Marketing Management
The Use of Sport Events in the Marketing of a City


It is undeniable that a place will experience the cycle of growth and decline, and that the image of a place is crucial part that can affect the growth and decline situation faced by a place (Hanna & Rowley, 2008). Furthermore, there are also views that due to globalisation effects, places are now competing for more visitors, resources and capital investment (Maheshwari, Vandewalle & Bamber, 2011; Rein & Shields, 2007). In addition to that, from the tourism or travelling perspective, the better understanding of destination image is important to gauge the notable economic potential for tourism enterprises and destinations on a certain place (Chiang, Chen, Huang & Hsueh, 2012; Gondim Mariutti, Engracia Giraldi, De Moura & Crescitelli, 2013). Concerning such notion, the idea of marketing or branding of a place is becoming very important. In fact, such notion is being more recognised by scholars lately. It can be seen that many more studies are performed on this issue alone. For example, some of these include: Gertner (2011), Kavaratzis (2012), Kalandides (2011), Baum, Hearns & Devine (2008), Anholt (2006), Lichrou, O’malley & Patterson (2010), Govers (2011), Tantawi & Youssef (2012), Giovanardi (2012) and Hildreth (2010). This would be easily understood when considering the observation that places competing for capital, visitors and investments. Anyway, the key idea that should be acknowledged is that place branding is important. It is necessary to understand how the several factors or issues may affect the image or brand of a city. In the study presented here, the city selected to be studied is the city of Beijing. Under the literature of place branding, the image or brand of Beijing will be examined.

Then, from another perspective, there are many factors that can affect the place branding of a city. Such a concept should be easily understood. For example, factors such as the landscape of a city, the people living in a city, the tourism attractions available in a city, will affect the brand or image of that particular city. Under the place branding literature, these factors are important issues to be examined, or controlled. By focusing on these factors, it is possible to alter the place branding efforts or brand image of a city.

Then, there are many factors that can affect the place branding or brand image of a place – and these will be further discussed in the next few sections. However, one of the critical factors that will affect place branding or brand image of a place is events available in a place. To zoom down the scope of the discussion, this essay will specifically focus only on sport events, if how sport events can affect the brand or image of a city.

Perceptions on a City

The people perceptions on a city is well studied in literature – as people perception on a city is very important issue in the marketing or branding of a city. However, people may have many different perceptions on a city. The perceptions of people on a city can also be investigated from many different dimensions. For example, it is possible to study about: people perception on the image of a city, on the branding of a city, on the attractiveness of a city. In the following, important issues on how people perception on a city will be discussed.

City Image

The issue on the image of a city or tourism destination is quite commonly studied by scholars. From the review of the literature, it can be seen that researchers tend to study about the image of a city from different dimensions. Accordingly, this is because the image of a city is a multi-dimensional construct (Medway & Warnaby, 2008; Fanning, 2011; Tantawi & Youssef, 2012; Baum, Hearns & Devine, 2008; White, 2004). This is not hard to be explained. In Medway & Warnaby (2008), it is discussed that image is the sum of beliefs, attitudes and impressions that a person or group has of an object. That imply that image of something, or in the case of this study (which is on Beijing city), must be examined from different angles. The many angles involved in examine the image of a city, making the ‘image’ by itself as a multi-dimensional construct. Similarly, in Kalandides (2011), it is also discussed that the image of a place is consisted of the place identity, of which it is about how people (or more technically speaking, stakeholders) perceive a place (from the different angles). Besides, De Carlo, Canali, Pritchard & Morgan (2009) had also discussed about how image of something or a place can be examined from different angles. It is discussed that people will have five senses, and that are five different dimensions. To explain, people: (1) hear, (2) taste, (3) see, (4) smell, and (5) touch. Under these five senses, people gather a lot of information or details on a place or when visit to a destination. These later transform into people perceptions on the place. In that way, the image of a place is constructed. The five senses and how the people may perceive a place or a city, based on the five senses is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Five Senses as Five Dimensions of Image


