This empirical study evaluates how perceived brand globalness and localness of the J.League, Japan’s professional football (soccer) league, affect viewing intentions of its audience worldwide (see Section 4 and 5.1). It further offers recommendations on how to develop and strengthen the intention to watch the J.League through marketing communications efforts (see Section 5.2). Results show that perceived brand globalness and localness influence consumption intentions of a worldwide sample of J.League viewers only indirectly (see Figure 4). The path of indirect influence leads through the elements of global identity and connectedness, perceived brand quality and prestige, and brand attitude. Perceived brand globalness demonstrates stronger indirect influence on intentions to watch the J.League compared to localness. However, respondents recognise a strong ‘country position’ (Aaker, 1996) for the J.League with associations to Japanese culture and perceive the league less as a global brand (see Figure 3). Based upon these results, a dedicated marketing communications strategy should be considered that focuses on a J.League brand personality with distinct Japanese traits. The proposed hypotheses were tested towards a worldwide sample of 277 respondents (see Figure 2) through a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA).
Section 1: The research question
The marketplace of the twenty-first century offers a plethora of brand choices to consumers (Godin, 2002). This applies to luxury brands (Kapferer and Bastien, 2012), fast-moving consumer goods (Statista, 2021), sports brands (Rein, Kotler, and Shields, 2006; Desbordes and Richelieu, 2012), as well as to brands in other sectors. Consumers may find certain brands attractive because of their global appeal or because they focus on their place-of-origin, through which both characteristics can stimulate consumption intentions directly or indirectly (Steenkamp, Batra, and Alden, 2003). Although choosing a specific brand position can influence consumers to seek out the brand over competing brands, the ultimate goal is to persuade people to buy and consume the offered product (Kotler, 2003). This is also one of the main goals of the J.League, the Japanese professional football league, and subject of this study. The league seeks to attract viewers through its broadcasting partners in different regions of the world (see jleague.jp, 2021a). The reason for sports brands, as well as brands in other sectors, to go global can be based on economic necessity, new business opportunities, and the transformation of branding motivating brands to merge more with entertainment and communication industries; all of that empowered by a more networked society (Desbordes and Richelieu, 2012). In order to increase consumption intentions, it needs to be assessed, if viewers are more drawn to watching the J.League because of the brand’s globalness or localness, directly or indirectly or both (cf. Steenkamp et al., 2003). Hence, the research question of this study is defined as follows:
How does perceived brand globalness and localness influence viewing intentions of J.League viewers worldwide?
Section 2: Definitions and conceptual framework
This section offers a brief introduction to the J.League and its product, then defines the variables assessed in the study and offers hypotheses to be tested. Figure 1 provides a visualisation of the applied conceptual framework at the end of the section.
The J.League and its product
The J.League was founded as Japan’s professional men’s football league in 1993 (Okubo, 2007) with the mission “[t]o raise the level of Japanese football and promote the diffusion of the game through the medium of professional football”, “[t]o foster the development of Japan’s sporting culture, to assist in the healthy mental and physical growth of Japanese people,” and “[t]o contribute to international friendship and exchange” (jleague.jp, 2021b). Football was rather unpopular in Japan until the J.League came to be, but suddenly became fashionable to consumers, due to the league’s successful start; this can be attributed to a well-organised marketing strategy and exclusive partnerships with Hakuhodo, a Japanese advertising and public relations company, and Sony Creative Products, a leading IP management firm, who ensured the proper execution of merchandising (Okubo, 2007). From a business perspective, the J.League was established “to be run as an independent business” (Dolles and Söderman, 2011, p. 229), which implies operating profitably while satisfying consumers needs and wants with its product.
The core product of football can be defined as the match played between two teams (Bühler and Nufer, 2013). For the purpose of this study, however, the sports product offered by the J.League is defined as the season-long competition between teams, who seek to win matches and improve their standing in the league’s table in order to win the championship at the end of the season or reach their desired rank (Neale, 1964; Mason, 1999; Kunkel, Funk and King, 2009). The difference between the two definitions lies in the time frame and array of ‘ingredient brands’ within the J.League brand (cf. Aaker, 1996). Also, it is standard practice for broadcasters to purchase rights to a sports league instead of rights to individual matches (Graton and Solberg, 2007), although that could be done as well, especially considering novel broadcasting models (Lindholm, 2019).
