Branding

Gamba Osaka: Football Brand Magic in Blue and Black

Football clubs often credit their biggest achievements to their 12th player on the pitch: their fans. Without the heart-felt support of their fans, many clubs might not be able to keep the right attitude throughout a long season and reach adequate placements in the league or make it to the final stages of a tournament. Therefore, as research by Brandes et al. (2008) suggests, attracting and retaining loyal fans should be of high interest for any sports club.

A common question regularly asked by marketers in this regard is, ‘What is it about a football brand that attracts supporters and converts them to loyal fans?’ Alexander L. Biel (1997) stated that brands go slogging through life with very little magic. This mentioned brand magic might be a valid reason why certain brands are more appealing to football aficionados than others.

This paper wants to evaluate the brand magic of Gamba Osaka, a professional Japanese football club, by applying the model discussed by Biel (1997) to the retrievable information online of the Osaka-based J.League club. Exploratory research will be applied that relies on reviews of available literature and discussions of the topic at hand on blogs, websites, Twitter, and Facebook. Additional models such as the Aaker Model by David A. Aaker (2000), Dimensions of brand personality by Jennifer L. Aaker (1997), and the Brand identity prism by Jean-Noël Kapferer (2004) will contribute to the Gamba Osaka brand magic discussion.

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Gamba Osaka: The Club

Gamba Osaka is a professional football team based in Suita, a city in the prefecture of Osaka, Japan. The club was founded in 1980 as the company soccer club of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., today better known as Panasonic. In the advent of the professionalization of the Japanese football league, the club changed from amateur to professional status and became Gamba Osaka in 1991, and since then won every major national title, as well as the AFC Champions League. (See Gamba Osaka website)

After a few critical changes in preparation of their 2012 campaign, the team lost their usual form and ended up being relegated to the second division for the first time in the club’s history. Nonetheless, the Gamba brand kept attracting large crowds at away matches, even in the lower-tier league (see Soccerway.com archives). This encourages the postulation that there is brand magic at work, beyond the attraction of the club’s logo, mascot and its cheerleaders.

Brand Magic

According to Biel (1997), the magic of a brand is composed of the brand’s image and its relationships. The brand image consists of brand skills and brand personality, and the brand’s relationships can be viewed from two different points of view: the brand’s view of a consumer and the consumer’s view of a brand.

Biel (1997) claims that, “Brand identity is reflected in the image and personality of the brand, and the quality of the relationship between the brand and the consumer.“ Fill and Jamieson (2006) explain that “brand magic underpins added value”, whose purpose is to attract potential supporters and turn them into loyal customers.

A combination of the Aaker Model by D.A. Aaker (2000) and the Dimensions of brand personality Model by J.L. Aaker (1997) will assess the Gamba Osaka brand identity in the next section.

Biel (1997) - Discovering Brand Magic

Brand Identity

Aaker (2000) stipulates that there are various brand identity elements that can be viewed from four perspectives: the brand as a product, organization, person, or symbol.

The Brand as a Product
The product perspective includes the scope of the product, its attributes, the quality or value, uses and users, and the country of origin (Aaker, 2000). Schaaf (1995:22) defined the product in the context of sports marketing as either the entertainment of competition, or a product or service associated with the excitement of the event, or both.

In the case of the Gamba Osaka brand, the scope can be found in entertaining the crowds with football and all the excitement that surrounds match day. This includes festivities before and after the match outside and inside the stadium, such as stands that sell memorabilia or feel-good food, as well as branded entertainment activities for all visitors.

The stadium itself can be considered a part of the Gamba Osaka product. The Osaka Expo ‘70 Stadium, also known as Banpaku, is Gamba Osaka’s home stadium and is located in the Expo Commemoration Park, which is the former site of the 1970 World Fair, and therefore, offers many attractions to its visitors. These attributes add significant value to Gamba Osaka as a football product. Furthermore, having famous footballers playing for the club, who are their own individual brand, enhances the quality of the combined Gamba Osaka brand.

