Sport League Branding

In its simplest form, a brand can be considered a name, symbol, design, trademark or a combination of all of the above that serves the purpose of distinguishing one product or service from another. Ultimately brand awareness and brand image influence brand success. The brand awareness component is related to the ability of consumers to identify the brand from their memory under different conditions. Brand image refers to the perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory. Brand associations represent any attribute or benefit linked to a brand as perceived by a consumer. These associative links refer to tangible (The German soccer Bundesliga has a 50-year history) and intangible (Watching the Bundesliga helps me get away from my daily routine) descriptors the consumer links to the brand. Brand associations provide indicators to consumer knowledge of the brand (What I know about the Bundesliga) and the perceived favorability associated with a brand (I like following the Bundesliga), and therefore influence brand selection and consumption (I purchase the Bundesliga app to watch games). Below is an overview of my projects related to sport league branding:


My research has investigated the factors that contribute to the attractiveness of professional sport leagues. 

Competitive BalanceIn this research project, published in the European Sport Management Quarterly, my co-authors and I identified and tested factors that affect the attractiveness of both national football leagues and the Champions League from the perspective of fans, and how these factors are perceived by fans of clubs at the top and bottom of the league standing. Based on a review of sport consumer behaviour literature, we proposed that four determinants are relevant to a league’s attractiveness: stadium atmosphere, international success of the clubs, uniqueness of dominating clubs and perceived competitive balance. Quantitative data analysis revealed that the four determinants significantly predicted perceived attractiveness, and that even fans of financially privileged and successful clubs concede that perceived competitive balance is necessary for leagues to be perceived as attractive.

Koenigstorfer, J., Groeppel-Klein, A., & Kunkel, T. (2010). The attractiveness of national and international football leagues – Perspectives of fans of “star clubs” and “underdogs”. European Sport Management Quarterly, 10(2), 101-137. Download


My research has investigated brand associations linked to sport leagues.

League Brand AssociationsIn this research project, published in the Journal of Sport Management, my co-authors and I identified and tested consumer-based league brand associations. Qualitative results revealed brand association consumers linked with sport leagues. Quantitative results supported the existence of the identified league brand associations and demonstrated that these rand associations were related with attitudinal and behavioral outcomes towards the sport league. The identified league brand associations could assist sport league managers to develop and manage their brand and differentiate their league to competitors.

Kunkel, T., Funk, D.C., & King, C. (2014). Developing a conceptual understanding of consumer-based league brand associations. Journal of Sport Management, 28(1), 49-67. Download


My research has investigated strategies organizations can use to grow their brand. 

Development strategiesIn this research project, published in the Sport Management Review, my co-authors and I explored the strategies sport leagues can implement to develop their brand and consequently better satisfy their consumers.  Based on mixed method research, seven themes were uncovered through qualitative content analysis: 1) Media accessibility and marketing, 2) Fan engagement, 3) League expansion, 4) Competition structure, 5) Product quality, 6) Match day experience and 7) Unique club identity. These themes represent three brand development strategies – market penetration, market development and product development. These findings provide sport managers with guidelines of how to grow their organization, influence consumers’ brand associations, and strategically position their brand to appeal to consumers.

Kunkel, T., Doyle, J.P., & Funk, D.C. (2014). Exploring sport brand development strategies to strengthen consumer involvement with the product – The case of the Australian A-League. Sport Management Review, 17, 470-483. Download