Perceived brand globalness (PBG)
Steenkamp et al. (2003) propose that for a brand to be perceived as global, consumers must “believe the brand is marketed in multiple countries and is generally recognized as global” (p. 54); upon this proposition, they found a positive effect between perceived brand globalness and perceived brand quality and prestige. Although, Steenkamp et al. (2003) apply brand quality and brand prestige as two different variables in their research, they may be considered within the same variable, since brand prestige can be defined as superior brand quality that allows consumers “to express a perceived sense of superior worth” (Jin et al., 2016, p. 525). Furthermore, the two items utilised to evaluate perceived brand quality and the one item utilised to assess prestige, load onto the same factor in an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) undertaken for this research. Therefore, they are grouped as one variable in this study. In regard to viewers’ global connectedness, Dong and Yu (2020) found that perceived brand globalness “can significantly improve consumers’ trust in the brands and inspire a global identity” (p. 62). A stronger belief in global identity can influence people to consume brands symbolically in order to demonstrate their identity (Strizhakova et al., 2011). Also, a sense of belonging may be developed through brand globalness per se, adding value for consumers without being indirectly influenced by quality and prestige, a consumer’s identity, or brand attitude, and, hence, influencing consumption intention directly (Steenkamp et al., 2003; Baek et al., 2017). Consequently, the following hypotheses are proposed:
- H1: Perceived brand globalness positively influences perceived brand quality and prestige of the J.League.
- H2: Perceived brand globalness positively influences the global identity and connectedness of J.League viewers.
- H3: Perceived brand globalness positively influences consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
Perceived brand localness (PBL)
An alternative route to brand globalness can be offered by positioning a brand as a ‘local icon’ and using “local cultural capital and targeting and positioning based on a deeper understanding of local culture, tastes, and needs” (Steenkamp et al., 2003, p. 56). According to Dong and Yu (2020, p. 55), “global brands containing local elements can better satisfy consumers’ needs to identify with local cultures as well as entice deeper trust from consumers.” This statement is related to the notion put forth by Aaker and Joachimsthaler (2000), who suggest that global brands can choose the ‘country position’. This means that, for example, in the context of the J.League, the brand may be positioned as an ‘icon of Japanese (sports) culture’, possibly appealing to a wider global audience that could enjoy the offered sports product because of its Japanese attributes. Such an icon could be presented with a distinct Japanese (brand) personality (Aaker, 1997). Given the efforts undertaken by the J.League to broadcast its matches to an international audience (jleague.jp, 2021a), it becomes legitimate to assess the degree of global connectedness, i.e. global identity, of its target audience in reference to the J.League’s perceived brand localness (cf. Strizhakova et al., 2011; Strizhakova and Coulter, 2015). Similar to perceived brand globalness, perceived brand localness can have a significant effect on consumers’ perceptions of a brand’s perceived quality and prestige, as examined by Özsomer (2012). Steenkamp et al. (2003) found significant direct effects from perceived brand localness to consumption intention, depicting a direct relationship without the mediating effects from brand quality and prestige, identity, or brand attitude. Based upon these findings, the suggested hypotheses are:
- H4: Perceived brand localness positively influences perceived brand quality and prestige of the J.League.
- H5: Perceived brand localness positively influences the global identity and connectedness of J.League viewers.
- H6: Perceived brand localness positively influences consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
Global identity and connectedness (GID)
Dong and Yu (2020) define global identity as “the belief from consumers that they belong to a global community and live a global lifestyle” (p. 56). Strizhakova and Coulter (2015) use the term ‘global connectedness’ to assess the same parameter and define it as “the importance a consumer places on global citizenship” (p. 5). This sense of belongingness to a global culture can have a positive influence on a consumer’s attitude towards a brand and is appropriate to be used for the assessment at hand (cf. Guo, 2013). Furthermore, Strizhakova and Coulter (2015) found a significant relationship between global connectedness and consumption intention without any moderating effect. For the case at hand, this means that viewers may feel connected to Japan or the world to a certain degree by watching the J.League. This leads to the following hypotheses:
- H7: Global identity and connectedness positively influences brand attitude towards the J.League.