The Brand as an Organization
According to Zhang (2012:17), brand identity always connects to the activities of its parent organizations, from its people and culture, organizational attributes, and outlook elements. Coming from an established and well-respected international corporation such as Matsushita—now known as Panasonic, the organization underlying the patronage of the Gamba Osaka brand—it is safe to assume that the Gamba Osaka organization is run like a business. This impression is reinforced by the choice of chairmen. The chairman in charge, Teruhisa Noro, was a Panasonic director for systems and equipment and in charge for the construction of the new Gamba Osaka stadium. His resume clearly underlines his career in business rather than in football.

Dr. Sue Bridgewater (2010:25-26) explains that as the game of football has developed from being a beautiful game into a multi-billion-pound global business, football has also developed a set of commercial imperatives. In that case, having an organization that is run like a business, rather than a traditional club or association, can give more stability to overall operations and decision-making and foster the image of the brand. In addition, having a business savvy chairman from a local corporation who is used to doing business internationally can turn out to be very valuable for a local brand such as Gamba Osaka that has the potential for an international branding expansion, given their former international successes in the AFC Champions League.

The Brand as a Person
Jennifer L. Aaker (1997) suggests that a brand has a certain personality, which is defined as the set of human characteristics associated with the brand and carries five core dimensions to its personality:

  1. Sincerity—Domestic, honest, genuine, cheerful
  2. Excitement—Daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date
  3. Competence—Reliable, responsible, dependable, efficient
  4. Sophistication—Glamorous, pretentious, charming, romantic
  5. Ruggedness—Tough, strong, outdoorsy, rugged

Sincerity. The fact that Gamba Osaka has been a part of the local community since the early days of the Matsushita football club, because of its professional ties with the parent company Matsushita—headquartered in Kadoma, Osaka, just a few kilometers from Gamba’s home turf in Suita—supports the image that the club is physically and emotionally well grounded amongst its most loyal supporters. This raises the assumption of a genuine interest in an honest relationship with the community.

Offering a football academy for aspiring footballers, and every child that simply wants to improve their football skills, is a further attribute that proves the interest of a long-term relationship with the local community. Kotler et al. (2006:94) claim that in this cluttered entertainment environment, sports products must transform into strong and identifiable brands to attract attention and build sustainable fan connections. To work on the latter, the club created an ambassador position in 2012 for former coach and long-time Gamba player Masanobu Matsunami. The ambassador position sees Matsunami engaging and building relationships with the local community in the name of Gamba Osaka (Vinci Per Osaka, 2013a).

Excitement. The original name of Gamba Osaka, during their amateur club era, was Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. soccer club, which represented their tie with the owner-company. The decision to make the change to an arguably trendier name, by including a foreign (or fantasy) word like Gamba, can be regarded as an exciting move for all stakeholders. The word Gamba means leg in Italian, but when put in a context such as ‘essere in gamba’, it translates to ‘being clever/skilled’. Furthermore, the Gamba Osaka brand dared to dream big and not settle for mediocre results in the J.League. The club set ambitious goals to win the league and go after international titles. These daring goals brought excitement and recognition to the brand.

On the other hand, exciting goals can hurt the brand if not achieved. The Gamba Osaka management employed a new coaching staff for their 2012 J.League campaign, which introduced a new culture. Soon after, the team experienced their debatably worst slump in the history of the club, which resulted in their first ever relegation at the end of the season. Bridgewater (2010) explains that in academic literature, fans are found by economic studies to be more loyal to teams that are successful (see Baade and Tiehen 1990; Domazlicky and Kerr 1990). After relegation, attendances at home games of Gamba Osaka gradually declined, even though still much higher than other teams in the same division. Informal conversations on public media outlets like Twitter, claimed it was due to Gamba’s poor performance at Banpaku. Home attendance rose from 8,993 (recorded on Wednesday, 17 April 2013) to 16,803 (recorded on Sunday, 28 April 2013) after Gamba Osaka won for the first time at home since August 2012.

