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Zlatan Ibrahimović and influencer marketing: How credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intentions of a football player’s social media fans and followers

The following empirical study seeks to understand the level and sort of influence that football star and celebrity athlete Zlatan Ibrahimović has on his social media fans and followers. A dedicated questionnaire was completed by a worldwide sample of 237 Zlatan Ibrahimović social media followers to assess how social attractiveness, physical attractiveness, and attitude homophily impact brand credibility and parasocial interaction, and how these then influence the intention to purchase products or services which he directly or indirectly promotes in his social media channels. This study contributes to the body of knowledge of influencer marketing of athletes by finding that credibility of the Zlatan Ibrahimović brand has a strong effect on the purchase intention of his social media followers and that credibility is strongly impacted by attitude homophily. A further main finding is that compared to brand credibility, parasocial interaction has a moderately weak influence on purchase intention of the given sample. Lastly, no significant relationships between the independent variables physical attractiveness and attitude homophily and the dependent variable parasocial interaction could be found.

The article is structured as follows: Section 1 introduces the research. Section 2 defines the conceptual framework. Section 3 describes the applied method and the sample. Section 4 analyses how respondents perceive Zlatan Ibrahimović as an influencer. The structural equation modeling in Section 5.1 offers the foundation necessary to elaborate on how brand credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intensions of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s social media followers. Section 5.2 then discusses possible social media efforts that can heighten brand credibility and parasocial interaction. Section 6 explains the internal consistency and model fit, and Section 7 concludes the research.

Section 1: Background to the research

Influencer marketing has become a vehicle of interest for marketing professionals and corporate managers since the advent of the social web because of its novelty and appeal to Internet-savvy target audiences (Glucksman, 2017). Although influencers are often considered a new phenomenon connected to the popularity of social media, seminal literature published at the beginning of the twenty-first century, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (2000), introduced the term ‘mavens’ to describe expert influencers in a pre-social media era. Similarly, Seth Godin described in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2008) how the Internet has eliminated barriers to communicate across borders, time zones, and cultures, and thus enabled people to easily form groups with like-minded others in order to exchange opinions, views, and interests around a topic they are particularly passionate about. A synthesis of the two perspectives, i.e. influencers or mavens persuading people in in-groups, which then influence each other, parallels the notion of the social identity theory established in the 1970s and 1980s by social psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner; it explains that individuals identify with others that share perceived similarities and, accordingly, a certain behaviour can be influenced by designing persuasive communication (Yocco, 2016). In a social media context, such persuasive communication is effective when fans and followers perceive the sender of a message (i.e. the influencer) to be credible and when there’s an adequate degree of parasocial interaction (Frederick et al., 2012). 

Influencer marketing could be defined as “the process of identifying, engaging and supporting individuals who create conversations with a brand’s customers” (Glucksman, 2017, p. 77). It can also be argued that, in its simplest form, an influencer is an endorser of a brand who “provides support and credibility to the driver brand’s claims” (Aaker, 1996, p. 245). Lee and Watkins (2016) assessed YouTube vloggers’ influence on consumer luxury brand perceptions and intentions, which included examining the influence of social and physical attractiveness, as well as attitude homophily on parasocial interaction. Based upon that, Sokolova and Kefi (2019) added the credibility aspect to the research model and investigated how the above-mentioned variables affect credibility and parasocial interaction of four beauty influencers in France, and how these then influence purchase intentions of their social media followers. 

A large social media following does not necessarily equate a large sales conversion, since factors such as attractiveness, trustworthiness, or attitude homophily of the influencer can have an effect on the purchase intention of social media users (Lee and Watkins, 2016). Nevertheless, given the popularity of athletes in different sports, like Cristiano Ronaldo in football (Gallagher, 2017), Roger Federer in tennis (Persoenlich.com, 2018), or Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather in boxing (Flemings, 2012), it becomes an arguably obvious move for athletes to offer their brand as a vehicle for influencer marketing to companies that want to reach specific social media audiences. Furthermore, given that the variables applied in the above-mentioned influencer marketing research are variables that can be found in the conceptual model to assess an athlete’s brand image (cf. Arai et al., 2014), it becomes legitimate to propose the model developed by Sokolova and Kefi (2019) to be applied in the context of a branded athlete, as is the case in this research.

