4 Strengths and weaknesses

4. Team Brand Communities - A Symbiosis
4.1 Team Brands - Brand management in the sports marketplace
4.1.1 Integrated sports marketing communication
4.1.2 Branding in the sports marketplace
4.1.3 Models of brand equity in the sports marketplace
4.2 Communities in the sports marketplace
4.2.1 Individual sports consumption
4.2.2 Communal sports consumption
4.3 Brand communities in the sports marketplace
4.3.1 Consciousness of kind
4.3.2 Rituals and traditions
4.3.3 Moral responsibility

5. Potentials and Pitfalls of Team Brand Communities
5.1 Potential competitive advantages
5.1.1 Customer loyalty and its benefits
5.1.2 Enhanced brand equity
5.1.3 Marketing efficiency
5.2 Pitfalls of the brand community concept in the sports marketplace ..
5.2.1 Counterproductive consumer behaviour
5.2.2 Uncontrollable brand development
5.2.3 Conflicts with sports marketing particularities
5.2.4 Anti-brand community
5.3 Interim conclusion

6. Final Conclusion



List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures

Figure 1 Theoretical thread of this thesis

Figure 2 Components of a service brand

Figure 3 Brand equity and its constituent components

Figure 4 Outline of typical markers of community

Figure 5 Models of key relationships of brand community

Figure 6 Brand community criteria and common practices

Figure 7 Social identity-brand equity model by Underwood et al

Figure 8 Spectator-based brand equity model by Ross

Figure 9 Customer-based brand equity model in team sports by Bauer et al

Figure 10 Brand community criteria in the sports marketplace

List of Tables

Table 1 Potentials and pitfalls of team brand communities

1. Introduction

Brand management has undergone a remarkable paradigm shift in recent years, and its importance and relevance has grown further since the end of the last cen­tury. In times shaped by insecurity, confidence crises, and continuous change, consumers seek something that appeals to them emotionally, something in which they can trust and what rely upon - strong brands. “In an age in which consumers are deluged with information, it is essential for a brand to communicate distinc- tively”1, because “the postmodern age is also an insecure age which ... has made the problem of belonging more and more acute”2. Thus, the main task of contem­porary brand management is to build brand loyalty and customer retention under hypercompetitive and imponderable circumstances. “Brand loyalty became one of the most important concerns of the commercial world.”3 Relationship marketing, which has replaced the previously dominant transactional view in marketing with a relationship-orientated one, plays a special role in this context. “Relationship principles have virtually replaced short-term exchange notions in both marketing thought and practice”4. Central to this new paradigm is the development, reten­tion, and expansion of long-term relationships instead of a focus on individual transactions. More and more companies have become aware of the fact that brands have a social component and “have shifted gears from managing product portfo­lios to managing customer portfolios. ... They are replacing monologues with cus­tomer dialogues.”5 This development has gained significant momentum in these times of digitalisation and the Internet, which are pivotal competition drivers. Marketers have recognised these forms of consumer interaction in social groups, e.g. blogs, discussion forums, user-groups, and podcasts, as central theme to brand management. These special kinds of communities that are devoted to brands are what Muniz/O'Guinn called brand community.6

Examples of brand community are ubiquitous, with the Harley Owners Group (HOG) and Macintosh User Groups (MUG) as the most prominent ones. Most recently, the Saab brand community, already mentioned and examined closely by the brand community pioneers Muniz/O'Guinn, came to fame. With the iconic brand facing liquidation, devoted brand users got involved in initiatives such as Rescue Saab and fought with great passion for the survival of their favourite brand. With the purchase of Saab Automobile by Spyker Cars from General Mo­tors at the end of February 2010, the future of the traditional Swedish car brand was secured and the brand community's mission was accomplished. The new owners are fully aware of the potential of this strong Saab brand community, pointing out “the emotional experience between Saab drivers and their cars”7 (Vic­tor Müller, CEO of Spyker Cars) and “the remarkable level of passion and support shown to Saab”8 (Jan Âke Jonsson, CEO of Saab Automobile). “Activities like "rescue Saab" are the reasons for the attractivity [sic] of Saab.”9

“A strong brand community increases customer loyalty, lowers market­ing costs, authenticates brand meanings, and yields an influx of ideas to grow the business. Through commitment, engagement, and support, companies can cultivate brand communities that deliver powerful returns. When you get community right, the benefits are irrefutable.”10

1.1 Research question

“A non-traditional brand, such as a sports team, can benefit from under­standing how its brand is perceived and consumed. (...) Thus, non- traditional product brands, namely sports teams, have additional financial motivations for understanding the sense of community associated with their brand.”11

The service and experience offering of sports brands is typically rich in social identification, emotional involvement, and a sense of social belonging. Muniz/O'Guinn defined brand community as a “specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admir­ers of a brand”12, which is characterised by loyalty, commitment, engagement, and support. Based on this definition and proposed character of brand community, it is not farfetched to expand this idea to the professional sports market. Sports teams appear to serve as excellent examples of brand community; in fact, they arguably form some of the strongest brand communities in the world.13 At this point, this study comes into play, trying to find answers for the following research questions:

Can the brand community concept be transferred to team brands and their community? Which potentials and pitfalls arise from applying and adapting this concept to the sports marketplace for the management of team brands?

