Study looks at how marketing and branding campaigns of sportspeople can be extended to other fields

February 22, 2012 by Sue

From the Inderscience press release via AlphaGalileo:

An analysis of the marketing and brand campaigns of internationally renowned footballers David Beckham and Ryan Giggs could provide marketing executives with insights into how brands can be built and marketed more effectively. Writing in the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, Canadian researchers demonstrate how elite athletes can extend their brand and how this might be applied beyond sport.

Marie-Agnès Parmentier, an expert in consumer culture at HEC Montréal, is working with Eileen Fischer of York University in Toronto, to understand how personal brands can be developed by top sportspeople on and off the field. From Tiger Woods to Tom Brady, from Alex Rodriguez to Andy Roddick, the phenomenon of high-visibility ‘person brands’ has become common across a broad spectrum of sports, the pair explains. “If a brand in general can be thought of as the associations that people make with the goods or services of a particular seller, then a personal brand can be considered to be the set of associations identified with a particular person,” they add.

The value to an athlete of creating a high-visibility brand can go well beyond the remuneration they receive from their professional performance and includes the well-known lucrative endorsement opportunities associated with the sports clothing, footwear and equipment they use in their sport. Additionally, those that are able to generate a positive image in the arena of popular culture, fashion and the media can generate income and promote other brands, during and after their sporting career. Few people in the developed world will have failed to notice the George Foreman grill promoted by the former world heavyweight champion long after he retired from career. “Even after their careers end, athletes with potent brands can benefit by lending their names to entrepreneurial endeavours,” the team explains.

The researchers have now analysed the media personas and brand equity of Beckham and Giggs. Both are acclaimed sportsmen regarded as outstanding soccer players but who have very contrasting profiles in terms of their personal brands. Beckham’s profile seems to be the most marketable of any contemporary athlete, the team adds. His brand has been compared to those of basketball player Michael Jordan, golfer Tiger Woods, and tennis player Anna Kournikova, all of whom are high profile and market and endorse products associated with their sport and beyond. Beckham himself has, in recent years, ranked high on Forbes’ list of the most powerful, best paid, and most famous celebrities in the world.

Giggs shares many of the profile characteristics of Beckham, according to the research paper. He plays the same sport, started shortly before Beckham, and belongs to the same team (Manchester United) that launched Beckham’s career. The two are prominent midfielders and are both have been close to the hearts of that team’s fans and supporters. Nevertheless, Giggs’ media profile and brand awareness is not necessarily comparable with that of David Beckham. He seemingly enjoys less media coverage in general and is associated less with popular culture beyond soccer. Giggs has apparently never, for instance, been mentioned in People magazine, whereas Beckham has appeared in no fewer than 66 articles or discussions in that publication. Whereas Beckham can readily market underwear and men’s fragrances, one might suggest that Giggs’ is slightly more well known for his TV show: “Ryan Giggs’ Soccer Skills”.

“The on- and off-field brand-building practices of these two soccer players help us understand how people in sporting professions build brand equity,” the team explains. “Our analysis provides insights into practices that yield a better professional image and a more valuable mainstream media persona,” the researchers add. There are thus implications for athletes and those managing their brands and for those hoping to build an off-field career and income.

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