An athlete that has shown considerable marketing involvement with various brands is Zlatan Ibrahimović, whose associations ranged from Nike apparel to car-manufacturer Volvo or from Microsoft’s gaming console Xbox to skincare cream Nivea (Murphy, 2019). Although he dropped out of the top 100 highest earning athletes in the world in 2019, Zlatan Ibrahimović ranked as the 7th highest earner on Instagram in 2019 with an annual average income of US$ 4 million from paid-posts (McCarthy, 2019). This underlines the interest of brands in partnering with Ibrahimović for influencer marketing and paying him for his efforts and reach. However, this also includes the football clubs that hire him to play for them. His status as an influencer may take a rather subliminal role since he is paid to play football and perform on the pitch instead of selling tickets or merchandise for the club over his social media. Yet, having Zlatan post about his current club wearing their official merchandise on his social media channels will reach his followers, earning his club additional reach, and, possibly, incite any kind of purchase. Thus, the question arises, ‘What influences his followers to act upon a desired behaviour and what kind of content can incite that behaviour?’ The aim of this research is to examine the variables relevant for the Zlatan Ibrahimović brand to incite purchase intentions with his social media followers. The research question for this study is consequently defined as: 

How does brand credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intensions of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s social media fans and followers?

Accordingly, recommendations on how to conceptualise and deliver digital media contents that lead to a certain desired behaviour will be offered based upon findings of this research in Section 5.

Section 2: Conceptual framework and hypotheses 

Sokolova and Kefi (2019) note that social attractiveness, physical attractiveness, and attitude homophily can affect credibility and parasocial interaction, which then may stimulate social media users to purchase a product or service promoted by an influencer. The variables applied in this study are defined as follows:

  • Social attractiveness refers to the degree of likability of the influencer; it can be a strong peripheral cue/external factor for decision-making (Sokolova and Kefi, 2019).
  • Physical attractiveness refers to the degree to which the influencer’s physical features are pleasing to observe (adapted from Patzer, 2012). Repeatedly encountering the influencer across media channels may lead to an increasing attraction to the influencer (Rubin and McHugh, 1987).
  • Attitude homophily means that the more social media users perceive similarities between their attitudes, beliefs or values and the influencer’s attitudes, beliefs or values, the more likely they will continue to interact with them (Lee and Watkins, 2016). 
  • Credibility refers to how trustworthy and reliable the source of the information, i.e. the influencer, is perceived by the recipients of the message, i.e. social media followers; information coming from peers on social media is considered more credible (Sokolova and Kefi, 2019). 
  • Parasocial interaction refers to the imagined, one-sided interpersonal relationship (or friendship) between social media users and a social media influencer they follow (Lee and Watkins, 2016). In the case at hand, it is the relationship social media users think to have with Zlatan Ibrahimović, who may only know a few of his followers, if at all. 
Figure 1: Conceptual framework – influence of credibility and parasocial interaction on purchase intentions 

Adapted from Sokolova and Kefi (2019), the seven hypotheses defined for this study are visualised in Figure 1 and defined as follows:

  • H1: The credibility of Zlatan Ibrahimović positively influences his followers’ intention to purchase a featured product.
  • H2: Parasocial interaction between Zlatan Ibrahimović and his followers is positively related to the user intention to purchase a featured product.
  • H3: Parasocial interaction between Zlatan Ibrahimović and his followers is positively related to his physical attractiveness.
  • H4: Parasocial interaction between Zlatan Ibrahimović and his followers is positively related to his social attractiveness.
  • H5: Parasocial interaction between Zlatan Ibrahimović and his followers is positively related to his attitude homophily.
  • H6: The credibility of Zlatan Ibrahimović is positively influenced by his physical attractiveness.
  • H7: The credibility of Zlatan Ibrahimović is positively influenced by his attitude homophily.