To better see how it is a multi-dimensional construct, it will be reviewed about how other scholars had model or study on the image of a city. For this, Naidoo & Ramseook (2012) had tried to study about people perception on brand image of Mauritius. Based in the study by the authors, the image of that famous tourism island is studied from two big dimensions, firstly the functional attributes dimension, while secondly, the psychological dimensions. Each of these dimensions contains many different items. For example, under the functional attributes dimensions, some of the items included are: (1) cultural & historical sites, (2) cultural diversity, (3) ecotourism & nature-based activities, (4) family activities, (5) festivals, events & handicrafts, (6) golf and water sports, (7) local cuisine, (8) medical expertise, (9) nightlife, (10) reasonable price, (11) shopping facilities, (12) spa facilities, (13) standard of hotels, (14) sunny & warm climate, and (15) white sandy beaches. Then, from the psychological attributes dimension, there are three items included. These three items included under this dimension are: (1) safety & security, (2) hospitality of locals, and (3) peaceful and relaxing. Then, researcher such as Fanning (2011) had also study about Ireland image. In the study, it is studied about four dimensions of Ireland, as follow: (1) Tourism, (2) FDI, (3) food, and (4) culture. The study presented by Fanning (2011) shows that not only the image of a city should be studied from different dimensions, but the image of a country, such as Ireland, can also be studied from multiple dimensions.

Not only is that, it is also found that Altinbasak & Yalçin (2010) had studied about city image of Istanbul. In order to study about city image of Istanbul, many pairs of adjectives are used. These combinations of adjectives actually resemble to the many dimensions of the image of a city. These include the following: (a) unsafe – safe; (b) dirty – clean; (c) chaotic – relaxing; (d) expensive – cheap; (e) boring – entertaining; (f) crowded – not crowded; (g) not romantic – romantic; (h) traditional – modern; (i) Oriental – European; and finally (j) ordinary – exotic.

Overall, it can be seen that the image of a city is treated as a construct of multiple dimensions. This approach shall also be adopted in this dissertation. One interesting point is that the dimensions used to explain or survey on a place differs. The very probable reason is that the different researcher need to study about different places, and different places are best explained by different dimensions, or best perceived or analysed from different angles. In the later part of this study, the various dimension of brand image of Beijing will also be designed and explained.

City Brand

Technically speaking, the brand can be defined as: “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors” (American Marketing Association, as cited in Hanna & Rowley, 2008: p. 63). The brand serves many purposes. As in Medway & Warnaby (2008), it is discussed that a brand serve as: (1) a differentiating device; (2) a functional device; (3) a legal device; (4) a risk reducer; (5) a shorthand device; (6) a sign of ownership; (7) a strategic device; and (8) a symbolic device. Interestingly, one important concept is also about that the city has a brand by itself. It is known and acknowledged that a place may not similar to a product, and people may question about the applicability of brand concept on a ‘place’. However, Boisen, Terlouw & Bouke (2011) stated that a ‘place’ shares some characteristics with more traditional commercial products and services. For instance, a ‘place’ carries specific associations and connotations amongst people that know about it; and that the name of a place invokes a set of perceptions in the people mind. More importantly, associations of a place exist in the mind, in the same way that specific associations are attributed to specific commercial brands.

The image of a place is related closely to the brand of a place. From the image of a city, people will develop certain perceptions on the city itself. From there, the brand of a city will be established. Indeed, the concept of brand of a place or city is actually originated from the concept of image of a city or a place. To explain, it is the concept of brand (as in the field of marketing or business management) that was attempted to be applied to a place, or a city that give rise to the concept of brand of a place (Gertner, 2011; Hanna & Rowley, 2008). Similar to the image of a city, the brand is also a multidimensional construct (Medway & Warnaby, 2008). In a similar way, the concept of place brand is defined as follow: “a perception that people have about a place, city, region or a country and a place’s reputation among those people that the place embraces” (Maheshwari, Vandewalle & Bamber, 2011: p. 201).

In other words, the brand of a city can be studied from different dimensions. This means it is crucial to also research the brand of a city or place from different angle. For this, some of the example on how researchers had developed the brand of a city or place from multi-dimensional approach will be presented below.

