The following study examines the influence of brand cohesiveness and team identification on the fit of co-branding between the French football club Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (PSG) and the Nike-owned Jordan Brand, an American sportswear and apparel brand. This article further investigates the effect of co-branding fit on attitude towards the Jordan Brand and the intentions to purchase Jordan-branded products. Quantitative data were collected from 232 social media users worldwide, who either follow PSG, the Jordan Brand, or engaged with the hashtag #PSGxJordan. The hypothesised relationships were tested through a confirmatory factor analysis. The research found that, in regard to the surveyed sample, brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand has a stronger positive influence on the fit of co-branding compared to team identification with PSG. Furthermore, the study found that their co-branding fit has a moderately strong and positive effect on consumers’ attitude toward the Jordan Brand, and, ultimately, that attitude has a very strong positive effect on the intentions to purchase Jordan-branded merchandise. The article offers recommendations on co-branding strategies based upon managing core or extended product complementarity and entering existing or new target markets with a co-branded partnership. The ‘reaching beyond’ strategy is considered the most appropriate for the given partnership.
1. Becoming ‘PSG x Jordan’
1.1 Co-branding defined
Co-branding can be viewed from different perspectives. Thus, it may be argued that there is no universally established definition on what constitutes co-branding. Blackett and Russell (1999) offer a brand-focused perspective and define co-branding as “a form of co-operation between two or more brands with significant customer recognition, in which all the participants’ brand names are retained” (p. 8). Viewed from a product-focused perspective, co-branding can be defined as the involvement of two (or more) brands to create a single product (Leuthesser, Kohli and Suri, 2003). Such a partnership can foster promising opportunities in new markets on the basis of geography or demography (Motion, Leitch and Brodie, 2003), as well as in a different product class (Aaker, 1996), while both brands could benefit from a transfer of brand image and brand associations (Richelieu, 2012).
The alignment of the partnering brands’ core values and the proper management of additional values provide the foundation of co-branding efforts and shall be unmistakably communicated as the co-brand promise (Motion et al., 2003). This would entail communicating “the principles that uphold the meaning or culture of the sports brand” (Rein, Kotler and Shields, 2006, p. 135), i.e. brand values, and the “core values that sum up what the brand stands for” (Urde, 2013, p. 754), i.e. brand promise. In order to find a fitting co-branding partner, a thorough assessment of a potential co-brand’s contribution to the brand value should be undertaken (Jones, 2017).
1.2 PSG x Jordan
The partnership between PSG and the Nike-owned Jordan Brand was officially introduced to the public in 2018, as an expansion of PSG’s kit partnership with Nike (PSG, 2018). It would first run for three years (Long, 2018) and would later be extended to a fourth year (Davey, 2021). The Jordan Brand reportedly paid EUR 200 million for the first three years of the deal to supply the PSG jerseys worn in the UEFA Champions League and an additional EUR 67 million for the extension of the deal into a fourth year, in which the Jordan Brand would be featured on the PSG home jersey (Footy Headlines, 2021), in addition to other sportswear and urban apparel.
According to Larry Miller, CEO of the Jordan Brand, Nike executives saw great potential for reaching new audiences and new geographical areas by partnering with the Parisian club (PSG, 2018). Similarly, PSG saw great potential for the partnership, specifically, for expanding into new markets and demographics, such as North America, where Nike recorded their highest revenue, i.e. USD 15.2 billion in 2017, compared to USD 7.97 billion in Europe, Middle East and Africa in 2017; a similar ratio would apply for the years 2018 to 2021 (Statista, 2021). The United States would become the PSG’s second largest market with a share of 11% by 2021 (Dixon, 2021).
The football club’s strategy, which was initiated in 2011, aims to establish PSG as a global lifestyle brand that goes beyond football and seeks to cement its identity as a pop culture icon; this strategy supports the fit of the partnership (Athletic Interest, 2020). Furthermore, the brand image of PSG, based upon beauty, elegance, it’s hometown of Paris being the fashion-capital of the world, the geographical diversity of its players that are presented as marketing tools, and the alliance of these attributes (Chanavat and Desbordes, 2017), may strengthen the suitable fit between PSG and the Jordan Brand.