This study will find substantial evidence for the existence of the three core com­monalities of brand community in the sports marketplace: Consciousness of kind, rituals and tradition, and a sense of moral responsibility. Members of sports or­ganisations and their supporting communities have a very strong feeling of 'we' towards the brand. Many fans of sports teams follow the rituals and traditions of the team, or have developed their own. In addition, they often celebrate history and look back on accomplishments of the team and their support. Finally, many fans feel a moral responsibility to stay with their team and remain loyal even though it is unsuccessful.14

This study will justify the recent buzz surrounding the brand community concept by categorising the manifold potentials and benefits it promises for the manage­ment of team sports brands in the dimensions of customer loyalty, brand equity, and marketing efficiency. In turn, it will pay attention to its dangers and pitfalls for sports marketers if misconceived. To put it in a nutshell, the brand community concept promises to become the pivotal marketing paradigm of the twenty-first century - for both traditional and non-traditional brands such as sports teams - as it combines postmodern approaches to both relationship marketing and branding strategies.

1.2 Current status of research

Since the concept of brand community was introduced at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Muniz/O'Guinn, it has aroused an increasing interest in both marketing researchers and practitioners. In their seminal works, Muniz/O'Guinn and McAlexander et al. developed a number of fundamental ideas and thoughts on brand community.15 Using their theoretical framework, including definition, constitution, and characteristics of brand community as a basis, many studies have since been published, which tested brand community's attributes and potentials in various circumstances and industries. As a result, brand community was proved to represent a value-creating source of innovation for companies with great opportunities to establish social identity and brand loyalty, catalysed in its development by the digital revolution.16 In turn, researchers have started to exam­ine the dark side of brand community, detecting potential pitfalls such as norma­tive community pressure, counterproductive consumer behaviour, or the formation of anti-brand communities.17

Most research so far has focused on organisations that offer products such as cars, motorcycles, and computers.18 When Schau et al. developed a sampling frame of nine brand communities to represent a broad spectrum of marketing offerings, they included Internet devices, PDAs, cars, GPS devices, beverages, cameras, musical groups, cosmetics, and episodic television programmes - but no sport.19 And when Jang et al. suggested further research directions building on their study of on-line brand community characteristics, they emphasised that “a further study over a wider range of industries is needed”20 - including sport. Although sports teams arguably form some of the strongest brand communities in the world, “the examination of a relationship between a sports team and a surrounding commu­nity remains largely unexplored”21.

There are only scattered attempts of linking the brand community model to team brands and their community. Munro and Grant both devoted their masters thesis to the empirical examination of brand community in a fan club and in newly es­tablished team brands22. Furthermore, Devasagayam/Buff and Heere/James take notice of the fact that the brand community model applies to traditional brands with tangible products in the same way it does to “non-traditional brands with largely intangible products such as sports teams”23. They have started to test brand community characteristics in a sports marketplace setting. However, there is no substantiated research to date that tests the brand community concept by Muniz/O'Guinn in the sports industry - a gap, which this thesis aims to close.

On the other hand, there are innumerable attempts in sports marketing research that pay tribute to recent developments in the fields of marketing communication, media and sport such as professionalisation and globalisation of the sports sector or the breakthrough in experience communication and relationship marketing.24 These studies are of great value to this thesis, as they deliver systematic insights into brand equity of team brands25 and sports consumption behaviour26. Combin­ing selected facts from both fields to prove the existence of Muniz/O'Guinn's core commonalities of brand community in the sports industry, this thesis will add an­other puzzle piece to the examination of team brand communities.

1.3 Structure of the thesis

Using an explorative approach, this study will derive the potentials and pitfalls of team brand community in a funnel-like structure (see Figure 1). From macro to micro, from general to specific, a broad theoretical basis will provide the founda­tion for a more detailed conception to build on.

Chapter 1 offers an introduction into the topic of this thesis, naming and explain­ing the research question, followed by a state of the art analysis of the current re­search on brand community in a sports context. Special attention is paid to the relevance of the chosen topic in contemporary marketing paradigms. To secure a well-grounded derivation of the brand community concept, Chapter 2 deals with relevant literature in both marketing and sociology science, which includes a great depth of significant resources. Insights into both fundamental and contemporary research on brand management and community and consumption theories are of­fered. Chapter 3 introduces the concept of brand community - a core scheme in this study. Building on the seminal work by Muniz/O'Guinn, it provides thorough definitions and highlights the three constituting commonalities. Further, it evalu­ates strengths and weaknesses of the concept and offers a brief excursus into the digital environment by introducing brand.comms. The next step is to translate this concept into the sports context, which will be done in detail in Chapter 4. In ac­cordance with the previous structure, it first examines brand management and communal consumption in sport, followed by a thorough investigation of the brand community's core commonalities in team brand communities. Chapter 5 offers an application of the previously mainly theoretical ideas by pointing out potentials and pitfalls of the concept. The approach will consider both general promises and threads of brand community and those deriving from the particulari­ties of the sports marketplace. The study is concluded in Chapter 6, where its main thoughts and findings are summarised and evaluated and future research avenues are proposed.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 Theoretical thread of this thesis

Source: compiled by the author

2. Branding and Communities - Theoretical Basis

2.1 Brand management

In his well-known and award-winning article from 1960, Theodore Levitt, the fa­ther of modern marketing, introduced the concept of marketing myopia, describ­ing common mistakes in many formerly growing and currently stagnating or de­clining industries. To emphasise the importance of marketing, he exposed failures of short-sighted management when putting the focus on selling and the needs of the seller, rather than paying attention to the buyer. For companies to ensure con­tinued evolution, they must detect and act on their customers' needs and desires.

“In order to produce these customers [who are eager followers], the en­tire corporation must be viewed as a customer-creating and customer­satisfying organism. Management must think of itself not as producing products but as providing customer-creating value satisfactions.”27

As the key marketing instrument to attract and retain customers, branding is of substantial value for this study and will be introduced in detail in the following chapter. After definition and classification of the term branding, special attention will be paid to two major aspects of the concept with special reference to cus­tomer-focused marketing activities: brand equity and relationship marketing.

2.1.1 The meaning of a brand

“For many businesses the brand name and what it represents are its most impor­tant assets - the basis of competitive advantage and of future earnings streams.”28 The idea of branding is neither new nor unexplored. Undoubtedly, it already plays a vital role in the contemporary management of successful companies. But given the inhospitable atmosphere in contemporary globalised, liberated, and hy- percompetitive markets - characterised by ephemeral competitive advantages, inconsistent consumer behaviour, opportunism, falling transaction costs, and increasing information transparency29 - the concept of branding gains an even greater importance for businesses in almost every industry to secure their market share and sustainable economic success.

Since the earliest days of mankind, producers of goods and services have strived to distinguish their products by using marks and brands.30 The basics of the brand­ing concept haven't changed ever since. According to the American Marketing Association, using a brand means to employ “a name, term, sign, symbol, or de­sign, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors”31. However, a brand is more than just the label employed to differentiate products among manufacturers. Its true significance lies much deeper, in the variety of ideas and attributes, the body of associations that the complex symbol of a brand represents in consumers' minds. Describing the marketing revolution in the American economy of the late 1950s, Levy specifies the term ‘symbol' as medi­ated, rather than direct experience. According to his theory, the meaning of an object, action, word, picture, or complex behaviour goes beyond its mere attrib­utes and represents other ideas or feelings. Thus, modern goods and services are symbolic of personal attributes and goals and of social patterns and strivings32.

For the purposes of this study, a brand will be defined based on this line of re­search, centred on the brand being more than just an identifying mark or product. “Brands are more than just names and symbols. They are a key element in the company's relationship with customers.”33 In fact, the management and manipula­tion of the variety of brand identities is a mere starting point in the brand man­agement process aimed at triggering other feelings and attitudes. Essentially, branding is about what a customer thinks and feels.34

Whereas early marketing research concentrated on the branding of tangible prod­ucts, recent literature proves a similar relevance and importance of the branding concept for services. Kotler and Levy were among the first to suggest that a branded good can take many forms apart from being a physical product such as services, persons, organisations, and ideas. “Branding is not just for tangible goods; it is a principal success driver for service organizations as well.”35 The characteristics of service markets such as deregulation, intense competition and the inherent difficulty in differentiating products that lack physical differences serve as supporting arguments for the need of efficient branding. A branded ser­vice enables customers to visualise and understand intangible products and in­creases their trust in the ‘invisible' purchase. To build and establish a service brand, it is necessary to concentrate on its principal components: presented brand, external brand communication and customer experience, which then influence brand awareness/brand meaning and eventually brand equity (see Figure 2).36

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2 Components of a service brand

Source: based on Berry (2000), p. 130.

Whereas the term ‘presented brand' includes all main aspects of the marketing mix for services such as communications, facilities and appearance of the service providers, the other two components prove an increased focus in services market­ing on the consumer. ‘External brand communication' refers to the information customers absorb, which is not controlled by the company, ‘customer experience' represents the perceived quality of the brand and the service. Central to all thoughts about service marketing is the aim to consider the customer's point of view - a crucial concept for the further argumentation of this study.37

2.1.2 Brand equity

There are two general dimensions of studying and measuring brand equity: finan­cial-based and consumer-based. Whereas the financial approach estimates the absolute value of a brand from a firm's economic perspective for accounting pur­poses, the consumer-based approach focuses on relative behavioural and psycho­logical values of a brand to gain a more thorough understanding of consumer be­haviour. As mentioned above, the customer-centric motivation is typically associ­ated with service-oriented products whereas the economic approach focuses on tangible products such as manufactured goods.38 For the purpose of this study it is necessary to follow the argumentation of Aaker, Keller, and Gladden/Funk39 who concentrate on the so called customer-based brand equity and believe that “be­cause the consumer controls the creation of brand equity, it is important to study brand equity from the consumer's perspective”40.

