Marketing in and through sport
Brand analysis in sports using repertory
grid technique: Grasshopper Club Zurich as
a case study
Authors: Patrick Bissig, Marcel Hüttermann, Frank Hannich,
Institution: ZHAW, Zurich University of Applied Sciences,
Aim of abstract/paper – research question
The repertory grid technique is increasingly popular in
marketing. The technique allows for deep insights and modern
software illustrates these using attractive computer images. Yet,
it has not been used in sport management so far. The aim of
this research is to test the method for brand image of a
professional football club and to analyse if valuable managerial
implications can be derived.
Disruptions caused by digital transformation make many
traditional management processes obsolete and change the
way how brand image is formed fundamentally. However,
Erdem et. al (2015) emphasized that this makes fundamentals
like cultivating one’s brand image even more indispensable and
new digital methods of measurement are needed. In sports,
brand image holds a special significance as a brand-oriented
management approach is seen as a way to stabilize financial
success in times of weak competitive performance (Gladden
and Funk 2001). Using repertory grid technique to measure
brand image has seen rising interest in many industries but not
in sports. The authors of this abstract cooperate with the Swiss
football club Grasshopper Club Zurich (GCZ) to close this gap
in sport management research.
Methodology, research design and data analysis
The repertory grid technique is a cognitive mapping technique
that attempts to depict how people think about phenomena in
their world (Tan & Hunter, 2002). The technique is based on the
personal construct theory of Kelly (1955) and is used to
understand people’s personal construct system. Kelly (1955)
argues that people use personal constructs to understand and
interpret events that occur around them and that these
constructs are based on personal experiences. In this study all
ten professional football Clubs of the Swiss Raiffeisen Super
League are defined as the objects of thoughts, so-called
“elements”. The constructs are elicited by the triadic elicitation
method. The software tool “sofistiq” collects the data directly
and visualizes it for analysis. The software projects the
constructs and elements onto a three dimensional, rotatable
space and thus facilitates interpretation (Berger & Hari, 2012).
Two samples were taken to analyse the brand image of the
GCZ from an internal and external perspective. Thereby, 33 in-
depth computer-based interviews were carried out. The first
sample compromised 16 employees from the board of
administration, the sections finance and sports which also
includes players and staff. The other sample contained 17 fans.
To qualify for the research they were required to have visited at
least one home match within the last 12 months. The two
sample sizes are reasonable due to the intensive nature of the
repertory grid technique. In practice of this technique a
relatively small sample size is often used. A sample size of 15
to 25 within a population will frequently produce sufficient
constructs (Tan & Hunter, 2002). Similar recommendations are
made by other experts.
Results, discussion and implications
Results - This study not only described the image of GCZ but
also identified the gaps between the clubs defined brand
identity and the brand image of fans as well as employees. The
results showed that the fans’ and employees’ perception
deviate from the desirable brand identity and from each other.
GCZ intended to be perceived as serious, responsible and
connected to Zurich. Both stakeholders associated the
connection to Zurich but did not identify the club as responsible.
The employees perceived the club as serious, the fans did not.
In comparison to its local competitor FC Zurich, very little
difference was found in participations’ perceptions. However,
the findings gave the football club a clear view of the existing
gaps. The authors of this paper advised actions to close the
gaps and, thus, get a consistent and unique image based on
the behavioural approach.
Discussion - The results of the study exhibited the repertory
grid technique as an appropriate method to investigate brand
image of a professional sports club. Thereby a software based
procedure like sofistiq is a promising approach. Experts in sport
management could conduct a similar research to examine the
brand image of other clubs. This study provides a basis to
discuss the management and analysis of brand image in sports
Limitations - This study analysed the brand image of GCZ only
for fans and employees. The results cannot be easily
generalized to all Swiss football fans. Furthermore a
quantitative survey would be useful to ensure significance to the
population of GCZ fans.
Berger, V. und Hari, J. (2012). Consumers and Eco-labelling: A
Repertory Grid Study. Academy of Marketing Conference, Paper
170, Southampton University.
Erdem, T., et al. (2016), Understanding Branding in a digitally
empowered world, International Journal of Research in
Marketing, 33, 3-10.
Gladden, J.M., & Funk, D.C. (2001). Understanding brand loyalty
in professional sport: Examining the link between brand
associations and brand loyalty. International Journal of Sports
Marketing & Sponsorship, 3, 67-91.
Kelly, G. (1955). The psychology of personal construct: A theory
of personality. New York: Norton.
Tan, F. B. Hunter, M, G. (2002). The repertory grid technique: A
method for the study of cognition in information systems. MIS
Quarterly, 26(1), 39-57.