Although the partnership could be described as a simple kit sponsorship deal, where the apparel company, i.e. the Jordan Brand, pays a certain sum to the football club, i.e. PSG, for access to their audience (Fullerton, 2010), the combination of the two brands brings a significant degree of complexity to the partnership: The Jordan Brand is synonymous with the sport of basketball due to Michael Jordan’s popularity as an icon of the sports, and it embraces and fosters the American urban culture (Stoute, 2011). PSG, on the other hand, emphasises the obvious connection to football and highlights its heritage by proudly displaying its fashionable French elegance through its brand attributes (Athletic Interest, 2020). Yet, brand attributes that can be found in both brands include their deep roots in a specific sport, as well as in a particular culture and lifestyle. Furthermore, it can be argued that both brands share the values ‘winning’ and ‘sports elitism’ (Uggla, 2005).
The discussion above elaborates on opportunities and challenges the Jordan Brand and PSG partnership could face and questions the appropriateness of their co-branding involvement. Therefore, the leading question for this research is defined as follows:
How do brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand and team identification with PSG influence the co-branding fit between Paris Saint-Germain and the Jordan Brand and what is the resulting influence on attitude toward the Jordan Brand and the intention to purchase Jordan-branded products?
Figure 1 exhibits the individual logos of the Jordan Brand and PSG and the combined logo of the partnership.
2. From co-branding fit and the respective attitude to purchase intentions
In order to answer the research question defined above, the conceptual model depicted in Figure 2 will be applied. The model was adopted from Gwinner and Bennett (2008) with items adapted where necessary to fit the context of this study. Section 2.1 elaborates on the theoretical foundation of the variables that may influence the co-branding fit between PSG and the Jordan Brand, and section 2.2 reviews the theory that legitimises the examination of the relationships between the above-mentioned co-branding fit, the attitude towards the Jordan Brand, and its effect on the intention to buy Jordan-branded products. The hypothesised effects are displayed in Figure 2.
2.1 The relationships between co-branding fit, brand cohesiveness, and team identification
Simmons and Becker-Olsen (2006) argue that the fit between partnering brands “is high when the two are perceived as congruent (i.e. as going together), whether that congruity is derived from mission, products, markets, technologies, attributes, brand concepts, or any other key association” (p. 155); they then define co-branding as the degree to which the partnering brands are perceived as fitting each other’s image without the external influence of marketing communications crafting the aimed fit. With the right fit, co-brands “can create a point of differentiation” through their brand associations (Aaker, 1996, p. 300). This, however, requires an evident connection between both brands, which, then, can result in an effective transfer of brand image from one brand to the other (Fetchko, Roy and Clow, 2018). In the case at hand, and in other sponsorship and co-branding cases, a probable question arising at the beginning of such an effort is: ‘How do the partnering brands, i.e. PSG and Jordan, fit together?’ This perceived fit can be assessed by asking the following questions: ‘Do the partnering brands fit together well?’, ‘Do the brands have many similarities?’, ‘Does it make sense that the brands partner up?’, and ‘Is the image of brand A consistent with the image of brand B?’ The co-branding fit in this study can be influenced by the perceived brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand and by the team identification with PSG; see Figure 2.
Gwinner and Bennett (2008, p. 413) define brand cohesiveness as “a measure of internal brand congruence” and add that “brands that have developed nonambiguous meanings are more cohesive than those brands whose meanings are more diffused”. Such brand cohesiveness also presents a temporal perspective that expects brand messages to be consistent and brand attributes to be stable over time (Erdem and Swait, 1998). This study adapted items used by Erdem and Swait (1998) and examined the brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand by asking participants, if they ‘have a clear image of the brand’, ‘believe its brand image has been consistent for years’, and if they ‘think the brand doesn’t pretend to be something it is not’. Resulting from the discourse above the following hypothesis is proposed:
H1: High perceptions of brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand result in higher perceptions of co-branding fit with the PSG brand.