- H8: Global identity and connectedness positively influences consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
Perceived brand quality and prestige (QLP)
Perceived brand quality is an integral part of brand equity and comprises the reason-to-buy a product, positioning and differentiation of the brand or its product(s), its price, brand extensions, and channel member interest (Aaker, 1996). In other words, “perceived quality can encourage perceived value; and perceived quality could be a strong enough antecedent to generate such value and price inelasticity that it could even boost a customer’s willingness to pay a higher price” (Vera, 2015, p. 147). A superior brand quality is offered by brand prestige, which refers to the perception that a brand may offer superior worth to consumers (Jin et al., 2016). As mentioned above, although these elements are often assessed separately, they can be considered to belong together and be combined to one variable, as is the case in this research. The quality of the overall football experience offered by the J.League is considered, as well as how it compares to other leagues and the extent to which respondents believe the J.League to be prestigious. Accordingly, the following is hypothesised:
- H9: Perceived brand quality & prestige positively influences brand attitude towards the J.League.
- H10: Perceived brand quality & prestige positively influences consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
Brand attitude (BAT)
Brand attitude is defined as “a person’s enduring favorable or unfavorable evaluation, emotional feelings, and action tendencies toward some object or idea” (Kotler, 2003, p. 199) and may be considered an antecedent to the intention to consume a product or service offered by a brand (Kudeshia and Kumar, 2017). In order for a desired consumption behaviour to happen, a certain brand attitude needs to be formed or altered through experiences directly or indirectly provided by the brand (Percy and Rossiter, 1992). These experiences could be inspired through a cognitive dimension comprising of positive surprise, intrigue, and exclusivity (Schmitt, 1999) and through an affective dimension that establishes emotional connections between consumers and the brand through conversations (Coleman, 2018). This leads to the following hypothesis:
- H11: Brand attitude positively influences consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
Consumption intention (CI)
The desired behaviour examined in this study is the intention to consume the football product offered by the J.League, i.e. to watch its matches throughout the season. Broadcasting deals are considerable revenue drivers for sports leagues and teams (Lindholm, 2019) and may become even more important in times where matchday attendance is limited or uncertain because of restrictions dictated by global health crises (cf. Deloitte, 2021). Companies such as Amazon, Facebook, or DAZN try to establish new standards for sports broadcasting deals that are based on a risk-reward proposition, similar to the music industry and Spotify, that may reward mutual growth (Lindholm, 2019; Bassam, 2020). Therefore, increasing viewership becomes even more important to sports entities such as the J.League.
Control variables: Viewers’ team affiliation (TEAM), country of residence (LIV), age (AGE)
The three control variables team affiliation, fans’ country of residence, and their age can contaminate perceived brand quality and prestige, brand attitude, and consumption intention, meaning that the observed relationships may be affected. Although control variables can be “considered extraneous variables that are not linked to the hypotheses and theories being tested” (Spector and Brannick, 2011, p. 288), the following hypotheses are provided in order to complete the research framework:
- H12a,b,c: Team affiliation contaminates (a) perceived brand quality and prestige, (b) brand attitude, and (c) consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
- H13a,b,c: Country of residence contaminates (a) perceived brand quality and prestige, (b) brand attitude, and (c) consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
- H14a,b,c: Age contaminates (a) perceived brand quality and prestige, (b) brand attitude, and (c) consumptions intentions of J.League viewers.
Figure 1 combines all the hypotheses offered above and provides the research framework for this study.
Section 3: Methodology and sample
Data was collected via a questionnaire with closed questions including adapted scales suggested by Steenkamp et al. (2003), Keller and Aaker (1992), and Dong and Yu (2020). Figure 3 in Section 4 presents the 18 questionnaire-items applied in this study. Three additional questions on participants’ demography and one question about their team affiliation were posed. All items were evaluated with a 7-point Likert-scale measuring from 1 (‘disagree very strongly’) to 7 (‘agree very strongly’). People with an interest in the J.League were asked to participate in the survey via social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The questionnaire was made available from Tuesday, 30 March to Friday, 11 April 2021 and was completed by 277 participants. All answers were accepted.
Figure 2 offers an overview of the sample. The sample encompasses 93.8% male respondents and 6.2% female respondents. The largest responding age group is 25 to 34-year-olds with 38%, followed by 18 to 24-year-olds with 30.4% and 35 to 44-year-olds with 23.2%. The other age groups make up less than 10% in aggregate. The sample of this study is well-spread across various regions of the world with major clusters in Indonesia, Japan, United Kingdom, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, and France. The sample reports 35 different affiliations to a J.League team, showing a wide array of interest. However, a large group of respondents (17%) recorded that they do not support a particular team, but simply enjoy watching the J.League.