From discussion above, scholars also study the brand of a city from many dimensions. For example, Brandt & De Mortanges (2011) research on the brand of a university town from six dimensions. These six dimensions are: (1) economy, (2) physical environment, (3) activities and facilities, (4) brand and people, (5) people, and lastly, (6) accessibility. Each of these dimensions has respective sub-dimensions (which is similar to the method used by other scholars when studying about city image). For example, under the ‘economy’ dimension, two sub-dimensions included are: (1) cheap public services, special prices for students, as well as (2) successful companies, partnership with the university. Then, under the ‘reputation and brand’ dimension, the few sub-dimensions included are: (1) international city, (2) knowledge of English, (3) international reputation, (4) famous university, (5) good brand image, and finally (6) recognized as a business park of the city. Yet, from the ‘people’ dimension, the two sub-dimensions examined are: (1) a lot of students, and (2) young population. Yet, from the ‘activities and facilities’ dimension, the sub-dimensions used include: (1) access to news, newsstands; (2) architecture, history, folklore; (3) café’s, nightlife, parties, meeting place; (4) culture, arts, theatre, concerts, museums, cinema; (5) ease in finding apartments, single entity for housing; (6) large choice of restaurant, healthy food, fast food; (7) large panel of schools; (8) research, laboratory, teaching hospital; (9) sidewalks for pedestrians; (10) sports facilities, supermarkets, shops; and lastly (11) technologies, wifi, cybercafé, computers, printers, scanners. Yet, from the ‘accessibility’ dimension, some of the sub-dimensions included are: (1) centralized campus; (2) centralized library; (3) infrastructure for bicycles, bicycle paths; (4) parking, and (5) public transportation. Lastly, from the ‘physical environment’ dimension, the sub-dimensions included are: (1) cleanliness; (2) parks, greenery; and (3) safety, police presence.

Then, some other studies are also available on discussing city brand from different dimensions. In Trueman, Klemm & Giroud (2004), the many dimensions used to examine or study about Bradford are include the following: (1) workforce, (2) availability of partners, (3) investment incentives, (4) infrastructure, (5) cultures, institution and system, (6) easy access to other markets, (7) education and training programmes, (8) investment incentives, (9) knowledge related assets, (10) natural environment, (11) population demographics, (12) presence and competitiveness of related firms, (13) production costs, and (14) standard of living. Some of these dimensions have many sub-dimensions as well. For example, under the ‘workforce’ dimension, the sub-dimensions included in the research by the author include these: (1) availability of skilled and semi-skilled manual labour; (2) productivity of workforce; (3) wages rates; (4) absenteeism rate; as well as (5) strike record. Then, under the ‘infrastructure’ dimension, some of the sub-dimensions included are as follow: (1) airport, (2) seaports, (3) telecommunication, (4) railways, as well as (5) roads.

From the review above, it can be noticed that the brand of a place is similar to the image of a place; although it seemed that the brand is a more focused word to be applied to a place from a marketing perspective. Then, the brand of a place is also multi-dimensional. That will also demand this dissertation to study the brand of Beijing city from multiple angles. In the next section, the two concept ‘brand’ and ‘image’ will be combined and discussed.

City Image and City Brand

The concept of image of a city and the brand of a city is closely related. Indeed, there is also term known as ‘brand image’. Whereby brand image can be defined as: “the set of beliefs held about a particular brand” (Hashim, 2012). Many scholars indeed treated that the two concepts as similar and interchangeably. The two concepts will be discussed in this section. This is because there are some slight differences. As discussed by Herstein & Jaffe (2008), the brand of a city is derived from the image of a city. In a way, the brand is a subset of an image. Nevertheless, to many scholars, the brand is treated interchangeably as the image. This research will take a more overall broad perspective in studying about people perception on Beijing. For that, the ‘brand image’ on Beijing due to sport events will be studied. That will cover some issues on the brand image of Beijing due to sport events, but will also cover any other aspect on the brand image of the city. Anyway, the brand image of the city of Beijing in this research will also follow the ways scholars had studied about the image or brand of a city, in which the scholars treated the image or brand of a city form multiple dimensions. Therefore, the brand image of Beijing city will be studied from different dimensions as well.