Team identification can be defined as “the extent to which individuals perceive themselves as fans of the team, are involved with the team, are concerned with the team’s performance, and view the team as a representation of themselves” (Branscombe and Wann, 1992, p. 1017). Based upon the social influence experienced by fans of a sports team, it can be contended that the in-group bias might bolster the same sentiments towards the co-branding fit as the sentiments from other fans (Chih-Hung Wang et al., 2012; Yocco, 2016). Furthermore, fans of a sports club express different degrees of commitment with a partner brand of the club, which results in different levels of attention towards that brand; consequently, fans with high involvement may be more sensitive to how a partner brand or sponsor appears in combination with ‘their’ club and react accordingly (Dees, Bennett and Villegas, 2008). The identification with PSG was examined with the following questions adopted from Wann and Branscombe (1993): ‘How important is it to you that PSG wins?’, ‘How strongly do you see yourself as a fan of PSG?’, ‘How strongly do your friends see you as a fan of PSG?’, ‘During the season, how closely do you follow PSG via any media?’, and ‘How important is being a fan of PSG to you?’ This leads to the following hypothesis:
H2: Higher levels of identification with the PSG club will result in higher perceptions of co-branding fit.
2.2 Attitude towards the presented co-branding efforts and the intention to purchase Jordan-branded merchandise
According to Fishbein and Ajzen (1975, p. 6), attitude is “a learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favorable manner with respect to a given object”. This study investigates the attitude towards the co-branding efforts of PSG and Jordan by asking participants, if they ‘think favourably of the Jordan brand,’ if ‘it is (would be) nice to wear Jordan shoes or clothes’, and if they ‘like the Jordan brand’. Leuthesser et al. (2003) explain that attitudes towards a partnership between two (or more) brands can be impacted by the perceived fit of the co-branding effort. Thus, the third hypothesis is defined as:
H3: Higher perceptions of co-branding fit results in a more positive attitude toward the Jordan brand.
In regard to purchase intentions, it has been debated that consumers and fans might question the motivation of a brand to entertain a specific partnership with another brand, which can affect the purchase intention towards the partner brand’s products (Gwinner and Bennett, 2008). Applied to this study, it means questioning the motivation of the Jordan Brand to partner with PSG. Moreover, Zaharia et al. (2016, p. 163-164) argue that “a key premise of the attitude-behavior relationship framework is that a positive attitude toward a product leads to increased consumption, and a negative or nonattitude leads to decreased consumption or non-consumption” and propose the following items to investigate purchase intentions (adapted to the context of this study): “I would buy Jordan products”, “Next time I need to buy clothes or shoes of this type, I would consider buying Jordan”, and “I will be more likely to buy sportswear for exercising or leisure made by Jordan over its competitors”. The premise discussed above suggests the following hypothesis:
H4: A positive attitude toward the Jordan Brand results in higher purchase intentions of Jordan-branded merchandise.
A visual representation of the above-mentioned hypotheses is offered in Figure 2. The conceptual framework includes two further hypotheses not discussed above. The relationships H5 and H6 were included in the statistical assessment of this research in order to improve the RMSEA measure by expanding the given model with additional paths (Kenny, Kaniskan and McCoach, 2015).
3. Respondents of this study
Data for this research was gathered via a self-administered online questionnaire and by applying a positivist research philosophy. The questionnaire included 18 items adapted from Wann and Branscombe (1993), Erdem and Swait (1998), Gwinner and Bennett (2008), Mazodier and Merunka (2012), and Zaharia et al. (2016), as well as 3 further questions on respondents’ demographics; see Figure 4. The items were assessed with a 7-point Likert-scale ranging from 1 (Disagree very strongly / Not important / Not at all a fan / Never) to 7 (agree very strongly / Very important / Very much a fan / Every day). Social media users, who either follow PSG, the Jordan Brand, or engaged with the hashtag #PSGxJordan, were asked to complete the questionnaire via posts published on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn in January and February 2021. 232 people filled out the questionnaire, of which all questionnaires were valid and could be accepted.
Figure 3 provides an overview of the responding sample. The study recorded a participation of 95.3% male and 4.7% female respondents. An even distribution across the relevant age groups for this research is shown with, the largest age group, 35 to 44-year-olds counting 32.3% of the sample, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds with 28.9%, and 18 to 24-year-olds reaching 23.3%. Although 26.7% of the respondents are located in South Africa, the research shows an even distribution across different continental regions worldwide.
In summary, the sample of this study can be considered to mainly represent the views of a rather younger, global, and male audience.