Competence. The brand name Gamba Osaka already includes ‘competence’—or ‘skill’—in the form of the word Gamba, as discussed above. Nonetheless, a competent brand is one that has the ability to solve a consumer’s problem and to meet his or her need (Lau et al., 1999). In the context of Schaaf’s definition of a sports product, which sees the product as either the entertainment of competition or a product/service associated with the excitement of the event, or both (1995), the question at hand in this regard is, ‘How does Gamba Osaka solve its consumers’ problem?’

Consumers are turning to Gamba Osaka for good football entertainment, which is supposed to be provided by an appealing stadium and great atmosphere surrounding it, and/or by how well the team plays. In the section The Brand as a Product it has been discussed that the historical Expo Commemoration Park, where the home stadium of Gamba Osaka is located, contributes a significant value to the brand, because of its reliable, attractive and established location. Transportation is easy to use and guaranteed, and the stadium offers everything needed for a football match.

Furthermore, Gamba Osaka aims to attract talented footballers, coaches and staff members to its team and motivates them to perform at their best. The success of Gamba Osaka’s youth teams in recent years, which derive from its football academy, is a sign of Gamba’s competence in football skills, as well as managing a well-functioning organization. (See Gamba Osaka website)

Sophistication. Ramaseshan et al. (2007) lean on research done in Jennifer L. Aaker’s article Dimensions of brand personality (1997) and state that “sophisticated brands are often glamorous, as they possess a smooth, sleek, feminine charm.” Feminine charm is the key word in this case. In fact, according to a Facebook post on the J.League fan page on 25 April 2013, the J.League clubs with the highest percentage of female fans through the turnstiles in 2012 were Gamba Osaka (47.6%) and Consadole Sapporo (46.6%). The post did not further elaborate on the findings.

Research by Crawford and Gosling (2004) suggests that, “female fans are largely dedicated in both their support and their loyalty for ‘their’ team and are very knowledgeable about the sport generally. Moreover, the attractiveness of players appeared to play no significant role in attracting female fans to the sport.” In other words, female fans are equivalent to male fans in terms of loyalty and support for ‘their’ team.

Knight and Kim (2007) studied the purchase intention of Japanese Generation Y consumers and established that emotional value has a significant impact on their intention. In addition, Deger (2009) refers to Thomas (2007:75) and Chadha et al. (2006:84-85) and writes, “The ultimate status symbols in Japan are luxury fashion goods such as couture clothes, leather purses, shoes and accessories, silk scarves, watches, furs, and jewels.”

The above-mentioned characteristics of Japanese football fans lead to the assumption that glamour-loving fans influence the Gamba Osaka brand, which brings a high degree of sophistication to the brand. Furthermore, Helen Hackett (2000) discusses that there is a connection between women and the quest for romance. It is therefore legitimate to assume that having a large amount of the fan-crowd dreaming of a romantic finish at a Gamba Osaka match, and cheering in high-pitch voices, radiates a different image than having mostly beer-drinking middle-aged men cheering for the team.

Also, the fact that the club is able to attract larger crowds in J.League Division 2—J.League’s second-tier division—than certain clubs in Division 1, at times, is valid proof that the Gamba Osaka brand possesses a certain amount of additional charm in comparison to other J.League clubs.

Ruggedness—or lack thereof. Three facts emphasize that the Gamba Osaka brand stands for sophistication, rather than for ruggedness:

  1. Elegant: Gamba Osaka has the highest amount of female fans in the J.League (see above), which radiate glamour, elegance, and a certain inclination towards romance, as discussed above.
  2. Fair: The athletic disciplinary record of Gamba Osaka was amongst the cleanest in the league during their 2012 campaign and still is in 2013 (stats from soccerway.com). This underlines that the team plays fair and does not resort to aggressive and/or violent football playing on the pitch.
  3. Decisive: Three Gamba Osaka fans hustled the mascot of Roasso Kumamoto—an opposing team—before the match on 20 March 2013 (Gamba Osaka Pride blog, 2013). According to different media reports, the three hustling fans were banned for an indefinite period from the home ground and the Gamba Osaka club apologized to the Kumamoto club for the bad behavior of their fans. Such actions by the Gamba Osaka management show how decisive they are in keeping their image clean without tolerance for inappropriate behavior. There have been similar incidents at other clubs, which were not followed by any actions by the respective clubs.

