The importance of sports and brands (e.g., New York Yankees, Harley-Davidson, Apple) in today's society is well-documented. The co-consumption of sports and brands often brings people together (Bale, 2003; Bouet, 1966; Brown, Kozinets, & Sherry, 2003), and consumers of the same sport or brand often form a community. In the business literature, these communities are called "brand communities" (McAlexander, Schouten, & Koenig, 2002; Muniz & O'Guinn, 2001). While brand communities are a popular research topic in the business literature, the sport field is only in the beginning stages of applying this idea. As such, the impact of such communities with sport brands is not well understood. In order to investigate the outcomes of brand communities, we must better understand the process of introducing and developing sport brand communities.
The purpose of this research is to identify and better understand the relationships among the antecedents (e.g. causes) and consequences (e.g., outcomes) of consumer participation in a sport brand community. A hypothesized model of the relationships among four antecedents (brand knowledge, brand satisfaction, brand identification, and sense of sport brand community (sense of sport brand community is composed of membership and geographic sense of community) and three consequences (brand loyalty, brand image, and behavioral intentions (behavioral intentions is composed of attendance, purchase, and word of mouth) of a sport brand community is proposed.
Using Churchill's (1979) guidelines for creating better marketing measures, ten constructs for testing the model of consumer participation in a sport brand community were identified. One hundred twenty-four items in total were utilized to measure the ten constructs, and a three-step ad hoc content analysis was conducted by two marketing academics, two expert methodologists, and the author of this research. Fifty-eight items were judged to have content validity. The fifty-eight items were tested in a pilot study with a convenience sample (n = 113). An examination of the results of the pilot study revealed that the fifty-eight items measuring the ten constructs showed evidence of reliability. One issue was noted with the construct of brand identification. As a result, four items were added to measure this construct.
The main study included the sixty-two items which were tested on a convenience sample (n = 627). In order to conduct CFA and SEM procedures, the sample was split into two subsamples (n1 = 314 and n2 = 313). The reliabilities of the sixty-two items were examined using subsample 1. It was concluded from the results that twenty-five items were problematic and therefore removed. The validity of the thirty-seven items were assessed using subsample 1. The items showed evidence of both convergent and discriminant validity. Finally, thirty-one hypothesized relationships were tested using SEM procedures on the data from subsample 2. The SEM results led the researcher to conclude there was empirical support for ten of the thirty-one hypothesized relationships. Due to the existence of four fully-mediated relationships, nine total effects were identified. In addition, the fit indices for the structural model suggested good fit to the data, and the model explained between 46.4% and 78.4% of the variance in the five endogenous constructs (e.g., brand loyalty, brand image, attendance intentions, purchase intentions, and word of mouth intentions).
Sports are used to bridge and bond individuals together. Based on the connections and relationships that develop around a sport brand, organization or team, the co-consumption or co-creation of a sporting event affects consumers' affiliations, attitudes, behaviors, and lives. As a result, a sport organization has the opportunity to facilitate and expand the development of such relationships. Moreover, the development of these relationships can be used to increase the resources consumers allocate toward a sport organization, brand, and goods and services (e.g., the game). While many sport management and marketing practitioners and academics debate how to best satisfy the wants and needs of consumers, the establishment, development, and maintenance of successful relationships between consumers and the sport organization, brand, and team is accomplished through creation and utilization of sport brand communities. In order to better understand how to successfully create and utilize sport brand communities, more research needs to be conducted and more understanding needs to be gained about how sport brand communities develop, improve, and extend relationships with consumers. This research provides an initial framework and model that provides suggestions and evidence that can be used to improve the effectiveness of sport brand communities.