In his seminal work, Aaker defines brand equity as “a set of assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol, that add to or substract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or that firm's customers.”41 In a sentence, it is the sum of all marketing effects that are uniquely attributable to a brand. Aaker claims that brand equity assets add value to both the customer and the firm. For customers, strong brands are helpful tools for interpreting, process­ing, and storing information about products and brands. In addition, they can in­crease customer confidence in the purchase decision and enhance satisfaction with the use experience. In the same way, high brand equity means added value for a company. Some of the various advantages of high brand equity in the competitive arena are increased consumer loyalty, higher margins by permitting premium pric­ing, less customer vulnerability to negative influences or competitive offerings, and leverage in the distribution channel. In addition, strong brands may have posi­tive impact on marketing decisions, such as brand extensions.42

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3 Brand equity and its constituent components

Source: compiled by the author

Brand equity can be broken down into four constituent components (see Figure 3): Perceived quality, brand awareness, brand image/associations, and brand loyalty.43 Especially from the perspective of the customer-based brand equity model, the key to creating brand equity is improving brand knowledge with its two compo­nents brand awareness and brand image. It is necessary to generate a high level of awareness and familiarity in the consumer of the brand and to create strong, fa­vourable, and unique brand associations in the consumer's mind.44

Brand awareness is “the ability of a consumer to name the brand's existence”45 by recognising and recalling the brand. Whereas brand recognition requires the consumer to correctly discrimate the brand as having been seen or heard previ­ously, brand recall relates to the consumer's ability to correctly generate the brand from memory when given the product category. Thus, brand awareness is created through repeated exposure for brand recognition and strong associations with the relevant product category for brand recall. As a slightly more complex model, brand image or brand meaning relates to “the sets of ideas, feelings, and atti­tudes that consumers have about brands”46. As the cumulative impact of all the associations with a particular brand, brand image refers to the consumers' domi­nant perception of the brand and represents a snapshot impression of the brand and its associations. Brand associations are subdivided into attributes, benefits, and attitudes. Attributes are descriptive features that characterise the product or service, benefits contain the personal value a customer attaches to them, and atti­tudes are defined as the consumer's overall evaluations of the brand. For all of these types of brand associations it is necessary and important that they be not only strongly held, but also favourable and unique. The strength of a brand asso­ciation is a function of both quality and quantity of the processed information. Unique brand associations are discrete associations not shared with other brands, which ideally are valued by consumers to be more favourable than the associa­tions with competitive brands. The key goal of creating strong, unique, and fa­vourable brand associations is to generate a point of difference for the brand in relation to the competitors and thus help the positioning of the brand in the com­petitive arena. Mullin et al. summarise the goal of improving brand knowledge as creating “such a strong impression in the consumers' minds that when they see or hear something that includes a brand's name or see its logo, marks, or colors, they experience intense positive feelings.”47

However, the core of brand equity is brand loyalty, defined by Aaker as “a meas­ure of the attachment that a customer has to a brand”48. Brands with high equity have the ability to retain customers49, i.e. the customers are less vulnerable to competitive action regarding price and product features and less likely to switch to another brand. Ideally, loyal customers continue to purchase their favourite brand even if the competitors offer superior features in terms of price, convenience, or quality. There are several levels of loyalty, with the committed customers at the top level, who are proud of being users of a particular brand and would not hesi­tate to recommend it to others. The brand is very important to them as an expres­sion of who they are. Aaker describes the committed buyer as followed:

“The ultimate committed customer is the Harley Davidson rider who wears the Harley symbol as a tattoo, the Macintosh user who attends shows and spends considerable effort to insure that an acquaintance does not buy IBM and forego the pleasure of the user-friendly Macintosh.”50

It is the ultimate goal for a brand to become so charismatic that its consumers show extremely high levels of loyalty, involvement, and commitment.51 Fournier transforms the brand loyalty concept into the idea of brand relationship quality, which evolves through meaningful brand and consumer actions. Ideally, brands fit into the consumer-generated system to give meaning to their lives by helping to express a certain social lifestyle.52

2.1.3 Relationship marketing

The logical consequence of trying to manage and improve brand loyalty is a broader set of marketing activities aimed at creating stronger bonds with consum­ers and maximising brand resonance. With relationship marketing, marketers try to transcend the simple purchase exchange process with customers to create more meaningful, richer, committed, and affect-ladden relationships with customers, channel members, and other marketing partners. These satisfying long-term rela­tionships with key constituents directly or indirectly affect the success of a com­pany's marketing activities. Relationship marketing attempts to provide a more holistic, personalised brand experience to create stronger consumer ties.53