4. Analysis of the ‘PSG x Jordan’ collaboration
The following section analyses the collected data. Section 4.1 elaborates on how respondents of this study perceive the PSG x Jordan partnership based upon the question-items presented in Figure 4. Section 4.2 assesses the hypotheses defined in section 2, namely how brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand and team identification with PSG influence their co-branding fit, and how the PSG x Jordan co-branding fit affects the attitude towards the Jordan Brand and how that attitude affects purchase intentions of Jordan-branded merchandise. The hypotheses were tested through a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) in IBM SPSS Amos 25. The results are illustrated in Figure 5. Section 4.3 addresses how well the model fits the data gathered from the surveyed sample.
4.1 How is the PSG x Jordan partnership perceived?
In regard to the observed brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand, respondents highly agree with the presented three items: They have a clear image of the brand (BCO1, M=6.49, STDEV=1.097), believe its image has been consistent for years (BCO2, M=6.42, STDEV=1.042), and think the brand stays true to itself (BCO3, M=6.01, STDEV=1.455). These results correspond with the reported commercial success of the Jordan Brand (Coffey and Badenhausen, 2021) and the continuous cultural impact on different target groups (Stoute, 2011).
Results from the team identification scale display less agreement within the sample. All five items illustrate a rather neutral identification with PSG with mean-values ranging from 3.84 (TID5) to 4.54 (TID1). All team identification items show the highest standard deviation among the entire model, from 2.077 (TID4) to 2.346 (TID5), explaining a general disagreement within participants of the study. This can be attributed to different levels of attachment (or even no attachment) to PSG by the responding sample, since PSG fans and non-fans were asked to participate; see section 3. Also, different levels of attachment to a club can be found within fans of that club (Fullerton, 2010).
The values recorded for the co-branding fit between PSG and Jordan express overall moderate agreement; although, strong agreement is found in that respondents think that the Jordan Brand and PSG fit together well (FIT1, M=5.85, STDEV=1.681). A moderately low standard deviation explains that respondents rather agree with each other in that regard. Respondents think that the brands have some similarities (FIT2, M=4.95, STDEV=1.967) and that their brand images are mostly consistent with each other (FIT4, M=5.03, STDEV=1.983). Still, the high standard deviation for both items describes disagreement within the sample. Similarly, participants think it makes sense for Jordan to sponsor PSG (FIT3, M=5.41, STDEV=1.911), but, again, a high standard deviation shows that opinions in this regard differ considerably.
Similar to the perceived brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand, the attitude towards the Jordan Brand recorded high agreement for all three items and among the lowest standard deviation. Respondents of this study think favourably of the Jordan Brand (ATT1, M=6.28, STDEV=1.189), think it is (or would be) nice to wear Jordan clothes or shoes (ATT2, M=6.25, STDEV=1.332), and simply like the brand (ATT3, M=6.30, STDEV=1.287). This also reflects the brand’s continuous growth and recent commercial success indirectly (Statista, 2021; Coffey and Badenhausen, 2021).
Finally, data on purchase intentions indicates that respondents are inclined to buy the brand’s products (PI1, M=6.09, STDEV=1.477), would consider buying them next time they need this type of goods (PI2, M=5.76, STDEV=1.670), and are more likely to choose Jordan over its competitors (PI3, M=5.39, STDEV=1.881). Nevertheless, moderate to rather high standard deviation across the three items shows a certain amount of disagreement within the sample. This could be attributed to predefined loyalty towards a sportswear brand not associated with PSG. Still, based upon the strong, favourable attitude towards the Jordan Brand, as described in the previous paragraph, the opportunity to bolster purchase intentions presents itself. This is supported by Childs, Hardin, and Koo (2019), who found evidence that attitude towards a sportswear brand influences the intention to purchase its products.
4.2 How does brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand and team identification with PSG influence their co-branding fit, and how does the ‘PSG x Jordan’ fit influence the attitude towards the Jordan Brand and the purchase intentions for its merchandise?
As displayed in Figure 5, the brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand has a significant, positive, and moderately strong effect on the co-branding fit with the PSG brand (H1, β1=0.412, p<0.001). The perception that the Jordan Brand has been clear and consistent with its values, image and the respective communication, positively influences how fans and consumers appraise the partnership. With reference to the recorded high mean-values and low standard deviations for the three BCO-items (see Figure 4), it can be inferred that partnering up with the Jordan Brand is perceived as a very good move for the Parisian football club.