Section 3: Methodology and sample

The questionnaire developed by Sokolova and Kefi (2019) was adapted and applied for data collection (see Figure 3). The adapted questionnaire included 15 question-items and 3 additional questions on demography. The wording for the question-items for social attractiveness, physical attractiveness, attitude homophily, and parasocial interaction was kept as close as possible to the wording proposed by Sokolova and Kefi (2019); no items were added or removed. The credibility scale was proposed with five items, of which one was removed, in order to add an additional item to the purchase intention scale while keeping a 15-item questionnaire. A 7-point Likert-scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) was used to evaluate the items. Participation of Zlatan Ibrahimović fans and followers was requested through social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and data was collected from Saturday, 18 January 2020 to Monday, 20 January 2020.

237 social media users filled out the questionnaire, and all responses were accepted. 92.4% of respondents are male and 7.6% female. The largest two age-groups are 18 to 24-year-olds making up 45.6% of the respondents and 25 to 34-year-olds reaching 35.9%. The other age groups are considerably smaller. The breakdown of where respondents live is as follows: 43.5% live in Africa, 32.5% in Asia, 13.9% in Europe, and 6.8% in North America. The other regions are represented by less than eight people. It can be concluded that the collected data and the respective analysis tends to represent predominantly younger, male social media users from Africa, Asia, and Europe. A visualisation of the sample is offered in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Demography of the sample 

Section 4: How respondents perceive Zlatan Ibrahimović as an influencer 

An overview of the question-items including their mean, standard deviation (STDEV), and factor loading, as well as Cronbach’s Alpha (α), composite reliability (CR) and average variance extracted (AVE) are offered in Figure 3. The results with regard to mean and standard deviation will be explained in the following paragraph. The results on internal consistency and reliability will be addressed in Section 6. 

Attitude homophily. Respondents are neutral to the statements ‘Zlatan thinks like me’ (AH1, M=4.33, STDEV=2.233) and ‘He shares my values’ (AH2, M=4.35, STDEV=2.169), although both items record among the highest standard deviations, meaning that respondents have considerably different opinions in both regards. These results show that Zlatan’s social media followers do not necessarily think that Zlatan shares the same attitudes, beliefs, or values as they do. This may imply a lower degree of homophily between him and his followers, which may lead to lower brand credibility (Rogers and Bhowmik, 1970). Furthermore, if this is not improved, followers may discontinue to interact with his posts (Lee and Watkins, 2016), which would lead to lower social media engagement. Social attractiveness. When presented with the statement ‘I think Zlatan could be a friend of mine’ (SA1, M=4.86, STDEV=2.176), participants are neutral to it, but responses show again a high standard deviation. When asked if respondents ‘would like to have a friendly chat with Zlatan’ (SA2, M=5.90, STDEV=1.750), the majority would like to have that opportunity. This depicts Zlatan as a likable brand among his followers (cf. Sokolova and Kefi, 2019). Physical attractiveness. The statement ‘I find Zlatan very attractive physically’ recorded a high mean, but also a high standard deviation (PA1, M=5.14, STDEV=2.075), meaning that, generally, participants agree with it, but some participants are of a considerably different opinion. The second question in this factor asks participants, if they ‘think that Zlatan is a good-looking man’, which they agree more on than with the previous item (PA2, M=5.34, STDEV=1.901). Parasocial interaction. Respondents highly agree with the statements ‘I look forward to watching Zlatan’s videos or reading his posts and comments’ (PI1 M=5.87, STDEV=1.828) and ‘If Zlatan appeared on a social media account other than his own, I would watch that video or read that post’ (PI2, M=5.73, STDEV=1.753). Furthermore, both items respectively recorded a low standard deviation. This indicates that Zlatan’s social media followers are highly interested in his posts. Credibility. Respondents find ‘Zlatan trustworthy’ (CR1, M=5.27, STDEV=1.921) and they find him to be ‘a football expert’ (CR2, M=5.80, STDEV=1.700). They are rather neutral although with a tendency to agreeing with the statement ‘I think he cares about his followers’ (CR3, M=4.73, STDEV=2.130), although a high standard deviation depicts that respondents disagree amongst each other in that regard. Similarly, respondents rather agree with the statement that Zlatan ‘updates his social media regularly’ (CR4, M=4.72, STDEV=1.727), and a low standard deviation implies agreement among them. It can be argued that the Zlatan brand is seen as generally credible. Purchase intention. Respondents recorded a consistently high willingness and intention to purchase products promoted by Zlatan (PU1, M=5.05, STDEV=2.108; PU2, M=5.04, STDEV=2.097; PU3, M=5.16, STDEV=2.048), but a steadily high standard deviation across all three items relativizes the results. This means that followers are generally interested in acting upon the incited behaviour, where some may be more eager to do so and others less.  