There are various reasons for the increased focus on relationship marketing in recent years, the most important being the fact that acquiring new customers is much more expensive than satisfying and retaining current customers. The initia­tion, establishment, and maintenance of long-term relationships with customers also proves to be a competitive advantage in times of stiffer competition, escalat­ing marketing costs, and ever shorter technology life cycles. Therefore, the attrac­tion of new customers should be viewed only as an intermediate step in the mar­keting process. More attention should be paid to solidifying the existing relation­ships and transforming indifferent customers into loyal ones.54 McAlexander et al. accurately describe the process of moving from brand loyalty research to relation­ship marketing ideas:

“For decades, marketers have sought the Holy Grail of brand loyalty. ... They attribute to brand loyalty and its sister icon, customer retention, the promise of long-term profitability and market share. ... Many recent quests for the loyalty grail have ventured into the area of relationship marketing. As a new imperative in marketing .., a focus on customer rela­tionships is presented as an avenue to competitive advantage.”55

In conclusion, relationship management is the result of an obviously necessary paradigm shift in the field of marketing towards customers and their relationships to the brand with the goal of nurturing loyalty and commitment amongst consum­ers and thus increasing the overall customer-based brand equity.

2.2 Community and Consumption

Community is a core construct in social thought and is made up of its member entities and the relationships among them. However, although this concept has been the concern of sociologists for more than two hundred years, it is difficult to come across a satisfactory definition of it in sociological terms anywhere.56 This section aims at giving an overview of the variety of studies dealing with commu­nity by approaching the historical evolution of the concept and presenting the two main perspectives of community research. By paying a closer look at the constitu­tion of communities, it is intended to examine the core scheme that is fundamental to all types of social grouping - a sense of belonging. Building on this notion, special attention will be paid to those communities where members cohere be­cause of their consumption activities, as these consumer collectives will play a crucial role in further theoretical conceptions of this study.

2.2.1 Definition and evolution of the community concept

As one of the most important basic social structures in human interaction and as a significant contributor to human development, the concept of community has been at the heart of extensive research throughout history. Whether in ancient Greece or Rome, in mediaeval times or during the Enlightenment, scholars have always considered the idea of community as an expression of common and social bonds, reducible to neither state nor families nor neighbourhoods.57 Tönnies, an authority and pioneer in community research, set standards for contemporary community research when distinguishing between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society)58 for the first time:

“Gemeinschaft is old; Gesellschaft is new as a name as well as a phe­nomenon. All praise of rural life has pointed out that the Gemeinschaft among people is stronger there and more alive; it is the lasting and genu­ine form of living together. In contrast to Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft is transitory and superficial. Accordingly, Gemeinschaft should be under­stood as a living organism, Gesellschaft as a mechanical aggregate and artifact.”59

According to this theory, the traditional, familial, intimate community as a more natural and real type of human experience was replaced during the industrial revo­lution by the mechanical and mass produced, contractual, individualistic and im­personal, rational urban and less grounded society. Tönnies views communities as private geographical and social enclaves, which form the basis of social integra­tion and expresses traditional face-to-face relationships. He finds basic character­istics of communities in interrelation of group actors, interdependence among community members, and specific interaction patterns guided by socially con­structed rules and norms.60 However, he failes to formulate a comprehensive defi­nition of the thoroughly investigated concept of community.

After early research, which tended to be solely geographical, examining patterns of interaction between individuals only in communities of particular regions, Hillery was the first to expand on this theory and to show that sociology has and needs multiple definitions of community. When claiming that “community con­sists of persons in social interaction within a geographical area and having one or more additional common ties”61 he adds two major criteria of community to the already established aspect of geographic area: social interaction and common bonding. The geographical aspect demonstrates that the community is bound lo­cally to a certain region, which differentiates it from others. Social interaction pays credit to the very important aspects of relationship building among commu­nity members. Common bond describes the members' feeling of comfort and the sense of belonging that derives from the membership in a community.62

Accordingly, Hillery distinguishes between two main perspectives of the commu­nity concept: definitions that specify social interaction as a crucial element of the community and those that consider the community as a product of ecological rela­tionships, i.e. which are bound by locality. Many researchers have expanded on this theory and developed two major dimensions to the term community. The first is the territorial and geographical notion of community - neighbourhood, town, city. The second meaning of community is relational and refers to the quality of human relationships and the social ties that draw people together, without refer­ence to location. What they all have in common is the notion that community of­fers its members a mode of belonging and of imagining social relations.63

For the purpose of this study, a broadened and less myopic definition of commu­nity proves to be more applicable. Thus, community will be considered as larger than place and not limited to neighbourhoods/villages. It is defined by the net­works of interpersonal ties and social relations of individuals in a group marked by mutuality (shared activities, beliefs, interests, values and commitments) and emotional bonds (sense of belonging and social identity). With reference to the dramatic changes in postmodern society, Cova adds that postmodern communities are highly mobile and communicative, are “held together through shared emo­tions, styles of life, new moral beliefs, senses of injustice and consumption prac- tices”64 and cohere around shared cultural and social meaning systems.65

In accordance with the expanding definition of community goes the development of modern means of communication. The idea that communities are non- geographically bound provides the background for community building in virtual contexts. In modern life, communication channels are available that allow indi­viduals to transcend geographic barriers and thus have the ability to unite geo­graphically dispersed people with a common purpose and identity.66 Thus, “com­munities may be conceived and nurtured in the physical world as well as the vir­tual world”67.

