“We love to hate them!”

How and why social media-based anti-brand communities build around professional football teams and how this affects the team, its sponsors, and the sport itself

Dr Bastian Popp (Leeds Beckett University) describes his recent article with colleagues, titled: We love to hate them! Social media-based anti-brand communities in professional football. The authors investigate anti-brand communities opposing a particular football team and highlight its negative and positive effects for football clubs, their sponsors and fans, and the sport itself.

Social media have promoted anti-brand communities, which are based on common aversions to brands (Hollenbeck & Zinkhan, 2006). Our study contributes to previous research by investigating this phenomenon in the context of social networking sites. In particular, we examine the nature of social media-based anti-brand communities opposing a professional football team and consider the effects on the team sports brand in question. Anti-brand communities are of particular importance for sport teams, as spectators deliberately distance themselves from other brands and their fans to enhance their enjoyment of sports-related activities (Uhrich, 2014). Moreover, anti-brand activism is fostered by football’s social components and its important role in the everyday lives of many fans who are regularly highly involved (Sutton, McDonald, Milne, & Cimperman, 1997).

We conducted a qualitative study of Facebook-based anti-brand communities that oppose FC Bayern München. The netnographic study shows that oppositional brand loyalty, “schadenfreude” and the desire to dissociate from a brand are important drivers in football-related anti-brand communities. Negative posts, media and comments lead to a reinterpretation of brand meaning and the formation of what has been referred to as a doppelgänger image (Thompson, Rindfleisch, & Arsel, 2006). The ability to like, share and comment reinforces the interaction by deepening and spreading negative brand-related communication. In doing so, anti-brand community members negatively influence brand meaning and generate negative perceptions of the sports team within the community and among other users of the social network who witness the negative interaction.

Our research establishes the relevance of social media-based anti-brand communities for sports brands as we demonstrate that this phenomenon can really harm a rival brand. Therefore, we provide recommendations for team sport brands on how to deal with this phenomenon. In particular, managers of football teams are advised to monitor anti-brand activism on the internet to prevent damage to their brand. In so doing, they can obtain useful information on the weaknesses of their brand, which may help them take actions to strengthen their own brand.


To read this article please click here  or contact the author email: b.popp@leedsbeckett.ac.uk. You will also find more about the author and his other research here on his University profileLinkedin or ResearchGate.


To cite this article:

Popp, B., Germelmann, C. C., & Jung, B. (2016). We love to hate them! Social media-based anti-brand communities in professional football. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 17(4), 349-367.

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