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Customer engagement in sports and its impact on brand strength and brand equity through social media

Last modified: 2019-11-15


Extended abstract

Due to the increasing competition in almost every market and industry, today the companies should have a better understanding of their customers’ needs and expectations in order to stay competitive and generate profits (Cambra-Fierro, Melero-Polo & Vasquez-Carrasco, 2013). However, a company should not only aim to make a brand more attractive than competitors’ brands and cover consumers needs in a better way but also to turn the consumer into a fan of the brand by make him to want to get involved and associate with the brand (Prahlad & Ramaswamy, 2004). This idea is expressed by the concept of customer engagement. In the sport context, usually the term customer engagement is replaced by the term fan engagement. According to (Yoshida, 2014) fan engagement consists of three dimensions: a) management cooperation, b) prosocial behavior, and c) performance tolerance. Despite the plethora of studies regarding customer engagement in many different industries, there is no an established scale for measuring customer engagement in sports context. However, the existing literature focused on the relationship and measurement of customer engagement based on a) non-transactional behaviors and (b) transactional behaviors. This behavioral approach of conceptualization of sports customer engagement is the most common, but in most cases the various researchers use different approaches. Regarding non- transactional behaviors include different aspects such as: performance tolerance (De Ruyter & Wetzels, 2000), increase of self-esteem by basking in reflected glory and cutting off reflected failure (Cialdini, Borden, Thorne, Walker, Freeman, & Sloan, 1976 cited in Yoshida et al., 2014), participation in memorable marketing events (Jowdy & McDonald, 2002), social interaction with friends and peers (Holt, 1995), participation and involvement on fans community-related behavior (Fisher & Wakefield, 1998), and positive word of mouth behavior (Swanson, Gwinner, Larson & Janda, 2003). Some of the above behaviors are self-oriented (e.g., basking in reflected glory), whereas other behaviors are team-oriented.Regarding the transactional behaviors, academic literature has focused on multiple and different subjects. Some of the findings include the relationship between customer engagement and games attended (Funk & James, 2001), the positive relationship of purchase intention and customer engagement (Kumar et. al., 2010) and the effect of customer engagement on the maintenance of a long-term relationship with a sports team (Jowdy & McDonald, 2002). 


Additionally, many sports organizations have understood the importance of adopting relationship-marketing strategies in order to nurture long-term relationships with customers, (i.e. fans) (Williams and Chinn, 2010). Several relationship-marketing goals align perfectly with those of the sporting industry. A sports organization’s main objective is to build relationships that will intensify fan loyalty to help build their brand (Stravos et al., 2008). “Customers, in this case fans, may then become long-term and enthusiastic advocates with whom lasting relationships can be maintained” (Williams & Chinn, 2010). Similar to relationship marketing, “building, enhancing, and maintaining a good relationship with fans is perhaps the most fundamental principle of sport marketing” (Kim & Trail, 2011). A limited amount of academic research has been done in the field of relationship marketing in sports. Gladden and Sutton claimed that there is insufficient research on the key factors determining how a good relationship between consumers and the sports organization should be structured (2009). In sports, relationship marketing may be of greater advantage if we consider that sports supporters are highly involved consumers (Shani, 1997) and active contributors (Williams & Chinn, 2010). Through social media, sports organizations should build relationships with supporters, not only as customers, but also as collaborators, intermediaries, and influencers (Williams & Chinn, 2010). Social media allows consumers “to develop their own voices in the form of customer reviews, innovative ideas, and opinions” (Williams & Chinn, 2010). This exploratory research aims to assess the relationship between brand image and consumers preferences. Additionally, other brand features such as brand awareness and brand loyalty will also be assessed on their impact on consumers preferences. The final sample size was 374 sports supporters and the analysis was made with SPSS. The findings among other suggest that customer engagement presents positive correlation with all consumer behavior variables (purchase intention (r = .701),referral intention (r = .254), repeat purchases (r = .352), brand loyalty (r = .500), brand awareness (r = .481), and brand image association (r = .498). Finally, a prediction model was created and predicts 63.1% of the variance of purchase intention.

Keywords: Customer engagement, social media, brand equity


Customer engagement, social media, brand equity


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