The widespread growth of virtual gatherings on the Internet, which provides the infrastructure for virtual communication and information exchange, has attracted special interest in the community concept among many researchers. The Internet technology, characterized by reduced barriers for interaction and increased com­munication effectiveness, enables communities to expand their reach and provides additional possibilities for interaction among community members. The social phenomenon formed by the combination of the ubiquity of the Internet and the human desire for connection, knowledge, and information, is called virtual com- munity 68 or online community. Bagozzi/Dholakia consider virtual communities to be “mediated social spaces in the digital environment that allow groups to form and be sustained primarily through ongoing communication processes”69. In con­trast to most traditional communities, where membership may be imposed invol­untarily by chance of birth or geographical location, membership and participation in online communities is driven by volitional choice. Thus, even greater attention needs to be paid to the distinct shared interest, whether functional of hedonic, that holds a virtual community together. It may pertain to a demographic attribute or personal attitude or, last but not least, to a particular product or topic. Special at­tention will be paid later in this study to those online communities that are de­voted to a brand. 70

2.2.2 Constitution of communities

Apart from the evolution of the community concept to its current relevance, it is crucial for this study to understand the ways in which communities are consti­tuted. Taking the importance of social relationships within a community into ac­count, communities can be defined as networks of interpersonal ties, providing social value such as support, information, sociability, belonging, and social iden­tity. There are several models of community constitution providing possible theo­retical frameworks for the discussion of special kinds of communities such as brand communities, e.g. Blumer 's symbolic interactionism, Tajfel/Turner ‘s so­cial identity theory, and Sarason ‘s psychological sense of community 71. For the purpose of this study and as a tribute towards its limited length, this paragraph will present only one of these theories, which is of special significance for the inspection of brand communities, because it takes the psychological perception of similarities of others into account. McMillan/Chavis built on Sarason ‘s theory and developed the sense of community concept, which is defined as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together”72. The concept builds on four key elements: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. Whereas ‘membership' refers to the feeling of belonging and sharing a sense of personal relatedness, ‘influence' describes a sense of mattering to the group, i.e. making a difference to a group and vice versa. The feeling that members' needs are met by the resources received through being a member of the community describes the term ‘integration'. Finally, ‘shared emotional connection' expresses the mutual usage of history, common places, time, and similar experiences between members of a community. In sum, social networks with a strong sense of community offer members positive ways to interact, present important events to share and ways to resolve them positively, encourage mem­bers to honour each other as well as to invest in the community, and deliver a spiritual bond among members.73

In times of exponentially rising opportunities to communicate, consume and thus express oneself, it is no surprise that membership in communities has to be stud­ied in a polyfocal manner. In the current postmodern era, each individual belongs to several communities and networks in each of which he/she might play a differ­ent role and wear a particular mask. For researchers, it is necessary to understand the specific role an individual can play in a community and the value he/she adds to it by doing so. Fournier/Lee conceptualised 18 common community roles, each of them of critical value for the community function, preservation and evolution. Accordingly, Schau et al. documented 12 value creation practices among community members within thematic categories such as social networking, community engagement, and impression management. In relation to these categories, the community roles can be distinguished in terms of involvement and type of added value. ‘Social networking' practices focus on creating, enhancing, and sustaining ties among community members, whereas ‘community engagement' refers to the reinforcement of members' escalating commitment to the brand. Finally, ‘impression management' practices are focused on creating favourable external impressions of the community.74

In their seminal work on brand communities, Muniz/O'Guinn examined numerous markers of community and identified three core components of community pre­sent in the majority of sociology literature on the concept of community: con­sciousness of kind, shared rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibil­ity (see Figure 4). When referring to consciousness of kind, researchers mention the community's awareness of its homogeneity in certain aspects. Members feel an intrinsic connection to each other and have a collective sense of separation from others not in the community. As an expression of this shared knowing of belonging, community members use rituals and traditions to keep the shared his­tory, culture, and consciousness alive. Finally, moral responsibility is a result of the strong connection members feel to one another and to the community as a whole. They feel a sense of duty or obligation, which, in times of threat to the community, can lead to collective action to protect the community.75

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 4 Outline of typical markers of community

