Introducing branded communities in sport for building strong brand relations in social media
© 2015 Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand. Brand communities have become an important aspect for brand management in social media. However, many brands have failed to establish a successful online brand community. In this study, we introduce branded communities as an alternative concept to brand communities. In contrast to brand communities, a branded community does not revolve around a specific (sport) brand, but around any interest or need. However, a specific brand makes use of the community for marketing purposes by sponsoring or operating the community. We emphasize the suitability of sport as an interest around which branded communities can be built as well as links of branded communities to sport sponsorship. We empirically studied the factors which influence the success of this phenomenon and the effects of operating or sponsoring such a community for a brand by using an online survey (N = 501) of members of a branded online community relating to football. The results demonstrate the relevance of topic interest (i.e., identification and involvement with football) and the quality of the community as determinants of interest in and loyalty towards a branded community. The brand owner benefits from an increase in brand loyalty for those community members who are aware of the brand as the operator of the community, whereby awareness of this sponsorship does not decrease loyalty towards the community. Our research contributes to previous knowledge by proving that branded communities are both an effective means for companies to deploy sponsorship and branding strategies in social media and provide a promising opportunity for sport managers to generate value.