Topics: Brand, Brand management, Branding Pages: 10 (7967 words) Published: October 25, 2014
Sport Management Review 17 (2014) 97–106

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Sport Management Review
journal homepage:

Branding athletes: Exploration and conceptualization of
athlete brand image
Akiko Arai a, Yong Jae Ko a,*, Stephen Ross b

University of Florida, United States
University of Minnesota, United States



Article history:
Received 21 December 2011
Received in revised form 26 April 2013
Accepted 27 April 2013
Available online 14 June 2013

In this study, the current issues of athlete brand management are discussed and the construct of athlete brand image is conceptualized. A conceptual model of athlete brand image (MABI) is developed incorporating three key dimensions: athletic performance, attractive appearance, and marketable lifestyle. These dimensions are defined by an athlete’s on-field characteristics, attractive external appearance, and off-field marketable attributes. This study contributes to the sport branding literature by providing the first comprehensive conceptual framework of athlete brand image and offering managerial implications for building and managing the brand image of individual athletes. ß 2013 Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Brand management
Brand image
Conceptual model

1. Introduction
Recently, many athletes have been expanding their influence beyond their sport by getting involved in a variety of social activities and businesses. In light of modern media culture, those athletes are considered ‘‘a social sign, carrying cultural meanings and ideological values, which express the intimacies of individual personality, inviting desire and identification; an emblem of national celebrity, founded on the body, fashion and personal style’’ (Gledhill, 1991, p. xiii). The concept of ‘athlete brand’ has emerged from their multi-functional and multi-platform nature. Athletes are considered not only as vehicles for advertisements or product endorsement, but also as cultural products that can be sold as ‘‘brands’’ (Gilchrist, 2005). In fact, there are numerous sport agencies currently in existence that provide a vast range of client level services. In this highly competitive industry, managing brands for athletes is becoming an essential task for agents (IBIS World Industry reports, 2008). For example, IMG, the world’s largest sport agency announced their mission statement as ‘‘Today, we help hundreds of elite athletes, coaches, industry executives and prestigious sports organizations maximize their earnings potential and build strong personal brands’’ (IMG, n.d.). The brand management for athletes has grown in importance because the concept of branding is well suited for athletes as products. Previous branding studies have documented positive consequences of successful branding such as: influencing the probability of brand choice, willingness to pay premium price, marketing communication effectiveness, and promotion of positive word of mouth (Aaker, 1996; Berry, 2000; Keller, 1993; Rein, Kotler, & Shields, 2006a). These benefits are also highly applicable to individual athletes, with well-branded athletes attaining price premiums on their salary, transfer fees, contract monies, and the ability to maintain fan support even when their performance has declined (Gladden & Funk, 2001). Well-branded athletes who carry symbolic messages can attract companies seeking effective endorsers. Furthermore, the

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 352 392 4042; fax: +1 352 392 7588. E-mail address: (Y.J. Ko).
1441-3523/$ – see front matter ß 2013 Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


A. Arai et al. / Sport Management Review 17 (2014) 97–106

established brand value of...

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