Similarly, the CFA discloses that team identification with PSG has a significant, positive, and moderately strong impact on the co-branding fit with the Jordan Brand (H2, β2=0.362, p<0.001). Compared with brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand, identification with PSG has a weaker influence on their co-branding fit, although not considerably (compare β1=0.412 and β2=0.362). Yet, in the case at hand, the ‘PSGxJordan’ co-brand is more affected by how fans and consumers perceive the image consistency of the sponsoring Jordan Brand than on their identification with the club. In other words, a sports organisation, i.e. PSG, needs to first assess how its fans perceive a potential corporate partner/sponsor, i.e. the Jordan Brand, before dissecting how different fan segments, e.g. care-free fans, expressive fans, or highly committed fans (see Stewart, Smith, and Nicholson, 2003), may welcome the partnership.
The H3 relationship presented in Figure 5 reveals that the co-branding fit of PSG x Jordan has a significant, positive, and strong influence on the attitude of the sample towards the Jordan Brand (H3, β3=0.583, p<0.001). Given that respondents of this research expressed a rather positive perception of the PSG x Jordan partnership (see FIT-items in Figure 4), a stronger positive attitude toward the Jordan brand is nurtured. In order to maintain or improve the positive attitude, a certain brand experience needs to be offered by the brands (Percy and Rossiter, 1992). This could include delivering surprising, intriguing, and exclusive information to the target audience (Schmitt, 1999; Batra and Keller, 2016), as well as establishing affective connections through conversations (Coleman, 2018).
The final relationship in the hypothesised path, H4, indicates a significant, positive, and very strong effect on intentions to buy Jordan items (H4, β4=0.956, p<0.001). Herewith, the positive sentiments recorded for the attitude toward the Jordan Brand (see Figure 4) result in a stronger intention to purchase Jordan-branded merchandise. Media reports on high volumes of PSG x Jordan items sold support this finding (Carp, 2019; Marmonier, 2019).
Hypotheses H5 and H6 were not evaluated by Gwinner and Bennett (2008) and were solely included in this study’s statistical assessment to circumvent software problems that affect the goodness of fit for the gathered data (Kenny, Kaniskan and McCoach, 2015). Nevertheless, in order to keep the study complete, here a brief elaboration on H5 and H6: Brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand and team identification with PSG are found to have no significant, direct effect onto purchase intentions of Jordan-branded merchandise. Figure 5 demonstrates that the path leads through co-branding fit and attitude towards the co-brand, meaning, fans and consumers do evaluate how well PSG and Jordan fit together and form or alter their attitude towards the co-brand in order to decide on purchasing respective items.
4.3 How well does the model fit the data?
The gathered data infers moderate-to-high squared multiple correlation scores (R2) (see Figure 5); hence, an acceptable predictability of purchase intentions for Jordan products is given, which is indirectly affected by the analysed ‘PSG x Jordan’ co-branding fit (cf. Falk and Miller, 1992). The four discussed hypotheses, H1 to H4, mirror findings from Gwinner and Bennett (2008) in a similar sponsorship setting in sports marketing, and therefore support the legitimacy of these findings. Internal consistency of the applied scales is considered acceptable-to-excellent given that all Cronbach’s Alpha (α) values are above the suggested 0.7 (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2007); see Figure 4. Similarly, composite reliability (CR) values fall above the suggested 0.6 and average variance extracted (AVE) above the suggested 0.5, except for BCO (AVE=.430). Nevertheless, BCO displays acceptable internal consistency (α=.730), and the model fit overall is good, all scales can therefore be accepted (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). All items recorded factor loadings above 0.5. Nonetheless, item PI3 raised issues and was excluded from CFA. The model fit was assessed with IBM SPSS Amos 25 and computed the following measures: CMIN/DF=2.391, RMSEA=.070, CFI=.958, NFI=.930, TLI=.948, GFI=.881. The model fit values imply an acceptable-to-excellent model fit.
