Given the extremely competitive nature of professional sports and the high levels of risk associated with exorbitant player salaries, it is important for management to examine the specific effects that star players can have on a sport franchise’s brand. Gladden and Milne (1999) provided an early framework for examining the relationship between marquee athletes and a team’s brand by developing a model to assess brand equity in professional sport. This model, based largely on previous work by Aaker (1991), listed the star player as a product-related antecedent capable of generating brand equity that could bring about national media exposure, merchandise sales, corporate support, atmosphere changes, ticket sales, and additional revenues for a team. Meanwhile, athletic superstars like David Beckham, Tim Tebow, Yao Ming, Jeremy Lin, and Lebron James have served as living examples of this illustration, improving the performances, attendance numbers, television ratings, and merchandise sales of the teams on which they play. (Matuszewski, 2010; Ozanian, 2011; Roling, 2012; Gilmour & Rowe, 2010; Yu, 2005; Wang, 2004; Torre, 2012). However, the relationship between star players and the branding process of professional sports teams is one that remains rather vague and unquantified. Though certain models and real-life examples do seem to suggest that star players are capable of exerting an effect on a team’s brand, more thorough analysis is required in order to decipher which areas of a brand’s development are more or less affected by these marquee athletes. Taking responses from survey questionnaires containing 40 items pertinent to the topic, this study deployed Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) to uncover six underlying factors that were identifiable as various areas of the branding process. These six factors had loadings and eigenvalues sufficient enough to support the conclusion that star players did in fact have an effect on various areas of the team branding process. After it became apparent that the items loaded onto each factor were appropriate to various aspects of the branding process, this analysis helped the researchers classify Factor 1 as brand loyalty, Factor 2 as brand awareness, Factor 3 as brand image, Factor 4 as direct brand equity, Factor 5 as perceived quality, and Factor 6 as brand reputation. It was then determined by its revelation of player-brand relationships and consistency with previous branding process models that this study was validated in its mission to explore which areas of a professional sports team are truly affected by star players.
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Pifer, N. David; Mak, Jennifer Y.; Bae, Won-Yul; and Schenewark, Jarrod, "Using Exploratory Factor Analysis to Identify Star Players’ Effects on the Branding Process of Professional Sports Teams" (2013). Association of Marketing Theory and Practice Proceedings 2013. 67.