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How does the performance of a national football team impact on the external perception of a nation brand – part 7

This last post focuses on what influences perception and shows the importanc of awareness when dealing with perception. At the end of the post, you’ll find a summary of the key findings. The 6 previous posts can be found here:

The World Cup – the most important stage

Performance impact on nation brands

Victory or Style – differing degrees of importance

The individual is the strongest ambassador for a nation brand

Football as the mirror of a society’s structure

External and internal perception are intrinsically linked


The accuracy of perception depends on the observer

The external perception, in the opinion of the experts, is influenced by the knowledge, perception and stereotypes of the observer as well as by the structures and understanding of reality by the observed system.

For example, in Germany football is viewed far more as a science and the team’s coaching is built on scientific, measurable methods. In turn German football is viewed by external observers as well organised, reliable and in the mould of quality engineering.

Where Germans are all about statistics, Brazilians are considered to be all about dance, rhythm, movement and tempo adjustment, nevertheless their system is still highly organised and complex as is the Brazilian football team. In Brazil, however, football is seen as an art form and this internal reality is to a certain extent matched by the external perception of foreign observers.

The extent of the overlap and accuracy between the two depends on the observer’s technical knowledge of football, their general knowledge of the nation in question as well as their own cultural upbringing.

Perception influences policing

In Euro 2000 England fans were perceived as a symbol of fear by the police in Belgium (Reicher et al., 2004 – for more detail on references, click here). Interestingly, this led to the police behaving differently towards England (as well as German) supporters, in contrast to supporters that were perceived as more peaceful and potentially led to a vicious cycle of perceived aggression from both sides and ultimately conflict and violence:

This is also an important point why perception and influencing perception is crucial, in this case maybe even life-saving, and can lead to a vicious circle of perceived realities embedded in stereotypes that are difficult to change.

Two important principles

Psychological crowd behaviour underlines two important principles that run through this series and are core for nation building, branding and communication: Firstly, crowds (and therefore populations) are not in their nature homogenous, however they behave homogeneously when faced with an external attack (even a perceived one) on their values and beliefs. Secondly the importance of soft power:

“…public order policing has shifted from a focus on force to a focus on escalating force to a focus on negotiation – and moreover, on which appreciates the need to treat different sections of the crowd in different ways (Reicher, et al, 2004, p.565).

Creating positive awareness and external perception for a nation is desirable and can be positive as described above. It might even in the short term allow internal and external communities to turn a blind eye to problems, it nevertheless never eradicates them.

Ultimately, the creation of a strong and successful nation brand starts from within, otherwise discrepancy between internal and external perception as well as clear disconnection manifested in real life counteracts all positive external achievements, therefore will need to be solved for lasting impact and a truly holistic brand experience.

Conclusion

This was the last post of the series “how does the performance of a national football team impact the external perception of a nation brand”. Here’s a short summary of all the key findings

  • The performance of a national football team influences the external perception of a nation brand in relation to the degree of awareness, perceptions and knowledge that already exists in the mind of the audience.
  • The stronger these perceptions are, and the better well known a nation is, the less the performance of a national football team influences the external perception directly nevertheless slow gradual change can be achieved.
  • The lower the level of awareness, perception and knowledge that exists in the mind of the audience and therefore, the less well known a nation is, the higher the impact of the performance of a national football team on the external perception.
  • Participation in a football world cup, especially if repeated, can lead to lasting change for less well known nation states.
  • The World Cup will become even more important as a stage for nation branding, as media usage is expected to become more personalised and fragmented.
  • The building of a successful football culture becomes beneficial for any nation brand. It can be achieved on different levels: national football teams, famous football clubs and/or internationally renowned star players.
  • The more top players of a given nation play in the top international football clubs, the higher the impact on the external brand perception.
  • The combination of creative star players and a successful campaign of a national football team in a major tournament will lead to the highest impact on a nation brand.
  • As the structure of the society is mirrored on the pitch, it suggests that established traditional nation states will be the most successful footballing nations.
  • Postmodern states will continue to build on their success if they manage to integrate foreign talent which will be helped through their still significant reputation as a football power.
  • Increased heterogeneity and changed media consumption will put even more importance on the individual as a personalisation of the nation brand and on public diplomacy through interaction between citizens of different nations.
  • Star players are the anchor of a nation brand and can influence its perception by transferring their own values onto the values of the nation brand.
  • The citizen becomes an increasingly important actor in nation branding, which signifies that successful nation branding needs to be built on pride, ownership and voluntary participation.

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