In summary, the sample of this research can be considered to mainly represent the views of a more masculine and international Millennial audience (cf. PEW Research Center, 2019), where no one team can claim a considerable majority of fans for themselves.
Section 4: Results
Figure 3 provides an overview of the items used in the questionnaire and displays their mean, standard deviation (STDEV), factor loading, as well as the scales’ Cronbach’s Alpha (α), composite reliability (CR), and average variance extracted (AVE). This section addresses the results in regard to the perception of the responding J.League viewers, i.e. mean and STDEV, whereas internal consistency and reliability, i.e. α, CR, and AVE, will be discussed with the model fit in Section 6.
Perceived brand globalness (PBG). In reference to the J.League’s globalness, respondents show a neutral stance across all three items. They do not necessarily consider the J.League a global brand; this shows moderate agreement among the sample (PBG1, M=4.19, STDEV=1.665). A neutral attitude is also recorded when asked if they ‘think that people outside of Japan watch the J.League’ (PBG2, M=4.14, STDEV=1.798) and if ‘J.League games can be viewed all over the world’ (PBG3, M=3.83, STDEV=1.912). However, in this instance, respondents show the largest disagreement, meaning that some respondents perceive the J.League as being considerably more global than others.
Perceived brand localness (PBL). The responding sample recorded a higher mean across the three items assessing the J.League’s brand localness in comparison to its brand globalness. Respondents strongly ‘associate the J.League with things that are Japanese’, and they display firm agreement among each other (PBL1, M=5.73, STDEV=1.317). Similarly, to them, ‘the J.League represents what Japan is all about’ (PBL2, M=4.98, STDEV=1.660) and ‘the J.League is a very good symbol of Japan’ (PBL3, M=5.52, STDEV=1.550); agreement is moderate for these two items, though.
Global identity and connectedness (GID). Respondents recorded a relatively high mean with the statements ‘Watching the J.League makes me feel like I have become a part of the global football/soccer culture’ (GID1, M=4.97, STDEV=1.646) and ‘[it] arouses a sense of belonging to the global football/soccer culture’ (GID3, M=4.96, STDEV=1.615); the moderate standard deviation on both items underlines certain agreement within the sample. The statement ‘Watching the J.League makes me feel like I am linked to the world’ recorded a neutral mean; however, the high standard deviation depicts disagreement within respondents (GID2, M=4.71, STDEV=1.721). Consequently, the sample perceives the efforts of the J.League to only moderately affect global connectedness of its viewers. Yet, this result is limited by the moderate-to-high disagreement among respondents.
Perceived brand quality and prestige. The sample recorded a high mean and shows strong agreement for the statement ‘The J.League offers a football/soccer experience of very high quality’ (QLP1, M=5.01, STDEV=1.393). This implies that the participating sample is pleased with the provided football experience of the J.League. However, when asked if ‘The J.League offers a superior quality compared to other football/soccer leagues’, respondents are neutral to the statement, though with moderate disagreement amongst each other (QLP2, M=4.22, STDEV=1.543). Similarly, when asked if to them ‘the J.League is a very prestige brand’ (QLP3, M=4.83, STDEV=1.482), the sample offers a moderately positive attitude with high agreement. It can therefore be deduced that a certain number of respondents consider other football leagues to offer a better football experience than the J.League, but they perceive the offered J.League product to be of rather high quality and with an evident degree of prestige to it.
Brand attitude (BAT). All three items of this variable recorded high means underlining a positive attitude of the sample towards the J.League. Respondents distinctly ‘like the J.League’ (BAT1, M=6.08, STDEV=1.329), their ‘opinion of the J.League is very favourable’ (BAT2, M=5.84, STDEV=1.306), and they are ‘satisfied with what the J.League offers’ (BAT3, M=5.13, STDEV=1.472); all three items display low standard deviations indicating high agreement within the sample. These results may not be surprising, since fans and regular viewers of the J.League were targeted for this study.
Consumption intention (CI). Similar to the variable brand attitude, all three items addressing consumption intentions recorded high means indicating strong intentions to watching or keep watching the J.League in the future. Nevertheless, moderate standard deviation on all three items depicts certain disagreement within the sample. This means that some respondents have a moderate degree of intention to watch the J.League.