The above-mentioned points depict the brand’s disciplined and decisive characteristics, which emphasize its sophistication rather than its ruggedness.

The Brand as a Symbol
Zhang (2012) cites Rosner and Shropshire (2010:216) who claim, “Visual imagery and brand heritage become symbolic when they are uniquely associated with a product or service.” Like many sport clubs around the world, Gamba Osaka has a unique crest and a mascot that motivates fans to cheer for their team. These two symbols sport the clubs colors and attitude and spread its vision for the world of football to acknowledge. They are very much needed for recognition and cannot be substituted easily, as discussed by Derbaix et al. (2002). A simple observation of teams playing on the pitch on a match day supports the notion that a club’s colors and its crest are amongst the most recognizable symbols a football brand owns.

Gamba Osaka has used the colors blue and black for their home kits since its inception, and its second kit is based on white. The club’s fans usually sport blue and black jerseys to support the team at home or away matches and fly large flags and banners with the mentioned colors. Blue and black became symbolic for the brand and can be found in the crest as well.

The colors and the crest of the Gamba Osaka brand are not the only two symbolic factors influencing the brand. Its history contributes a large symbolic value to the brand as well. All achievements and other emotional moments in Gamba’s history accentuate the legacy that has been passed on from older football fans generations to younger ones. Hughes (2005) describes that these recounts foster the spreading of the brand through word-of-mouth and add to building the image as well as strengthening the legacy of the Gamba Osaka brand.

Brand Relationships

Biel (1997) claims, “The third element in understanding brand magic involves the insight that consumers interact with brands, just as they interact with the people in their lives.” Aggarwal (2004) supports Biel’s statement and suggests, “even though people’s relationships with brands do not necessarily share the same richness and depth as their relationships with human partners, they sometimes do behave with brands as if they have a relationship with them.”

In the age of the social web, social media is omnipresent and online interactions between brands and consumers are expected (Lithium, 2012). Hunt (2009:118) stipulates that the social capital, that is the currency of the digital world, grows when brands participate genuinely in a community, listening and integrating feedback. However, to make such relationships work effectively, an ecosystem needs to be build, where the presence of a community that complements a cause is able to foster a brand’s endurance (Kawasaki, 2011:104).

One major challenge for football brands—and any other brand for that matter—is to creating the necessary credibility to produce a relationship with potential fans and supporters (Kotler et al., 2006:112). Lasting relationships between a brand and potential consumers can be built through marketing communication activities, such as advertizing, sales promotions, public relations, direct marketing, and personal selling (Fill et al., 2006). However, in order to create a valid plan on how to go about the above-mentioned marketing communications activities, a brand needs to analyze what kind of picture it sends to the consumer and what picture is actually received. Kapferer (2004) explains that there are six facets to that problem; three facets represent the brand’s outward expression and the other three facets, its inner expression, which he also refers to as the brand’s spirit. Kapferer’s six facets are physique, relationship, and customer reflection in terms to outward expression, and personality, culture, and self-image for the inner expression.

Physique. In reference to football brands, the physique facet includes everything tangible connected to the club, such as the stadium and its surrounding, fan shop, jersey, memorabilia, etc. Gamba Osaka’s Banpaku stadium is located in the historical Expo Commemoration Park that offers various kinds of entertainment and an all-around experience for visitors, making every visit a special occasion. When fans buy tickets or physical items and interact with anyone connected to the brand, engaging them in a conversation, no matter how short or trivial it is, can bear benefits for both parties. Such interactions are a valuable channel that helps building relationships with people of interest.

