Extreme brand love: measuring and modelling the intensity of sports team love

Kerry Daniels, Ian Frederick Wilkinson*, Louise Young, Steven (Qiang) Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to advance the understanding of brand love by studying its intensity and the nature of extreme forms of it, rather than its presence or absence. The love of a sports team is a type of brand love and is a valuable context to study of brand love intensity because the intensity of love can become more extreme than for products; it has two distinctive features that are theoretically, management and policy relevant; and it is an under-researched context in marketing that is socially and economically significant. Design/methodology/approach: The authors empirically develop and test a multidimensional hierarchical higher-order measure of the intensity of team love and a model of its drivers and outcomes using a sample of supporter club members of a professional sports team who vary in their intensity of love for the team. Findings: The results support our measurement model and its distinctive features, especially the importance of the perceived two-way bond fans have with their team. While overall intensity of team love is not related to social influence or on-field performance, as hypothesized, they are related to sub-dimensions of team love, reflecting its multidimensionality. As hypothesized, the intensity of team love and social influence are related to the intention to renew club membership even with increased costs and poor performance and social influence is directly related to word of mouth and game attendance. Research limitations/implications: The research is limited to the club members of one sports team in a particular sport in one country and one cultural context. Future research opportunities include: extending it to other sports and brand contexts, refining the methodology and addressing other issues highlighted by the research. Practical implications: The results indicate the limits of management control of team love intensity because it develops over time independently through social processes. However, firms can help facilitate these processes. The social dimensions indicate the need to develop socially, as well as individually-focussed relationship management strategies. Most devoted fans are valuable customers, but some hardcore elements can be dysfunctional and sabotage the brand. Social implications: Sport is personally, social and economically significant in most cultures and love of a sports team love can be an important glue that binds people and communities. However, the existence of extreme hardcore fans and heated rivalries can also be divisive and pose challenges for social policy. Hence, the need to better understand the factors driving more extreme forms of team love to better inform the development of social policy. Originality/value: The authors focus on the intensity of brand love rather than its presence and absence as in prior research. The authors develop and test a new hierarchical measure of sports team love intensity and a model of its drivers and outcomes. The sports context is under-researched in marketing but reveals the important role played by dimensions that are obscured in studies of product brand love – its social nature and the perceived reciprocal relation with devoted fans. The results contribute to developing extended theories of brand love, open up new research opportunities and have management and policy implications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean journal of marketing
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)2195-2221
Publication statusPublished - 8. Jul 2020


  • Brand love intensity
  • Extreme brand love
  • Hierarchical measurement model
  • Social influence
  • Sports team love
  • Two-way bond


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