Figure 3: Overview of question-items including mean, standard deviation, factor loading, Cronbach’s Alpha (α), composite reliability (CR) and average variance extracted (AVE)

Section 5: Effects of brand credibility and parasocial interaction on purchase intensions 

The following section discusses how brand credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intensions of Zlatan’s social media followers and offer recommendations on how to conceptualise and deliver contents to foster a desired behaviour. A visual representation of the standardised regression coefficients (β) within the conceptual model of this study is provided in Figure 4 and explained in the next paragraph. The visualisation of the structural equation modelling depicts the relationships between independent and dependent variables as hypothesised in section 2. Results of hypothesis testing note that all hypotheses are accepted except for H3 and H5, as portrayed Figure 4 and discussed in Section 5.1. The data was computed with IBM SPSS Amos 25.

Section 5.1: How does brand credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intensions of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s social media followers?

The structural equation modelling displayed in Figure 4 indicates that brand credibility has a positive, moderately strong and highly significant effect on purchase intentions of Zlatan’s followers (H1, β=0.59, p<0.001). Parasocial interaction, on the other hand, records a positive and weak, although highly significant effect on purchase intentions (H2, β=0.25 p<0.001). This means that Zlatan may have greater influence on his followers by posting content and messages that highlight his credibility, instead of building or fostering an interpersonal relationship with his followers, however illusory that relationship may be. These findings differ from findings of Sokolova and Kefi (2019), who recorded that their H1 and H2 were of similar strength, both moderately weak and highly significant (H1Sokolova and Kefi, β=0.4, p<0.001; H2Sokolova and Kefi, β=0.35, p<0.001). This could be attributed to the fact that Zlatan’s followers may value his credibility, which is mainly based upon his trustworthiness and expertise as a celebrity athlete (cf. Aaker, 1996), more than an illusory relationship, when it comes to product recommendations. 

Nonetheless, the variable parasocial interaction is influenced by Zlatan’s social attractiveness with a positive, moderately strong and significant effect (H4, β=0.66, p<0.05), whereas physical attractiveness (H3) and attitude homophily (H5) have no statistically significant effect with regard to this sample. Because of that, Zlatan may want to create and publish content that fosters a likeable image in order to build and nurture the imaginary and interpersonal connection his followers seek with him on social media (Lee and Watkins, 2016). Yet, in the case of Zlatan Ibrahimović, ‘likeable’ may be a misleading term, given that he is known for being outspoken person who often uses provocative rhetoric (cf. Smith, 2020). Therefore, ‘likeable’ may be considered in the context of the questionnaire items for social attractiveness, of which item SA2 found that respondents strongly agreed on wanting to have a friendly chat with Zlatan (see Figure 3). This finds support in research by Yesiloglu and Waśkiw (2021), who observed that, in regard to parasocial interaction on a social media site, ‘discussing a topic with like-minded’ was the most prominent motivation, even before the urge to connect with others. This may further explain the non-significant relationship between attitude homophily and parasocial interaction in the case at hand, which indicates that Zlatan’s followers may want to discuss topics around his persona (possibly including the products he endorses and promotes), but do not find enough interest in fostering a relationship with other users or Zlatan himself based on their attitudes, beliefs or values (cf. Sokolova and Kefi, 2019).