5. Recommendations on co-branding strategies for ‘PSG x Jordan’
The following section offers recommendations on the data reported and analysed in section 4. These recommendations are based upon co-branding strategies proposed by Leuthesser et al. (2003) and explain how brands could introduce core or extended product complementarity or enter existing or new target markets with an adequate partner to establish a successful partnership; see Figure 6. The offered recommendations are non-exhaustive; they serve as examples on how to approach the respective strategy and build further steps upon it.
5.1 Reaching in
The ‘reaching in’ strategy seeks to widen the brand’s existing market share through core product complementarity. This means that brands like PSG or Jordan would partner with a brand that sells the same products (i.e. core product complementarity), hence, a potential competitor. In general consumer markets, this strategy bears the danger that current customers may start preferring the co-brand, since it is a direct competitor. This does not directly apply to the case at hand, since PSG is mainly known as a football club and the Jordan Brand as a basketball and urban clothing brand. Yet, it could be argued that both brands aspire to establish themselves as a global lifestyle brand, which leads them to compete for consumers attracted to apparel of such brands, therefore, same product types. Yet again, based on the rather positive sentiments towards the co-branding fit of the ‘PSG x Jordan’ partnership, as discussed in section 4, becoming a functional ‘branded ingredient’ within the respective co-brand, increases visibility and credibility (Aaker, 1996; Ferrand and McCarthy, 2008). Hence, the core product complementarity becomes the fashionable co-branded merchandise, which is sold by both brands in their respective stores, online and offline, or even by third-party retailers.
An example is provided in Figure 7. The Jordan Brand website on Nike.com introduces the ‘Jordan x Paris Saint-Germain Collection’ before any other item. The PSG brand is the ingredient brand in this scenario and benefits from the introduction to Jordan consumers. Both brands benefit from brand image and associations transfer (Fetchko et al, 2018), where the Jordan Brand becomes connected with Parisian beauty and elegance (Chanavat and Desbordes, 2017) and PSG related with urban culture (Stoute, 2011).
Figure 8 shows the opposite perspective, where PSG introduces the new co-branded merchandise to their fans. In both cases the communication could include more objective and balanced information on the co-branded efforts (Leuthesser et al., 2003), since websites are effective communication channels when conveying detailed information to consumers (Batra and Keller, 2016).
A further example is offered in Figure 9. PSG communicated the launch of their then-new Jordan x PSG collection through the displayed email. Email marketing is one of the most effective communication vehicles to deliver customised and detailed information to consumers that have already shown their interest in the brand’s products and given permission to be marketed to (Godin, 1999; Batra and Keller, 2016). It can be assumed that the email in Figure 9 was customised according to the recipient’s profile. Further customisation could ensure more accurate promotion according to demographics, geographic, geodemographics, psychographics, and further behaviours (Pickton and Broderick, 2005).
5.2 Reaching out
With the ‘reaching out’ strategy, the brand aims to enter a new market through core product complementarity, for which the choice of a co-brand would fall onto a partner that has an established presence in a market the brand seeks to access. Richelieu (2012) suggests a ‘Conquistador strategy’ to unify brands across markets, where the ‘foreign’ brand benefits from a springboard to enter one or more new markets through image transfer and brand association with a ‘local’ brand. For the brands of this study that means that PSG could seek to strengthen the North American and urban apparel market in which the Jordan Brand has a strong presence and established image (Stoute, 2011; Dixon, 2021). For the Jordan Brand, on the other hand, it means to gain access to the fashionable European market, a stronghold of PSG (Athletic Interest, 2020).
Figure 10 offers two examples of how PSG seeks to associate itself with basketball, a main attribute of the Jordan Brand. The retro Air Jordan’s represent American sports culture and stand as a legacy of the Jordan Brand (Stoute, 2011). Similarly, the PSG basketball jersey, with PSG logo and brand colours, connects the European football club to a different sports culture. The same applies vice-versa with the Jordan Brand branding itself with the logo and colours of a European football club, i.e. PSG.
5.3 Reaching up
The ‘reaching up’ strategy intends to expand the brand’s existing market through extended product complementarity. This involves intensifying the brand image through the co-brand’s positive brand associations instead of focusing on product traits (Ferrand and McCarthy, 2008). Similar to the ‘reaching in’ strategy, information about the co-brand shall be shared through appropriate communication channels, e.g. website and email newsletter, highlighting both brands’ values and transfer brand associations from one brand to the other (Washburn, Till, and Priluck, 2000). Different from ‘reaching in’, extended product complementarity is sought. Hence, the partner brand shall provide a service or product that is not a game of football. In the case of a sports club, a strategy could be to ally with the club’s equipment manufacturer to create a new product (Ferrand and McCarthy, 2011), which is one of the main premises of this PSG x Jordan partnership.