In summary, respondents perceive the J.League’s brand globalness rather moderately, although opinions differ substantially. Furthermore, the sample perceives the J.League to represent Japanese traits to a considerable degree. Global identity and connectedness of the survey’s respondents is moderately high and finds moderate disagreement within the sample. Similarly, perceived brand quality and prestige record a moderate-to-high mean, but on this variable, respondents mostly agree. Attitude towards the J.League brand and consumption intentions record among the highest means. This is rather unsurprising, since the targeted sample mainly comprises J.League fans and regular viewers.
Section 5: Influence of perceived brand globalness and localness on the intention of J.League viewers worldwide to watch J.League matches
This section analyses how perceived brand globalness and localness influence consumption intentions of J.League viewers worldwide, based upon statistical results computed through a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA); see Section 5.1. Recommendations on how to develop and strengthen the intention to watch the J.League are proposed in Section 5.2. A visual representation of the standardised regression coefficients (β) within the applied research framework is offered in Figure 4.
Section 5.1: Interpreting the CFA
As portrayed in Figure 4, perceived brand globalness has a strong and significant effect on perceived brand quality and prestige (H1, β=0.666, p<0.001); it also shows a moderate and significant effect on global identity and connectedness (H2, β=0.374, p<0.001), but has no significant direct effect on the intention to watch the J.League (H3). Similarly, perceived brand localness has a moderate and significant effect on perceived brand quality and prestige (H4, β=0.307, p<0.001) and global identity (H5, β=0.364, p<0.001), but fails to achieve significant direct effect on consumption intention (H6). The variable global identity and connectedness shows a moderately low, yet significant, influence on brand attitude (H7, β=0.268, p<0.001), but its influence on consumption intention is non-significant (H8). The effect of perceived brand quality and prestige on brand attitude is moderately strong and significant (H9, β=0.564, p<0.001), but no significant influence is found from quality and prestige on consumption intention (H10). Brand attitude, as the only main element in the model, records a significant and moderately strong effect on the intention to watch the J.League (H11, β=0.532, p<0.001).
Although no direct effects from perceived brand globalness (PBG) and localness (PBL) on consumption intention (CI) were found, significant indirect influence was found in both instances with β=0.319 (p<0.001) for PBG on CI and β=0.195 (p<0.001) for PBL on CI. This shows that globalness has a stronger influence on consumption intentions than localness.
The control variables ‘team affiliation’ (TEAM) and age (AGE) do not significantly contaminate the variables they were tested against. However, for the control variable ‘country of residence’ (LIV), significant but low contamination was found on brand attitude (H13b, β=0.187, p<0.001) and consumption intention (H13c, β=0.144, p<0.01). This means that the attitude towards the J.League brand is affected by were viewers live and so is the intention to watch the league. This may be due to factors such as accessibility of the J.League product, media coverage or lack thereof, etc.
Moderate-to-high squared multiple correlation scores (R2) recorded for this research (see Figure 4) suggest an acceptable predictability of the intention to watch the J.League indirectly being influenced by brand globalness and localness.
Section 5.2: Recommendations on how to improve the intention to consume the J.League product worldwide
As described in Section 5.1, the strongest significant path of influence leading to consumption intention is found from perceived brand globalness through perceived quality and prestige and brand attitude (indirect, β=0.319, p<0.001).
Perceived brand globalness. Given that respondents do not necessarily perceive the J.League as a global brand, dedicated information underlining the brand’s globalness should be offered to viewers and other people of interest. Communication channels with the greatest influence when conveying detailed information include websites and direct marketing channels, e.g. email, as well as social media to a moderate degree (Batra and Keller, 2016). One example is the presentation of oversees partners: The J.League presents its broadcasting partners on its website (see jleague.jp, 2021a), but does not offer detailed information on the extent to which the product is provided (product attributes) (see Figure 5). Offering an appropriate amount of value-adding information on the website, also, delivering such information through email (e.g. dedicated digital newsletters), as well as continuously on social media, can positively influence users’ cognition and strengthen a desired behaviour (Yocco, 2016). This means, the J.League could add product attributes to their website, i.e. what exactly is offered by the broadcasting partner in that specific region, such as number of matches shown, possibly which teams are shown most, or language of commentary, etc.; furthermore, highlighting the various functional and aesthetic benefits of a broadcast in a specific region through email communication, i.e. a newsletter, and via a series of social media posts can influence viewers’ rationale and emotions and, hence, increase the perception of J.League’s brand globalness (Kotler and Keller, 2012; Ryan, 2020).