Unlike the parasocial interaction variable, Zlatan’s physical attractiveness (H6, β=0.41, p<0.001) and attitude homophily (H7, β=0.63, p<0.001) have a positive, strong and highly significant influence on his brand credibility. These findings parallel findings from Sokolova and Kefi (2019). Furthermore, Costello and Urbanska (2021) highlight that physical attractiveness isoften found to have a significant effect on credibility and communication effectiveness in an influencer marketing setting and add that “this could be due to the association between position and appearance as the current beauty standards require every well-known person to be attractive” (p. 183). As described in the previous section, respondents find Zlatan to be physically attractive and a good-looking man (see Figure 3), which, consequently, may enhance his credibility as an influencer when properly portrayed in his communication with his followers. Looking at attitude homophily, results recorded in Figure 3 describe that respondents are not necessarily of the opinion that ‘Zlatan thinks like them’ (AH1, M=4.33, STDEV=2.233) or that ‘he shares their values’ (AH2, M=4.35, STDEV=2.169), which would imply a low degree of homophily. Nevertheless, Nowak et al. (2009) found that, in regard to digital media visualisation, homophily is positively impacted by realism, where realism positively affects liking and liking positively affects homophily, which then positively influences credibility. Applied to this case, it can be deduced that social media users perceive the portrayal of Zlatan Ibrahimović as ‘real’, and it does not matter to them how authentic or possibly illusive the image of Zlatan or his social media content is. The high degree of communication effectiveness may be achieved, because Zlatan is considered a homophilious source, due to his authenticity and likeability, which lead to greater credibility (cf. Rogers and Bhowmik, 1970).

Figure 4: Standardised regression coefficients (β) –– credibility and parasocial interaction to influence purchase intention

Section 5.2: Social media content for greater brand credibility and parasocial interaction

With regard to the sample of this study and its respective statistical analysis, it can be argued that Zlatan Ibrahimović is successful in strengthening his brand credibility and parasocial interaction, which lead to desired behaviours (see Figure 4). 

Attitude homophily. The trail with the strongest influences between variable sees ‘attitude homophily influence credibility’ and ‘credibility influence purchase intention’. In order for brand credibility to strengthen, contents to be produced should be perceived as ‘real’, which will enhance attitude homophily (Nowak et al., 2009). Figure 5 depicts Zlatan warming up before a football match with exercises that can be considered of high difficulty (and require athletic expertise). The video captures a moment in Zlatan’s life that highlights the ‘reality of being Zlatan’ and shows that he values improving his skills, which may be beliefs his followers share with him. 

Figure 5: Instagram post showing ‘real moment’ (@iamzlatanibrahimovic, 2021a)

Physical attractiveness. Looking at a randomly selected overview of posts on Zlatan’s Instagram account from 18 June 2020 to 5 August 2020 (see Figure 6), it can be observed that his persona is portrayed in different situations. These include posts of Zlatan exercising at the seaside or indoors topless showing his trained body and what efforts he puts in to enhance his skills and expertise, or Zlatan on the pitch doing his job (i.e. playing football for a club), as well as Zlatan wearing business attire to promote a product. Hence, the random sample, chosen to highlight why the variable ‘physical attractiveness’ may influence Zlatan’s brand credibility, legitimises the argument that Zlatan Ibrahimović is a ‘well-rounded’ business man in the field of sports who ‘looks good’ in a formal as well as in an informal setting. Furthermore, these characteristics directly affect brand credibility (Aaker, 1996). 