Marketing and Branding of a City

Generally speaking, the term place branding can be defined as: “the practice of applying brand strategy and other marketing techniques and disciplines to the economic, social, political and cultural developments of cities, regions and countries” (Kerr, 2006; as cited in Hanna & Rowley, 2008: p. 70). In a similar way, the concept of place marketing is described as “a strategic planning procedure undertaken by a place’s brand developers with the main aim of satisfying diverse needs of target markets” (Maheshwari, Vandewalle & Bamber, 2011: p. 200). The concept of place marketing or place branding is a seminal area of research in the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Early in the discussion in 1990s, the different researchers debated on if the concept of marketing or branding can be applied to communities, cities, states, nations and regions (Gertner, 2011; Hanna & Rowley, 2008). In a way, that contributes to the new concept of place branding. As the concept become more popular, place branding is slowly becoming increasingly discussed in literature. Indeed, in today, the concept of place branding had been applied to many ‘places’ such as to countries, regions, cities, districts or even tourism attraction (Kavaratzis, 2012; Govers, 2011). In this study, the study concerning about the use of sport events or how sports event may affect the image or brand of Beijing city is actually one of the sub-topic in place branding. This is because the organising of sport events can affect people perception on the image or the brand of Beijing, and that sport events can be used (or perhaps often used) for place branding. Consider that, review of materials on place branding literature will be carried out under this particular section. This is valuable to inform and provide insights to the researcher, especially on judging sport events impacts on the city of Beijing, from the place branding perspective.

IMPORTANCE OF PLACE BRANDING. In literature, the importance of place branding is well recognised. Three main roles or importance of place branding can be found and identified, which include these: (1) to provide a single identity towards a place, (2) to determine how certain identity is relevant to several audiences, and (3) to persuade people or the audiences on how a place is relevant to them (Kavaratzis, 2012). Indeed, as discussed by Hanna & Rowley (2008), the reasons that place branding is becoming more important are many. It is argued that any place is facing competition from alternative places, especially under globalisation era, when people can travel easily from one place to another with lower costs. Under such a situation, a place will need to stand out, or has a good image or brand in order to attract people, capital, and investment and so on. Furthermore, Hanna & Rowley (2008) also discussed that a place will go through growth and decline cycle, and place branding is important in managing a place, so a place will not suffer the decline stage due to bad perceptions of people on that particular place. Then, aide from the discussion presented above, place branding or place marketing is also important for another reason. As pointed or stated out in Boisen, Terlouw & Bouke (2011), place branding is important to add value to a particular place. It is possible to influence the perceived qualities of the place in order to draw in more tourists, more inhabitants, more firms and more investments. Perhaps for that, Maheshwari, Vandewalle & Bamber (2011) argued that place branding or place marketing is crucial for the sustainable development of a place.

PLACE BRANDING PRACTICES. Interestingly, many scholars also suggested some place branding practices – which is argued that these place branding practices can enhance the brand if a place positively. For example, some of these practices suggested by Kavaratzis (2012) are: (1) to focus on communication of the place brand through means such as logos, slogans and advertising campaigns; (2) to engage and involve the residents residing in a place to work together in defining the brand of a place, (3) promote investment on a place, and even about (4) organising of events.

There are also case studies on actual place branding practices on how to enhance the brand of a place. For the case in Kalandides (2011), place branding (i.e., city marketing) strategies and practices for Bogota were studied, researched and debated. The steps by steps approach were suggested. These steps towards effective place branding, accordingly, include the following: (1) create a vision for a place, (2) formulate the relevant strategic goals and objectives (that is relevant to achieving the particular vision), (3) set up the different measures to assess and track the place branding implementation efforts. The place branding strategies and efforts are long term process. It is through many rounds of constantly improve the situation and to execute the place branding strategies (based on feedback), then only a place branding effort can be more effective.