Biscaia et al. (2013) suggest to leverage brand associations to circumvent seasonal ups and downs and the dependency on team performance, of which the following associations can be adapted and implemented. Aesthetic characteristics of the co-branded product could be emphasised by aligning the co-brands’ visualisations for respective marketing campaigns; Figure 11 portrays how the co-branded products are presented in the respective official web shops. The same (or very similar) visuals are used to promote the items in the shops.
Comparably, Jordan and PSG Féminines, PSG’s women’s football team, used the same photos to promote the female collection; see Figure 12. On the other hand, a comparison of Figure 7 with Figure 8—the Jordan x PSG 2021-22 winter collection—sees considerable differences in its visualisation. This could be related to the different overall graphical representations of their respective website (Garett et al., 2016) or a more fan/consumer responsive approach to visualisation; i.e. the images in PSG’s banner are set in what looks like a football stadium, whereas the banner image on Jordan’s website reflect a more urban lifestyle. Although, a more aligned approach may increase the chance to transfer brand image and associations (Biscaia et al., 2013), the receiving target audience needs to be considered and contents adapted accordingly (Pickton and Broderick, 2005).
Biscaia et al. (2013) further advise to actively involve fans and consumers, e.g. in social media, to add an interactive component to the online experience, which heightens experiential benefits such as sharing the fan and brand experience with others. This may then stimulate the curiosity of other fans and consumers and increase engagement (Schmitt, 1999). A possible contemporary example of how such active involvement can be fostered is by emphasising the use of a specific hashtag such as #PSGxJordan on social media. Hashtags with an affecgive facet, such as the highly acclaimed partnership between these two brands displayed as #PSGxJordan, can offer more information value, stimulate positive attitudes toward the co-branding efforts, and strengthen brand (and possibly team) identification (Kim and Phua, 2020). A brief online search shows that PSG promotes the hashtag #PSGxJordan on its website and in certain social media posts; see Figure 13. However, a random search on Instagram shows that a large number of posts that include the #PSGxJordan hashtag do not show users in their PSG x Jordan apparel, but are posts talking about PSG and showing a player or another club-related topic in the photo or video. A clear persuasive social influence strategy should be applied by either PSG or Jordan in order to create a more engaging experience (Yocco, 2016).
5.4 Reaching beyond
The ‘reaching beyond’ strategy aims to enter a new market through extended product complementarity. This is attained by teaming up with a brand that adds value through services or product extensions that increase the differentiation factor of the club (Bühler and Nufer, 2013) and builds upon consumers’ emotions (Aaker, 1996; Coleman, 2018). Similar to the ‘reaching out’ strategy, skills-enhancing narratives based on focused information shall develop and reinforce knowledge and competence of their recipients (Griffiths et al., 2018). This may be delivered through detailed information on both brands’ websites, through their email newsletters, via PR campaigns, and on social media (Batra and Keller, 2016). If the ‘reaching up’ strategy could can be seen as one of the main premises of the ‘PSG x Jordan’ partnership, then the ‘reaching beyond’ strategy is the main premise of the co-branding efforts, because, as discussed in previous sections, both brands offer each other the opportunity to expand into new geographical areas and access new audiences based on geodemographics and lifestyle (Stoute, 2011, Chanavat and Desbordes, 2017; Athletic Interest, 2020).
Gwinner (2014) posits that co-branding efforts are more effective when partnering brands are a good ‘fit’; a good ‘fit’ can be strengthened through an adaptation of the following points:
(a) Usage similarity, i.e. the products made by the partner brand are used by fans and costumers of the brand. Co-branded apparel is worn by PSG fans or fashionable consumers attracted by PSG because of its trendiness. As discussed above, the co-branding fit needs to be clearly communicated across appropriate channels and target audiences.
