The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of brand associations and the formation of attitudes towards a new sponsor. Specifically, the paper evaluates the Under Armour brand and its anomalous position in the Barclay’s Premier League.
The research design is longitudinal, qualitative and interpretivistic, utilising 26 online focus groups with 213 participants over a 24-month period encompassing the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 Premier League seasons.
The results indicate that Under Armour’s lack of football (soccer) presence in the context of the Premier League offered significant differentiation, as it diminished “common ground” with other fans, offered the opportunity to create personal identities beyond the club and the consumption of kit apparel, and was seen as positive given the articulation that brands such as Nike and Adidas were “forced” onto fans. Additionally, for the first time in the sports sponsorship literature, the findings reveal fans engaging with brands in a utilitarian manner, expressing concerns relating to cost, durability, functionality and value for money.
This study is exploratory in nature and highly contextualised, and a larger-scale study of the phenomenon is desirable. This study extends the literature on fans’ perceptions of sponsoring brands and shows that a new sponsor, without prior league or club associations, can generate significant brand interest and elicit consumption behaviours beyond team apparel.
The findings suggest that there are considerable opportunities for “outside” brands to garner a market share and instigate loyalty through sponsorship. Subsequently, kit manufacturers should consider strategies that encompass entry into new sporting areas.
The study reveals that fans seek uniqueness and differentiation in a sponsoring brand, with brand image paramount in relation to the club and to both social and personal identity.
Thomas, R.J. (2015), "Out with the old and in with the new: a study of new kit sponsorship and brand associations in the Barclays Premier League", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 229-251. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-07-2014-0657Download as .RIS
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