Figure 6: Overview Instagram posts June-August 2020 (@iamzlatanibrahimovic, 2021b)

Brand credibility. The scale applied to assess brand credibility in this study asks Zlatan followers about how they perceive him in regard to trustworthiness, expertise, empathy, and consistency (Aaker, 1996; Costello and Urbanska, 2021); see Figure 3. Trustworthiness can be defined as the belief “that a brand will deliver what it has promised” (Kim et al., 2008, p. 102). It can be heightened when the brand image portrayed online is consistent with the brand image portrayed offline or through other media channels (Carlson and O’Cass, 2012). This hints towards an omnichannel communication approach to ensure the brand stories told and the brand image displayed are properly synthesised across channels (Payne et al., 2017). In the case of Zlatan, posts shared on his Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, as well as posts shared by others (i.e. earned media), portray a consistent image of Zlatan, hence, strengthening trustworthiness of the ‘Zlatan brand’. This is essential, because trustworthiness is found to be the most impactful element in the establishment of credibility in various studies (Costello and Urbanska, 2021). 

Although participants of this study agreed when asked if they think that Zlatan Ibrahimović is trustworthy (see Figure 3), his social media presence could be improved when looking at his Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter contents published from January 2020 to January 2021 by creating contents that depict the mostly positive impact that he has had on the football clubs he has played for (see Marshall, 2018; Diamond, 2020). This could be enhanced by continuously documenting his impact on the club, which, in regard to his current football club AC Milan, was done rather sporadically and subliminally. However, an example highlighting his trustworthiness as influencer is his involvement with Buddyfit, a virtual fitness platform that saw strong marketing efforts undertaken in Italy in 2020. Figure 7 shows Zlatan encouraging his followers to sign up on Buddyfit for the chance to train with him to ultimately be as fit as he is. Given his trustworthiness as a successful athlete, and his athletic abilities supporting that image, it can be argued that there is a trustworthy fit between Zlatan and Buddyfit. Furthermore, expertise can be said to play an essential role in this example, since it stands for the capability of delivering the promised product or service to customers (Kim et al., 2008), which it can be expected that Zlatan is capable of delivering, due to his expertise as a celebrity athlete. Moreover, effective celebrity endorsements, as in the case at hand, can positively influence purchase intentions when followers perceive the influencer as physically attractive and an expert in his professional field (Kim et al., 2020). 

Figure 7: Train with Zlatan at Buddyfit (@ibra_official, 2020)

Lastly, evoking a sense of empathy can inspire social media followers to engage in a desired behaviour (Quintana Ramos and Cownie, 2021). McCroskey and Teven (1999) define empathy as “one person’s identification with another person’s feelings” (p. 92) and add that it includes understanding and accepting someone else’s views as valid, even if the other person may not agree with those views. In the case of Zlatan Ibrahimović, the personality trait empathic may have to be adapted to confident, authoritative, or passionate, which are traits often encountered with successful influencers (Cornwell and Katz, 2021). For example, Figure 8 portrays a Facebook post in which Zlatan questions the rightful use of the Zlatan Ibrahimović brand image rights in EA Sports’ FIFA 21 video game (see Badenhausen, 2020). The exposure of the mentioned issue to millions of social media followers, indicates his passion about rightful image rights use and confidence in him being right about it. Consequently, Zlatan’s efforts may evoke empathic feelings with his followers, if they understand and accept his values and views. In order to achieve the acceptance of the ‘Zlatan brand values’ specifically for above-mentioned issue, social media efforts should consider creating content and communication around the brand value elements ‘quality [of the brand]’ (usefulness), ‘respect for others’ (social orientation), ‘freedom’ (hedonism), and ‘fairness’ (ethics) (Viot, 2011). This would intensify Zlatan’s brand identity and credibility, thus leading to a stronger connection with his fans and followers (An et al., 2019). 