Relationship. Activities such as offering a football academy for aspiring footballers and having an ambassador that spreads the joy of football across the local community are only a few of the actions taken by Gamba to attract and engage people of interest. By giving people the opportunity to visit the training ground, take pictures and spread them across the internet, or allowing journalists and amateurs to interview players and share the videos across social media, are further avenues used by Gamba Osaka to build sustainable relationships with supporters.

Customer reflection—or in Biel’s words, Consumer’s View of Brand. As mentioned in the section The Brand as a Person, the corporate ties between Gamba Osaka and in parent company Panasonic, have cemented Gamba’s physical presence in the local community. Every match at Banpaku sets in motion a pilgrimage of thousands of fans wearing blue and black on their way to the EXPO Commemoration Park. This has the effect that at least a couple of times a month, the city of Suita, where the EXPO Commemoration Park is located, and its surroundings, are inundated with Gamba fans sporting the club’s colors and symbols. In addition, the fact that Gamba Osaka has amongst the highest amounts of female fans in the J.League, may be reflected in a higher degree of brand sophistication, as discussed in the section The Brand as a Person. Furthermore, since the Gamba Osaka team is arguably more disciplined and engages in fair play more than other J.League teams (exact stats to be found at soccerway.com), it is valid to assume that consumers view the Gamba brand as more likable than a football brand that engages in abundant foul play and whose players are sent off the pitch more often.

Personality. See section The Brand as a Person.

Culture. After having been relegated for the first time in club’s history at the end of the 2012 J.League campaign, top management of Gamba Osaka set the clear goal to get promoted back to J.League’s top-tier after only one season, according to Japanese media reports. Where other clubs might be satisfied with simply playing a good season, taking their time to rebuild the team and find the right attitude towards winning, Gamba Osaka described its brand as being worthy of the top division and aspiring the best possible results. Moreover, the 2013 campaign saw Gamba Osaka becoming a crowd-magnet and generating far above-average attendance at stadiums across the country (see j-league.or.jp for exact attendance numbers). This For-The-Win mentality combined with a sophisticated personality encourages a debatably attractive culture with a distinctive charm and character, which the Gamba Osaka brand certainly has, when objectively compared to other J.League teams.

Self-image. According to Jill and Jamieson (2006), this self-image facet is an inner reflection, which refers to how an individual feels about themselves. In the case of the Gamba Osaka brand, self-reflection was crucial when reevaluating the Gamba brand at the end of the 2012 campaign, following the first-ever relegation to Division 2. Different changes had to be made and former club president Kikuo Kanamori took the fall for the club’s decline in performance quality. “Last season ended with relegation to J2 for Gamba Osaka despite receiving your support. I take full responsibility for everything that led to this and give my sincerest apologies,” Kanamori announced. Following the resignation of Kikuo Kanamori, Teruhisa Noro was appointed as the new club president in early 2013 (Vinci Per Osaka, 2013b). The appointment of Teruhisa Noro emphasized a new outbound image. Also, more arguably, necessary staff changes were made to improve the team’s football quality. Hence, this fosters the idea that change is ubiquitous at the club.

Brand’s View of Consumer
In reference to the relationship between a brand and its consumers, Biel (1997) looks at it from two points of view: the consumer’s view of a brand and the brand’s view of a consumer. The consumer’s view of a brand has been discussed above in Kapferer’s outward-expression facet of customer reflection, mentioning Gamba’s physical presence in the local community, its high percentage of female supporters, and the brand’s high level of sophistication.

Henry Jenkins (2006:69) paraphrases a statement made by former Coca-Cola president Steven J. Heyer in his keynote address at Advertising Age’s Madison + Vine conference on February 5, 2003 and writes, “The strength of a [relationship] connection is measured in terms of its emotional impact. The experience should not be contained within a single media platform, but should extend across as many media as possible.” In this context, the Coca-Cola brand sees consumers gathering information and being active on multiple media channels.