Not only is that, Hildreth (2010) also suggested a generic best practices model for place branding. Steps by steps place branding practices or efforts are also suggested, and these steps involved are as follow: (1) to identify the stories available that dominate a place, (2) to understand and investigate about what are the desired or intended story pertaining to a place should be (i.e., this is the targeted goals or objectives to be achieved), (3) to search for strategies or techniques to better tell a new story (on a particular place), (4) to use multiple methods to tell a story indirectly, and (5) to reinforce the story further and continuously. It can be observed that these strategies steps outlined by Hildreth (2010) are based on the paradigm that the use of story for place branding perspective. Nevertheless, the scholars acknowledge other possible tools that can be used for place branding. Some of these other tools discussed by the author include the following: (1) graphic design, (2) advertising, (3) marketing communications, (4) architecture, (5) events, and (6) branded exports.

INSIGHTS FOR THIS STUDY. The literature review provided above has many important and valuable information. For instance, it is noted that place branding is becoming more frequently discussed topic, and has been catching more attentions from scholars (Gertner, 2011; Kavaratzis, 2012). Then, there are also many tools available for place branding. Indeed, it is learnt that event can be used as a place branding tool (Hildreth, 2010). For the case of this study, such information guide researcher to assess impacts of events in the place branding of Beijing city. The study from here will also provide more insights if event, or specifically sport events, can be used as the effective tool for place branding purpose, with the city of Beijing as a case study. Indeed, this study will also deal with if what are the impacts from sports events towards the image or brand of Beijing, under the concept of place branding.

Factors Affecting City Image or City Brand

There are many factors that can affect the city branding or city image. Literature on these areas will be important to inform this research. In the materials shown below, the issues on how some factors that can affect the image of a city of the brand of a city will be discussed. These studies are as follow.

In Khirfan & Momani (2013), a study to examine how re-branding of Amman (in Jordan) had been performed was carried out. Based on the theoretical model of Canter’s theory of place and Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City, it is found that the citizen in the city (especially on how they behave) had huge impacts on the branding of the city. Aside from that, other factors that affect city branding of Amman (in Jordan) include the intensive promotional campaigns and place-making interventions. In a way, the ways the citizens in Amman behave will also affect their own perceptions on the city itself.

As also in Kavaratzis (2012), the concept that the community in a place is responsible of creating the brand of a place is discussed. The place branding effort is determined by the stakeholders, and it is argued that different stakeholders have ownership on the place branding efforts. In that sense, the brand of a place is affected by the actions of many different stakeholders, such as the community, the government, the private enterprise in a certain place, the public organisations or even any other people not living in the place but have a stake on the development of the place. The ideas suggests stakeholders involvement and participations can be a very significant factors that affect the brand of a place, and any place branding efforts must not ignore such important idea or concept.

There are many other relevant studies that had also found that some factors can affect the brand and image of a city. It is not feasible to present all of them here due to word count issues. As such, these journals will be summarised. The discussions on the important ideas discussed within these journals will be presented in Table1.


Table 1: Journals on Factors Affecting Brand Image of a City

Journals Discussions
Hui & Wan (2003) Food, tourism attraction, culture of the local people, degree of economic development
Konecnik (2005) Influences from marketers will affect people perception on brand image
Konecnik & Ruzzier (2006) Previous experiences of the visitors
Anholt (2006) The use of public diplomacy for place branding
Alvarez & Korzay (2008) Political situation pertaining to a particular place
Kostanski (2011) Promotion of a place’s physical attributes and facilities is critical part of place branding.
Govers (2011)


Internal branding is perhaps the most effective place branding strategy or technique (Remark: internal branding is about public, private and civil society actors ‘living the brand’).
Woodside, Ramos & Duque (2011) The marketing promotional effort and marketing communication messages sent to the other people
Kemp, Childers & Williams (2012) Internal stakeholders, specifically a city’s residents, are fundamental in the brand-building process.
Giovanardi (2012) It is important to recognise the emotional assets and mental representations in the process of enhancing places’ distinctiveness
Ferencová (2012) Some of the possible factors include: price, accommodation, catering services, transport, ancillary services as well as the travel agency offering holiday packages
Hsieh (2012) Service quality by tour operators and interaction with the local folks
Tantawi & Youssef (2012) To adopt social responsibility philosophy for place branding
Braun, Kavaratzis & Zenker (2013) Residents in a place play three roles in terms of place branding or place marketing. These three roles include: (1) as an integral part of the place brand through their characteristics and behaviour; (2) as ambassadors for their place brand who grant credibility to any communicated message; and (3) as citizens and voters who are vital for the political legitimization of place branding.


