Unexpected events and brand loyalty. The case of Crusaders Rugby Club
Prompted by the Christchurch mosque massacres of March 2019, considerable concern was expressed by society around the world, and New Zealand in particular, about anything that might provoke further attacks on Muslims. Consequently, the branding of the Crusaders rugby club in Christchurch came under scrutiny - and became the topic of this research. The research questions were: which brand elements of a sports team would have the greatest impact on attitude to that brand and consequently the brand loyalty; and how will time and an unexpected event change attitudes to a brand, especially the influence of brand elements? Although indications are that sports related brand elements should influence brand attitude and in turn positively influence brand loyalty, this has never been researched against the backdrop of an unexpected event. Adopting a post-positivist approach, a quantitative study was undertaken to answer the research questions. An anonymous online survey yielded 361 usable responses, of which 103 were from Crusaders fans. The analysis was conducted as two studies: (1) the whole participant group and (2) only the Crusaders fans. Study one provided demographic data and consumer views on sports brand elements influencing brand attitudes, either side of an unexpected event. For study two, factor analysis and structural equation modelling provided an indication of the hypothesized relationships between certain brand elements (name, logo, characters, pageantry) and past success on attitude to the brand and thence to brand loyalty. Findings indicate that before such an event, only name and characters exerted a positive influence on attitude towards the brand, whereas after the event, name, characters, logo and past success all exerted an influence on attitude. In neither situation did pageantry exert a significant influence on brand attitude. In both situations, attitude influenced brand loyalty positively. This study seeks to contribute empirical evidence for academics and practitioners alike, that supports the identification of relevant brand elements influencing brand attitudes and brand loyalty, in a sports setting. Since loyalty is longitudinal in nature, further unique temporally orientated insights into potential societal attitude shifts, are also contributed.