Football Players as Brand Ambassadors: Their Influence on Consumers in Relation to Kit Suppliers' Brand Image: Focus on the Western European Men’s Football Industry in the Third Millennium

Matteo Zardini

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Nowadays, the Western European men’s football industry is in constant evolution. It embraces increasingly heterogeneous perspectives and interests, both inside and outside the green field, going beyond the ninety minutes. In football sportswear market, branding is the principalsource of competitive advantage for companies. Thus, top level football endorsers, employed as marketing and branding vehicles, can lead to positive brand image and improve brand equity. Indeed, through endorser’s image and personality, consumers- fans tighten up an emotional tie and associations in their mind with the endorsed brands, as potential point of differentiation and source of competitive advantage for the companies. Following a branding perspective, this thesis explores and describes three main research questions, by offering underlying up- to- date managerial implications and insights. Speaking of which, sportswear brands’ decisions behind football endorser’s selection and implementation as well as narrowed focuses on sponsorship and football boots launch are developed, by comparing the current situation with the ‘90s and emerged contrasts in terms of image in- and out- pitch. Having assumed “interpretivism” as research philosophy, this research holds “subjectivism” as ontology. Consistently, research project purpose is principally exploratory and then, descriptive. Theoretical framework is mainly based on Keller’s customer- based- brand- equity (1993) and Aaker’s brand personality (1997). They stand for research theoretical basis and roots, since they allow to fulfil what the three research questions request, in line with research philosophy and purposes. These utilised theories contribute to better address and accomplish the research questions and objectives. Nonetheless, several other studies and theories are assessed as functional to the execution of the three research questions. Additionally, secondary data and trends are inserted. The researcher carries out one electronic questionnaire, as quantitative technique, and four semi-structured interviews, as qualitative techniques, with top heterogeneous figures within the analysed context. The qualitative analysis is executed through thematic and cross- case analysis. Nike and adidas, the two football sportswear leading brands, are deepened through Business Canvas Model. Besides, three football celebrities are defined through the accomplishment of TEARS and No TEARS model 2 (Shimp, 2003): David Beckham, Ricardo Kakà and Cristiano Ronaldo. As Nike and adidas, they serve as both vehicle and benchmark for data collection and analysis in relation to the three research questions. The electronic questionnaire primarily aims at satisfying what TEARS and No TEARS model asks. At the same time, it is the basis and starting point for the next qualitative research techniques. In particular, the third research question takes benefit from this quantitative technique. On the contrary, the four interviews are the highest source for data collection and analysis regarding the three research questions and objectives. On the whole, fit dimension is essential in every consideration and finding highlighted throughout the thesis. Furthermore, kit supplier brands might adapt their image and personality over time coherently with different consumer’s needs and wants, by choosing a consistent and efficient football endorser. Nowadays, football player’s image is considered more in a holistic and global way, where assessment process is more complicated and exceeds national boundaries. Besides, money receives increasingly more centrality. Additionally, the football endorser now holds a role model and he is a projection space of people’s dream and personality, especially teenagers. Touchpoints, based on the first two research questions, have deeply modified relationships between consumers, endorsers and brands. In this case, social media revolution is the best example and it is the melting point for both consumer and footballer’s variations from the ‘90s. In every research question emerges that inside the green field strikers first, and then creatives, are the most influential ones, since the more visible and famous, the better it is for the sportswear brands. Regarding outpitch footballer’s features instead, having a good looking endorser is added strength for the brand, but it is not always necessary. Overall, in- pitch image counts more than out- pitch one. In fact, the image inside the green field is the starting point for sportswear brand’s assessment of football player as brand ambassador. Consumers now are brand advocates and co- creators of products and values. However, at the same time, they try to call- out the same idolised football endorsers. Consistently, for instance adidas now is more individual as Nike and it is based on irreverence. At the present time, sponsoring sportswear brands might go beyond footballer’s club and playing skills: thus, they are looking for visible, famous, communicative and globally- oriented endorsers. Sponsorship activation is changed: here, storytelling deserves more attention. Focusing on football boots launch, currently sportswear brands might pay more attention towards both userand usage- imagery and rising product personalization possibilities. Teenagers in their high school period are the main target by sportswear brands. They tend to appreciate more a bad boy, rather than a serious football endorser. Lastly, football boots are a crucial self- extension tool.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages175