New sport teams and the development of brand community
The professional sport market and its established teams offer consumers a service and experience that is typically high in social identification, emotional involvement (Underwood, Bond & Baer, 2001) and a sense of community or social belonging (Heere & James, in press). The strong social attachment to a sports organisation and its brand is proposed here to closely resemble the concept of a brand community (Muñiz Jr & O'Guinn, 2001). For newly-established teams without a considerable history, along with having to compete with their established competitors, there is generally a lack of consumer identification or emotional investment in the team.This study aimed to investigate newly-established teams within the New Zealand sports market with two specific research questions: 1) What issues affect the development of a new sports team brand, and 2) Do managers of new sports teams use antecedents of brand community or social identification in their branding strategies, and if so, how?A qualitative, case study approach was used; featuring both interviews with managers of three newly-established New Zealand sports teams and direct observations of their stadiums. Findings suggested that the managers believed that existing image and awareness, audience nature, win-loss record, quality of the team or competition, and a lack of history were the main issues affecting the development of their brands. Respondents largely considered the antecedents of a brand community as important, with the exception of history. Promotion of these antecedents was largely absent from each of the team's branding strategies. Along with providing a detailed review of brand community literature, this thesis provides recommendations for managers of new teams on how to develop and position branding strategy toward the long-term goal of creating a community around their team brand.