Source: based on von Loewenfeld (2006), p. 24

2.2.3 Consumption-centred communities

Consumption communities, marketplace communities, subcultures of consump­tion - the concept of social groups whose primary bases of identification are con­sumption activities has been the concern of many researchers in recent years.76 It is believed that consumption has been an important reason behind the transforma­tion of community over time and that consumer collectives 77 are of considerable significance for contemporary research and common lived experience. As con­sumer culture emerged after the industrial revolution, branded goods have re­placed unmarked products and the individual customer has moved into focus with his strong desire and need. Thus, traditional communities are on the decline and are about to be replaced by contemporary ones which are based on brands or con­sumption practices. These communities, defined by their shared consumption pat­terns, can be viewed as hosts of coproductive activities organised around market- mediated cultural products.78

Boorstin was the first to describe the term consumption communities as invisible new communities created and preserved by how and what men consumed. Ac­cording to his observations of the emerging consumer culture in the United States of America after the Civil War, the sense of community shifted away from the tight interpersonal bonds of geographically bounded collectives towards common but weak bonds of brand use and affiliation. He discovers a new purpose of ac­quiring and using products, since people started being more affiliated by what they consumed rather than what they believed. He describes consumption com­munities as quick, non-ideological, democratic, public, vague and rapidly shift- 79 ing.79

“The modem American, then, was tied, if only by the thinnest of threads and by the most volatile, switchable loyalties, to thousands of other Americans in nearly everything he ate or drank or drove or read or used. Old-fashioned political and religious communities now became only two among many new, once unimagined fellowships. Americans were in­creasingly held to others not by a few iron bonds, but by countless gos­samer webs knitting together the trivia of their lives.”80

Expanding on these thoughts, Schouten/McAlexander developed the concept of subcultures of consumption when studying the interaction and social cohesion of Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners. They discover identifiable, hierarchical so­cial structures, a joint ethos, i.e. a set of shared beliefs and values, and unique jar­gons, rituals, symbolic expressions in “a distinctive subgroup of society that self­selects on the basis of a shared commitment to a particular product class, brand, or consumption activity”81. In addition, they reveal further characteristics of subcul­tures of consumption that are of significant relevance for this study. One impor­tant aspect is the specific cultural meaning that such a subculture encounters in certain products or activities and that is articulated as a unique and homogenous style of consumption. Furthermore, subcultures likewise transcend national and cultural boundaries, demographic cohorts, racial or ethnic differences, and class distinction.82

When introducing the term marketplace community, McAlexander et al. discovered one crucial characteristic which is common to all forms of communities centered on consumption and which has already been previously discussed in many studies: the creation and negotiation of a shared meaning, no matter if it is of cognitive, emotional, or material nature.83 However, the postmodern individual is not only looking through consumption, for a direct means of giving meaning to life, but also of finding a way to form links with other consumers in the context of communities, which will then give meaning to his life. By satisfying the desire for communal integration and social integration, goods and services are valued mainly through their linking value, i.e. their ability to bring people together, rather than the mere usage value. For the purpose of this study, it is necessary to understand that all consumer collectives exhibit commu­nity-like qualities and are of identity-, meaning-, and status-related concern for their participants. In a sentence, marketplace communities provide value to their members through multiple kinds of participatory actions.84


1 Lagae (2005), p. 2

2 Delanty (2003), p. 131

3 Boorstin (1974), p. 146

4 Fournier (1998), p. 343

5 Kotler/Keller (2009), p. 29

6 cf. von Loewenfeld (2006), pp. V, 1, 3

7 cf. Hesse et al. (2010)

8 cf. Hesse et al. (2010)

9 cf. Hesse et al. (2010)

10 Fournier/Lee (2009), p. 111

11 Devasagayam/Buff (2008), pp. 25, 29

12 Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), p. 412

13 cf. Heere et al. (2008), p. 143; cf. Grant (2006), p. vii

14 cf. Heere et al. (2008), p. 143

15 cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001); cf. McAlexander et al. (2002)

16 cf. Schau et al. (2009); cf. Füller et al. (2008); cf. Underwood et al. (2001); Jang et al. (2008)

17 cf. Algesheimer et al. (2005); cf. Hickman/Ward (2007); cf. Hollenbeck/Zinkhan (2006)

18 cf. Schouten/McAlexander (1995); cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001); cf. McAlexander et al. (2002)

19 cf. Schau et al. (2009), p. 32

20 Jang et al. (2008), p. 76

21 Heere/James (2007), p. 320

22 cf. Munro (2006); cf. Grant (2006)

23 Devasagayam/Buff (2008), p. 20; cf. Heere/James (2007)

24 cf. Lagae (2005), p. 58

25 cf. Underwood et al. (2001); cf. Bauer et al. (2005); cf. Kerr/Gladden (2008)

26 cf. Westerbeek/Smith (2003); cf. Trail et al. (2003); cf. Mullin et al. (2007)

27 Levitt (1960), p. 56

28 Aaker (1991), p. 14

29 cf. Rasche (2006), p. 46

30 cf. Aaker (1991), p. 7

31 Kotler/Keller (2009), p. 276

32 cf. Gardner/Levy (1955), p. 35; cf. Levy (1959), p. 119

33 Kotler/Armstrong (2008), p. 230

34 cf. Mullin et al. (2007), p. 173

35 Berry (2000), p. 128

36 cf. Kotler/Levy (1969), p. 12; cf. Berry (2000), pp. 128f.