Perceived brand quality. Aaker (1996) elaborates on reasons why perceived brand quality could vary from its actual quality:
(1) Previous image of poor quality could affect potential consumers. McCarville and Stinson (2014) suggest a direct connection between perceived ‘quality’ and ‘value’ of a product with acquisition value, including delivery and experience, and transaction value constituting perceived value. The perception of the current product quality and its value could be improved via dedicated marketing communications campaigns in respective geographical areas, highlighting product attributes J.League viewers can enjoy when tuning in (Kotler and Keller, 2012). Especially, establishing and communicating augmented product features could deliver functional and emotional value to the J.League’s target audience and strengthen their viewing intention (Kim, Kim and Choi, 2017). Augmented product features exceed a consumer’s expectation and help gain a competitive advantage over competing brands (Kotler and Keller, 2012).
(2) Another pitfall is the focus of a company on quality dimensions possibly considered unimportant by consumers. Perceived value, and therefore quality, can be enhanced by helping regular and prospective consumers find the features of the experience they seek (McCarville and Stinson, 2014). As reported in Section 4, respondents of this study approve of the way the league represents Japan. It can therefore be deduced that J.League viewers worldwide seek a football experience with a ‘Japanese personality’. That personality could be based upon brand personality traits tailored to the J.League, which, according to Aaker (1997), include sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness.
Sincerity refers to the effort put into the product and the degree to which viewers trust the J.League to offer the best possible experience (cf. Cleff et al., 2013). For the case at hand, trust can be built through corporate publicity, social media, and personal contact, which implies socialisation and community relations, or, in other words, offering the community something to talk about and conversate with them about it (Schwarz, Hunter, and LaFleur, 2013; Batra and Keller, 2016). It can be recommended to publish pieces of content that portray efforts the J.League undertakes to offer a high-quality product. This could include producing behind-the-scenes videos and other contents for social media, which can also enhance the league’s transnational popularity (Gilchrist and Wheaton, 2013).
Cliff et al. (2013) suggest that excitement refers to consumers looking forward to new products or, in the context of this study, the next matchweek. Continuously offering contents across different communication channels as build-up for matchdays, then during matchday in support of the ‘core product’ (the match), and after the last match is played, possibly a wrap-up, will support excitement and maintain momentum for the next matchday (cf. Newman et al., 2013). The J.League offers a variety of posts across its digital channels following the above recommendations. The Facebook post exhibited in Figure 6 was posted one day before the derby between F.C. Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale and introduces the rivalry with a 2-minute video of past matches with the aim to elicit emotions.
The tweets displayed in Figure 7 document the matchday with tweet 1 introducing the teams before the match, tweet 2 offering a glimpse of what is happening during the match, and tweet 3 summarising the happenings of the day.
Video-highlights of the match are shown on the J.League’s official International YouTube channel on the same day the core product was delivered (see Figure 8). This adds to a richer brand experience and augments the product, and further offers the opportunity for J.League viewers, who have missed the match or do not have access to J.League broadcasts, to absorb dedicated content (Pine and Gilmore, 1999).
Competence can be defined as the company’s ability in fulfilling a customer’s need or want (Aaker, 1997). Given that the sample of this study recorded a high mean and low standard deviation when asked if they are satisfied with what the J.League offers, it can be inferred that the league is competent when it comes to delivering the product to regular viewers and should continue with its efforts in that realm.
Ramaseshan and Tsao (2007) found a positive relationship between sophistication and perceived quality in regard to symbolic and experiential brand concepts and further noted that “sophisticated brands are often glamorous, as they possess a smooth, sleek, feminine charm” (p. 464). In reference to that claim, it is noteworthy that the J.League has had a large female fan base with teams such as Gamba Osaka recording 47.6% female fans and Consadole Sapporo 46.6% in 2013 (Facebook, 2013). This can be seen as adding a ‘feminine charm’ to the league’s experiential attributes. Furthermore, respondents of this study recorded a moderate-to-high degree of perceived prestige for the J.League, which can be considered a feature of sophistication, underlining the claim above. Although such attributes might not be clearly perceptible in a broadcast, the above-mentioned pieces of contents, and especially behind-the-scenes videos that focus on a balanced diversity of the fanbase, could depict the femininity of the audience and underline the brand’s sophistication. Nonetheless, the part on sophistication needs to be considered with caution, since no recent data on female fans of the J.League was found.