From the discussions, presented above, it can be observed that there are many issues that can affect the brand of a place, and the organising of events is only one of the many factors that should be aware of by scholars or researcher, when discussing about place branding or brand of a city. This awareness will provide better and more complete understanding for the reader in this research, because it highlight the fact that event is not only the only factor that can affect brand image of a city (i.e., the city of Beijing). In a way, this issue must also be considered when interpret or analyse the data gathered from research participants later.

Events and Place Branding

Finally, in this last section of literature review, a brief discussion on the literature related to: (1) the use of events, or sport events more specifically, as place branding, or (2) how events may affect the brand image of a place, will be outlined and presented. Review on these materials will be relevant to the dissertation, after all the research aim and topic on this dissertation is about how sport events can affect the brand image of the city of Beijing. However unfortunately, the materials on events and place branding are very limited. These materials are nonetheless will still be presented as follow.

As discussed in Rein & Shields (2007), sports can sometimes be used to shape the perceptions of other people. Some examples provided is about how Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the Soviet Union during the Cold War sought to impress the world with their sports dominance. Those examples shown that sport can be used as one of the tool to affect people perceptions, although it may not be ethical to do so. It is also apparently an effective way to affect people perceptions through sports. That brings out the possibility of using sport as a tool to brand something or someone or some places. For that, Rein & Shields (2007) also continue to discuss about how the hosting of a sport event can affect people perception on a place. Indeed, it is mentioned that the concept is known as “sports place branding”. Then, it is further discussed that holding events can contribute to place branding strategically. The events may be recurring, or it may be one-off (such as the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup). Indeed, it is discussed that one compelling example is the use of event platform by the Chinese government to pursue and ultimately land the 2008 Olympics. Nevertheless, Rein & Shields (2007) acknowledge that the use of sport events for city or place branding purposes are still not significant, pointing to the possibility of more use of such technique for place branding in the future.

There are some studies on how events may affect brand image of a place or a destination. These limited studies will be presented below as well. For example, Hankinson (2005) studied about issues on brand images from a business tourist perspective, of which the business tourists are all people those visit to a place for certain events, such as for: business meetings, incentive events, conferences and exhibitions. The use of self-completion questionnaire found that the research participant perception on a brand image can be factored into three groups: (1) overall destination attractiveness, (2) functionality, and (3) ambience.

Yet in Greaves & Skinner (2010), the many factors that can affect brand image of a place, as well as in affecting intention to visiting back to Forest of Dean were examined, and then discussed. The significant found include these: superb scenery, relaxation, outdoor leisure activities, quality accommodation, locally-sourced food, a range of attractions and a full calendar of events and festivals. The study reaffirm that event is one of the crucial element or component that affect people perception, and indeed, even can lead people to have higher intention to revisit a place in the future.

Lastly, in Kae, May, Ko, Connaughton & Lee (2011), the theoretical relationship between event quality perceptions of an international sport event and the host city’s destination image were examined. In that study included a total of 451 participants. It is found that event quality perceptions positively and significantly influence the destination image. That study provide empirical evidence showing that the role of event quality of an international sport event in influencing the destination image of a place.

Overall, these available studies indicate that we shall expect to see some impacts on sport events towards the perception of research respondents in this study. This is because empirical evidences by Greaves & Skinner (2010), Kae, May, Ko, Connaughton & Lee (2011) and Hankinson (2005) shows that event can influence brand image. Then, theoretical argument by Rein & Shields (2007) also supported the idea that events, specifically spot events can affect or used to improve brand image.



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