(b) Audience similarity, i.e. the target audiences of both brands correspond. Similarities are found in that both audiences are attracted by the brands’ roots in their respective sport and in their particular culture and lifestyle. Moreover, both brands can be considered to stand for ‘winning’ and ‘sports elitism’ (Uggla, 2005).
(c) Attitude similarity, i.e. both brands are equally liked by consumers. Data collected for this study shows that both brands are similarly liked by consumers; see Figure 4. However, in order to bolster positive attitude for either brand, informative and affective communication should be considered (Schmitt, 1999). Informative communication could, for example, convey news that offer a positive surprise, intrigue, or are exclusive to that specific audience (Schmitt, 1999; Rein et al., 2006). This could be used to deliver news of, for example, unexpected new collections or items, celebrities wearing ‘PSG x Jordan’-branded apparel, contract extension, new purchase possibilities, etc. Affective communication, on the other hand, aims to establish emotional connections via conversations between consumers and brands (Coleman, 2018). Social media offers both PSG and Jordan the opportunity to connect with users and elicit emotions while conversing with them (Batra and Keller, 2016). This could be undertaken by replying or commenting on posts the respective brand is tagged in. This could strengthen the poster’s emotional intensity and devotion with the brand (Frederick, Lim, and Walsh, 2012).
Lastly, (d) image similarity, i.e. both brands share a similar image (Aaker, 1996; Motion et al., 2003; Richelieu, 2012). Co-branding relies on the strategically crucial brand image transfer for brand-building (Gladden, 2014). In order to properly transfer the brand image of the partner brand, image and core values need to be aligned (Motion et al., 2003). For instance, both PSG and Jordan can be perceived as global lifestyle brands, ‘winners’ and ‘sports elites’ (Uggla, 2005; Stoute, 2011). A proper alignment can result in the convergence of their target audiences (Bouchet et al., 2013). In order to achieve that, the linkage of these attributes between the brands should be communicated clearly and continuously to relevant target groups by highlighting what makes PSG and Jordan a global lifestyle brand, winners, or part of the elite of sports.
All four co-branding strategies can be applied in the ‘PSG x Jordan’ partnership, because the partnership is built upon a rather complex structure in regard to what constitutes their core product or their target markets. Nevertheless, the ‘reaching beyond’ strategy can be considered the most probable strategy, because both brands mainly want to access new consumer audiences, i.e. enter new target markets, with extended product complementarity, i.e. PSG seeks an extension for their core product which is the football match, and the Jordan Brand seeks an extension to their sportswear and apparel products.
This research evaluated the variables that affect the co-branding fit between French football club Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (PSG) and the American Nike-owned Jordan Brand and its influence on purchase intentions for Jordan-branded products. The guiding research question was defined as, “How do brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand and team identification with PSG influence the co-branding fit between PSG and the Jordan Brand and what is the resulting influence on attitude toward the Jordan Brand and the intention to purchase Jordan-branded products?” and was answered by applying a CFA on data collected from a worldwide sample of 232 social media users who follow PSG, the Jordan Brand, or engaged with the hashtag #PSGxJordan. The study found that brand cohesiveness of the Jordan Brand has a stronger influence on the co-branding fit of the PSG x Jordan partnership than team identification with PSG. Moreover, co-branding fit has a strong effect on the attitude toward the Jordan Brand, and that attitude has a very strong effect on the intention to purchase Jordan-branded products. Therefore, hypotheses H1, H2, H3, and H4 can all be accepted. Hypotheses H5 and H6 are rejected, as the respective paths from brand cohesiveness and team identification to purchase intentions need to be mediated by the variables co-branding fit and attitude toward co-brand. The study further found that the Jordan Brand is well accepted within the surveyed sample, which also displays attachment to the PSG brand. This, again, shows a good co-branding fit. Nonetheless, the perceived fit, and its resulting purchase intentions, can be improved, if both brands align their marketing communications tactics in regard to the co-branding efforts and apply these with more accuracy in a ‘reaching beyond’ strategy.
One limitation of this research is the limited sample size (n=232) and a very high number of male respondents. Also, recommendations in section 5 are non-exhaustive and solely based on available literature, reports, and critical observations. In-depth interviews with responsible professionals managing the partnerships and marketing communications campaigns for the respective brand would offer depth and clarity on how to best approach the discussed co-branding strategies.
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