Aaker (1997) explains that ‘ruggedness brands’ are inclined to idealise strength and masculinity. The discussion above posited the J.League as rather elegant with a feminine charm, which is different from rugged. Hence, the same recommendation as for sophistication applies. Before closing the discussion on the J.League’s brand personality, further consideration may be given to research by Eisend and Stokburger-Sauer (2013), who found that sincerity and competence have the strongest influence on brand attitudes, hence, resources and efforts should be allocated accordingly. Moreover, the ‘Japanese brand personality’ notion elaborated on above can equally be applied in the context of ‘local icon’ in order to bolster the perceived localness of the J.League.
(3) Consumers often lack necessary information to be motivated to objectively assess the offered quality. Yocco (2016) explains that people are motivated by the opportunity to experience pleasure or avoid pain, increase hope and reduce fear, and by the desire of social acceptance and avoidance of social rejection. Thus, the J.League could establish an immersive experience with active participation of its worldwide audience (Pine and Gilmore, 1999). Similarly, Batra and Keller (2016) suggest to connect people and explain, “High consumption satisfaction should lead to brand repurchase behavior and loyalty” (p. 132). Building upon that, community managers of the J.League could incite and moderate conversations on social media channels with and among fans and followers on different topics around the J.League (in a tone of voice suitable to the Japanese personality discussed above) and strengthen parasocial interaction; this would then, through empathic interaction, deepen the relationship between the brand and its followers and among followers and lead to the perception of a pleasurable experience with the J.League while gathering information relevant to fans (Sanderson, 2011; Sutera, 2013).
Brand attitude comprises a cognitive and an affective component that motivates consumers to engage in a certain behaviour desired by a brand (Percy and Rossiter, 1992); in this case, the desired behaviour is for the target audience ‘to watch the J.League’. The cognitive component proposes that a conversation between the J.League and its viewers can be stimulated through positive surprise, intrigue, and exclusivity of its content (Schmitt, 1999; Rein et al., 2006), while conveying intellectual depth with expertise and accuracy (Goldsmith, 2013; Steen, 2018). This surprise-intrigue-exclusivity notion could be used to deliver breaking news, i.e. news unexpected by fans of the J.League, such as new player signings, partnerships, expansions, etc. Figure 9 shows how the J.League welcomes its first-ever Hong Kong player to the league. Such messages could be intensified and leveraged to become intriguing by including information that is otherwise not shared in a broader context.
The affective component seeks to create emotional connections between the brand and consumers, as well as among consumers, through conversations (Coleman, 2018). These conversations can establish and strengthen personal connections, which then positively influence brand identification with an inclination to engage in the desired behaviour (Rein et al., 2006). With this in mind, Yocco (2016) advises to conceptualise digital communication efforts that establish emotional heuristics and adds that a brand needs “to account for the emotions that facilitate and surround use of your product” (p. 59). An opportunity could be for the J.League to establish an emotional heuristic in the form of a recurring hashtag campaign revolving around specific communication that entertains and informs viewers in regard to the upcoming matchday or other relevant events. Rauschnabel, Sheldon, and Herzfeldt (2019) note that brands usually use functional hashtags and miss the opportunity to use more affective hashtags. Kim and Phua (2020) explain that empowerment hashtags, i.e. emotional hashtags, provide greater information value to social media users, incite more favourable attitudes toward marketing contents, and lead to stronger brand identification, as compared to brand name hashtags. Hence, the J.League could establish the use of an emotional hashtag, such as their slogan or similar, instead of simply using the functional #jleague. A simple but arguably effective example is offered by Major League Soccer (MLS), the professional men’s soccer league that represents soccer’s top-tier in the United States and Canada, with #MLSisBack (see Figure 10). The hashtag functionally aggregates social media contents relating to the start of a new season, but, at the same time, raises awareness about the new championship run and incites emotions. Motivations for viewers to use the hashtag could include trendgaging, i.e. being associated with popular conversations and trendy topics in one’s environment, and endorsing, i.e. supporting a brand because of personal interest (Rauschnabel et al., 2019).