Figure 8: Zlatan questions rightful use of his image rights by EA Sports (Facebook.com/ZlatanIbrahimovic, 2020)

Social attractiveness refers to how likeable an influencer, in this case Zlatan Ibrahimović, is to his followers (Sokolova and Kefi, 2019). As discussed in Section 5.1, ‘likeable’ may be the wrong characteristic to be used for the Zlatan Ibrahimović personage in regard to this study. Therefore, based upon findings of Yesiloglu and Waśkiw (2021), it may be more appropriate to consider Zlatan’s social attractiveness as the topic of interest around which his like-minded fans and followers converse. This could then establish and intensify a sense of belonging between members of the so-called ‘in-group’ including the main influencer (Yocco, 2016), thus, strengthening parasocial interaction through emotional intensity, devotion, and consolation (Frederick et al, 2012). This can be done through the creation of social media content that offers a consistent view into Zlatan’s professional life via continuous updates and engages his followers with specific posts or requests, thus co-creating the social media experience with them (Sanderson, 2011). 

Section 6: Internal consistency and model fit

The internal consistency of the scales, as represented by Cronbach’s Alpha (α), is good-to-excellent (αAH, PA, PI, CR, PU >0.8) except for the scale measuring social attractiveness (αSA=0.678). Nevertheless, all scales record composite reliability (CR) above 0.6 and average variance extracted (AVE) above 0.5, which indicates that the model can be considered reliable (Fornell and Larcker, 1981; Chen et al., 2013). All items, except for three, show a factor loading of 0.7 or higher, which is considered good. Items SA2, CR2, and CR4 are slightly below that value, but given the acceptable reliability of the scales these three items can be accepted. Structural equation modelling was applied to evaluate the model fit, through which the following values were computed: RMSEA = .076, GFI = .901, CFI = .955, AGFI = .852. RMSEA is slightly off the recommended maximum value of .06. All other indices are above the suggested thresholds. 

Section 7: Conclusion

This study examined the variables through which football star and influencer Zlatan Ibrahimović influences his social media fans and followers and answered the question, “How does brand credibility and parasocial interaction influence purchase intensions of Zlatan Ibrahimović’s social media fans and followers?” A worldwide sample of 237 social media users who follow Zlatan responded to a dedicated survey. The study found that brand credibility has a much stronger effect on purchase intention of the given sample than parasocial interaction. Furthermore, attitude homophily has a stronger effect on brand credibility than physical attractiveness. This leads to the conclusion that the brand experience on Zlatan’s social media should be based upon creating content and managing efforts around attitude homophily in connection with brand credibility. Although social attractiveness has a significant and strong effect on parasocial interaction, the influence that parasocial interaction has on purchase intension is rather low. Hence, resources and efforts are better allocated for strengthening brand credibility.

One limitation of this study refers to the sample being of limited size (n=237) and mainly including respondents from Asia, Africa, and Europe. North and South America, as well as Australia and Oceania are underrepresented. Furthermore, recommendations in Section 5.2 are based on available literature and critical observations, but lack background information of the Zlatan brand necessary for the appropriate conceptualisation and delivery of recommended efforts. 


  • Average Variance Extracted (AVE): A measure to assess construct validity (Fornell and Larcker, 1981)
  • Composite reliability (CR): A measure to assess construct validity (Fornell and Larcker, 1981)
  • Cronbach’s Alpha (α): A method for calculating the internal consistency of a questionnaire (Saunders et al., 2007, p. 374)
  • Factor loading: Correlation coefficient for the variable and factor (Statistics Solutions, 2021)
  • Mean: Average value calculated by adding the values of each case for a variable and dividing by the total number of cases (Saunders et al., 2007, p. 595)
  • Standard deviation (STDEV): Spread of data values around the mean (Saunders et al., 2007, p. 601)

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