Brand identity takes on a more specific meaning when relating to sports team brands thanks to the degree to which individuals tend to identify with their favorite teams. As is suggested by Birrell (1981), sport in today's society has, in many ways, taken on the importance of ritual from ancient societies and provides the individual with a means of connecting with the rest of the community, something that seems increasingly lacking in other areas of postmodern industrialized life. While brand identity is an integral part of the branding concept and of the business as a whole, much of the existing research regarding this issue has focused on the ideas of brand association rather than identity. Brand associations are essentially the component parts of brand identity. They can include various attributes, such as 'consistent', 'fun' or 'trustworthy', particular images, such as the brand logo, a particular jingle or any number of different means by which individuals begin to associate with the brand. Numerous theories have been brought forward regarding the particularities of brand identity in the sport team setting, several of which will be examined. By examining the relationship between brand identity and brand associations, it is possible to trace how brand associations contribute to and become a part of brand identity. By measuring brand associations in team sport, elements of brand identity can be discovered.
194). The term itself has undergone an extreme transformation in recent years. Although once identified as simply the swoosh on the side of a Nike athletic shoe, the term 'brand' has grown to encompass many aspects of a company. "Brands are not simply products or services. Brands are the sum totals of all the images that people have in their heads about a particular company and a particular mark" (Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream, a Seattle-based marketing consultancy, quoted in Kalin, 2001). The term has come to refer to not only the images a company produces in order to call their product or services to mind, but also the products sold, the services rendered, the building in which the company is headquartered or even the country in which it originated as well as the methods used to project these ideas and images to the broader public - the brand identity. To remain competitive in the world today, just about anything can be identified with a brand if it is so chosen - companies, museums, hospitals, even individual people.
According to Aaker (1996), strong brands work for the company to help them develop a strong consumer base through broad recognition of the brand identity. This recognition then further works for the company by serving as a weapon to counter growing competition in a shrinking market (Barwise & Robertson, 1992). Corporations can then further use this position to help launch new extensions, such as a line of athletic clothes for Nike or a new flavor for Toblerone (Aaker & Keller, 1990). However, this kind of recognition has also come to imply a much greater responsibility on the part of the company to ensure all aspects of their business are strong.
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