The role of athlete's sponsorship on the marketing strategy of a sports brand : A qualitative study conducted at HEAD France
Abstract: Athletes sponsorship has become an important part of the marketing communication mix for sports brands today. We know that athletes are major celebrities within the mass media in modern society and they can use their image and the power they have directly through their network to interact with customers. Their level of fame and popularity is still increasing, and many star athletes have million dollars’ endorsement contracts with brands who want to be associated with the athlete’s image. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a better understanding of the use of sponsored athletes as a marketing communication tool by the analysis of the traditional tools companies have but also how a brand can use social medias nowadays to maximise their impact on the customers. More specifically, our research focuses on the growth of social media's importance in marketing strategies and how this variable impact the behaviour of athlete’s, brands, and customers. We answer to the research question: How do sports brands support their corporate marketing strategy through the sponsorship of athletes? The study was conducted at HEAD France (division of HEAD NV), manufacturer and marketer specialised in sports equipment and apparel for: Winter sports, racquet sports, diving, sportswear, and licensing. They are well-known thanks to the famous and successful athletes they sponsored like Lindsey Vonn and Alexis Pinturault (ski) and Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova (tennis). To conduct our research, we used a qualitative method along with an interpretivist approach. This was in accordance to highlight social, cultural, and managerial facts by analysing consumer, athletes, and brand’s behaviour. We conducted twelve in-depth interviews on French consumers, HEAD’s employees and athletes’ based on the theoretical framework studied in the report. The findings include good advice and insights that sport-brands could use to improve their marketing strategy using the image of athlete’s and make it a better fit to the consumer’s expectations.
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