The discussion above elaborated on the path from brand globalness to consumption intention. However, the J.League could also choose the second presented path, going from perceived brand localness through global identity and connectedness to brand attitude until reaching consumption intention (indirect, β=0.195, p<0.001). Yet, this localness-path demonstrates a lower effect on the intention to watch the J.League as compared to the globalness-path. In order to improve perceived brand localness of the J.League, recommendations proposed above in regard to ‘Japanese brand personality’ can be applied. Regarding global identity and connectedness, respondents of this study do not necessarily think that watching the J.League makes them feel ‘more global’ or ‘more globally connected’. Moreover, global connectedness is only moderately weak influenced by localness and only moderately weak affects brand attitude. Therefore, resources to improve global identity and connectedness of consumers should be allocated with caution. Nonetheless, if the variable needs to be improved, a ‘brand affinity’ approach can be applied, where the brand ‘thinks local and acts global’, which entails establishing a dedicated fan base through a distinct affective experience delivered to its worldwide viewers (Desbordes and Richelieu, 2012). Such an affective experience should be based upon strong emotions such as joy and pride (Schmitt, 1999). A possible implementation could be to encourage social-interactive engagement among social media followers of the brand by, for example, asking them to share results predictions on forthcoming matches or opinions after matchweek and moderate the resulting conversations. This would allow for both an absorbing and immersive co-creation of the brand experience by its community (Pine and Gilmore, 1999). In this instance, the goal for the J.League should be for its viewers to connect with the wider brand community and establish a stronger feeling of togetherness among fans and with the J.League brand (Yocco, 2016). Fostering relationships or even knowing others in the community more closely, possibly because of regular interactions, would strengthen participants’ social identity as members of the J.League’s global community (Vernuccio et al., 2015), hence, improving the global identity and connectedness of J.League viewers worldwide.
Section 6: Internal consistency and model fit
Internal consistency is acceptable-to-excellent with Cronbach’s Alpha (α) values above 0.7 for all scales. Composite reliability (CR) values measure above 0.7 and average variance extracted (AVE) above 0.5 except for QLP and BAT. However, given their good internal consistency and model fit, the scales can be accepted (Fornell and Larcker, 1981; Chen et al., 2013). Factor loadings of 0.6 or higher are recorded for most items. PBG3, QLP2, QLP3, and BAT2 recorded slightly below 0.6 and were accepted because of the satisfactory reliability of the scales. BAT3, however, loaded with only 0.384 and was therefore excluded from CFA. The model fit was measured with IBM AMOS 25, which calculated the following values: RMSEA = .073, CFI = .937, CMIN/DF = 2.502. The values indicate an acceptable-to-good model fit.
Section 7: Conclusion
The presented empirical research answers the research question, ‘How does perceived brand globalness and localness influence consumption intentions of J.League viewers worldwide?’ while analysing data collected from sample of 277 worldwide J.League viewers through an exploratory factor analysis and a confirmatory factor analysis. Only indirect effects were found from perceived brand globalness and localness to the intention to watch the J.League. The main path recommended for the J.League to consider, sees perceived brand globalness going through perceived brand quality and prestige to brand attitude until arriving at consumption intention; it is the stronger path of the two significant paths, and it recorded moderate influence (indirect, β=0.319, p<0.001). The path from perceived brand localness to global identity and connectedness to brand attitude to consumption intention is the weaker of the two and recorded moderately weak influence (indirect, β=0.195, p<0.001). Nevertheless, respondents perceive the J.League brand as ‘more local than global’, which can be used in a brand affinity approach, where a ‘Japanese brand personality’ is applied to improve brand quality and prestige, as well as global identity and connectedness. Brand attitude can be strengthened by delivering communicative contents focusing on positive surprise, intrigue, and exclusivity. Furthermore, personal connections among J.League viewers and the brand should be established through recurring conversations that positively influence brand identification. Figure 11 offers an overview of all hypotheses tested in this research and if they were accepted or rejected; see Figure 4 in Section 4 for a visualisation of the conceptual framework with β, p, and R2.
Limitations of the study include the considerably large group of male respondents (93.8%; see Figure 2). Since Japanese stadium attendance saw certain stadia recording female attendance up to 40-something percent, this sample does not reflect female views enough. Furthermore, a larger sample size (n=277) could deliver more precise findings. Another limitation is found in the relatively low AVE values for the scales QLP and BAT (see Figure 3).
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