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How does the performance of a national football team impact on the external perception of a nation brand?

As part of my MSc in Marketing, I wrote a dissertation about the topic “How does the performance of a national football team impact on the external perception of a nation brand?”. I know, nice topic, isn’t it – it has football in it, branding, politics and at the heart of it all are people. Well, as they say, when writing a dissertation choose a topic that will hold your interest and this one covers all my primary fields of interests, as anybody who has followed this blog will know already.

So, with 2010 being another World Cup year, I thought I’ll share the findings of my research with you. Even though I conducted it a couple of years ago, the findings are still as relevant now as they were then.

The research findings are based on me reading a stack of books, as well as mountains of academic research and interviewing active participants and experts (international football player, nation branding expert, government expert on nation branding, as well as a member of the coaching staff) and then amalgamating it all and analysing it. In case you’re interested in the methodology behind it all, here’s a detailed explanation of approach and technique.

I took the liberty to alter the structure and the style a little, make some minor adjustments and call some last minute audibles, just so that it lends itself better to this medium. Additionally, as it’s otherwise quite a long read, I broke it down into smaller parts and will publish it as a series. The purists of you can download it here M.Sc in Marketing – Dissertation and therefore experience a more academic style, but also discover the entire results before the last post has been published.

Now, let’s get started….

The World Cup – the most important stage

The World Cup is the best stage to make a lasting change to the perception of a nation. It’s so powerful. It’s one of the few times when billions of people watch the same event at the same time, when entire nations gathering in social groups and watch the drama unravel live on television, unleashing emotions in real time instead of a personalised media experience. So even just participating in the World Cup has an incredible impact, especially for smaller nations. Buying this kind of intense media coverage is impossible.  This media coverage in turn establishes perceptions about nations, which will be thrust upon the team and can be noticed through an increase in engagement and communication referring to the attributes and attitudes that are perceived as typical to that nation and its football team.

Media fragmentation augments the importance of the World Cup

As I have written in “TV is dead. Long live TV!”, event TV will become increasingly important, as we will not only see more channel fragmentation but also viewing time fragmentation. It increases the importance of participating in the World Cup from a nation branding perspective, as it’s one of the few times when the majority of the world population watches the same programme at the same time, creating the outburst of collective emotions and the establishing of collective stereotypes and perceptions.

The higher impact for lesser known nations is mainly due to the surprise factor, as perceptions or stereotypes have not yet been firmly established. In the future, however, the possibility of surprise will diminish, as new and different media consumption will lead to better access to information about all nations. Having better access, however, does not necessarily translate into improved knowledge and it could be argued that the fragmentation of the media, the increasing importance of entertainment and the change in media consumption will lead to lower knowledge and so greater inaccuracy or unawareness of the perceptions and expectations of nations. That again augments the importance of the World Cup even further in importance for any kind of nation branding activity.

The second part, published on Wednesday, will discuss the impact of performance on less well known nations versus established nations. Subsequent posts will cover topics such as the importance of victory over style, the individual footballer as the brand ambassador and how to establish a successful football culture. Stay tuned.

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