37 cf. Berry (2000), p. 129

38 cf. Keller (1993), pp. 1f.; cf. Ross et al. (2008), p. 324

39 cf. Aaker (1991); cf. Keller (1993); cf. Gladden/Funk (2002)

40 Gladden/Funk (2002), p. 55

41 Aaker (1991), p. 15

42 cf. Keller (1993), p. 1; cf. Aaker (1991), pp. 15ff, 208

43 cf. Westerbeek/Smith (2003), p. 189

44 cf. Keller (2003), pp. 64ff

45 Mullin et al. (2007), p. 177

46 Gardner/Levy (1955), p. 35

47 Mullin et al. (2007), p. 173; cf. Berry (2000), p. 129; cf. Keller (1993), pp. 3ff; cf. Keller (2003), pp. 67ff

48 Aaker (1991), p. 39

49 cf. Westerbeek/Smith (2003), p. 189

50 Aaker (1991), p. 41

51 cf. Aaker (1991), pp. 39ff

52 cf. Fournier (1998), p. 367

53 cf. Keller (2003), p. 243; cf. Fournier (1998), p. 343; cf. Kotler/Keller (2009), pp. 29, 60

54 cf. Keller (2003), p. 243; cf. Andersen (2005), p. 39; cf. Berry (1995), p. 236

55 McAlexander et al. (2002), p. 38

56 cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), p. 412; cf. Bell/Newby (1974), p. xliii

57 cf. Delanty (2003), pp. 7ff.

58 Although the terms community and society are often used to translate the German expressions “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft”, they do not carry all connotations of the German concept as used by Tönnies. Since sociologists around the world are familiar with Tönnies' work and his use of these terms, it appears applicable for this study to retain the German words when re­ferring to thoughts developed by Tönnies.

59 Tönnies (1974), p. 38

60 cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), pp. 412f.; cf. Tönnies (1974), pp. 42f.

61 Hillery (1955), p. 111

62 cf. Hollenbeck et al. (2006), pp. 575f.; cf. Jang et al. (2008), p. 58;

63 cf. Hillery (1955), p. 115; cf. Gusfield (1975), p. xvi; cf. McMillan/Chavis (1986), p. 8; cf. Heller (1989), p. 3

64 Cova (1997), p. 301

65 cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), p. 413; cf. Wellman (2001), p. 228; Hollenbeck et al. (2006), p. 576

66 cf. Jang et al. (2008), p. 57; cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), p. 413

67 Devasagayam/Buff (2008), p. 21

68 cf. Jang et al. (2008), p. 59; cf. Plant (2004), p. 52

69 Bagozzi/Dholakia (2002), p. 3

70 cf. Andersen (2005), p. 40; cf. Bagozzi/Dholakia (2002), pp. 5f.; cf. Jang et al. (2008), p. 59

71 cf. Gusfield (1975); Tajfel (1982); McMillan/Chavis (1986)

72 McMillan/Chavis (1986), p. 9

73 cf. McMillan/Chavis (1986), pp. 9-14

74 cf. Cova (1997), p. 301; cf. Fournier/Lee (2009), p. 109; cf. Schau et al. (2009), pp. 34f.

75 cf. Hillery (1955), pp. 115f.; cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), p. 413

76 cf. Schau et al. (2009), p. 30; cf. McAlexander et al. (2002), p. 38; cf. Schouten/McAlexander (1995), p. 43

77 Schau et al. (2009) classify these collectives into: (1) experience based, (2) lifestyle based, (3) opposition ideology based, (4) brand based, and (5) web community based (p. 30).

78 cf. Muniz/O'Guinn (2001), p. 414

79 cf. Boorstin (1974), pp. 89f.

80 Boorstin (1974), p. 148

81 Schouten/McAlexander (1995), p. 43

82 cf. Schouten/McAlexander (1995), p. 43

83 cf. McAlexander et al. (2002), p. 38

84 cf. Cova (1997), p. 307; cf. Schau et al. (2009), p. 30

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Team Brand Communities. Potentials and Pitfalls of the Brand Community Concept in the International Sport Brand Management
University of Bath
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Explorative Forschungsarbeit in Kooperation der Universität Potsdam und der University of Bath
Brand Community, Team Brand Community, Sports Marketing, Team Brands, Sports Brands, Marketing, Sports
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Norman Arnold (Author), 2010, Team Brand Communities. Potentials and Pitfalls of the Brand Community Concept in the International Sport Brand Management, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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