Gamba has the possibility to make an emotional impact offline, by offering activities and experiences on match days and in between, and online, by engaging supporters and people of interest through different online media platforms such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and others, as suggested above by Steven Heyer. In order for a brand to do so, it needs to understand the behavior of consumers (Poiesz et al., 1995). Observation of consumer behavior is key in this instance. As described by Proctor and Jamieson (2004), in the case of a football brand, it is advisable to collect primary data of people of interest through surveys: postal surveys, personal interviews, telephone surveys, completely self-administered surveys, panels and omnibus studies. Since even larger football clubs compare to rather small-sized companies (Bridgewater, 2010), it can be assumed that resources are limited. Hence, data collection and evaluation has to be efficient and limited to a few outlets.

Offline Activities
An arguably effective way to learn about football consumers’ offline activities is to observe them inside and outside the stadium; before, during and after the match. Proctor and Jamieson (2004:11/4) suggest that it can be done through assessing the situation by walking around, which aims at observing visitors and recording what they are doing (chatting, eating, buying memorabilia, etc.), how they are doing it (in groups, by themselves, paying in cash or card, etc.), and if they are enjoying what they are doing. In addition, surveys can be made with questionnaires with selected visitors at the site to find out consumers’ wants and needs. Certain professional football clubs in Switzerland offer meet-ups with staff members in the form of an assembly meeting, where fans and supporters can discuss matters that are important to them with the club. Such assemblies provide first-hand and top-quality primary data that teaches the club exactly what consumers expect from the club, respectively the brand.

Online Activities
All interactions from online activities are automatically recorded when they happen and most platforms offer advanced analytical tools that facilitate the evaluation of gathered data. Online purchases, ratings, tweets, likes, comments and other interactions provide valuable primary data. Different tools can help finding out who says what about the brand, on which online platform, and analyze the gathered qualitative data. Such analyses give brands better understanding of who their consumers are and what their profiles look like.

Gamba Osaka could choose from an array of online interactions to analyze and depict a relatively accurate profile of its consumers. For instance, online purchases from the web shop can be analyzed on different points, such as sales, traffic, usability, ratings etc. and connected to consumers profiles. This could be used to enforce relationships through targeted newsletters: send only relevant information to one consumer segment. Another example could be to evaluate interactions such as likes, comments, and shares on the Gamba Osaka Facebook fan page and on their YouTube channel to assess what emotions consumers have towards the brand and address those emotions through direct consumer contact on social media.

All data will need to be evaluated to suggest corrective measures towards offering more effective communication with emotional impact. By frequently contacting consumers and interacting with them on online channels with information relevant to them, the ‘relationship can more easily progress from acquaintance to friend because of casual and spontaneous encounters’ (Kawasaki, 2011:15). Kawasaki (2011:115) suggests that “the more value you provide, the more you can promote your cause.”

Conclusion

The Gamba Osaka football brand has been a recognized commercial force in Japanese professional football, since the J.League’s inception in 1993. The club has won every major national title as well as the AFC Champions League in the past twenty years.

The aim of this paper was to evaluate the Gamba Osaka brand magic by applying the Brand Magic idea by Alexander L. Biel (1997). Biel’s concept evaluates a brand’s image, consisting of a brand’s skills and personality, and a brand’s relationship with its consumers and vice-versa.

The brand image of Gamba Osaka is based on its identity, which, according to David A. Aaker (2000) consists of elements that can be viewed from four perspectives: the brand as a product, organization, person, or symbol.

Gamba Osaka’s products, in the context of sports marketing, are the entertainment of the football competition and every service and product that make the Gamba Osaka football experience more enjoyable and memorable. This can include a visit to the stadium to watch the match live, broadcasted on TV or on the internet. Club jerseys and other clothing also underline the brand as a product.

The obvious corporate ties between the club and its parent company Panasonic, as well as its president having been a long-time Panasonic manager, propose that the club is run and organized similarly to other Panasonic divisions. It is therefore safe to assume that processes are well defined to keep the organization running smoothly and controlling activities are established to take corrective actions before problems escalate. (Note: Following relegation to Division 2 at the end of the 2012 campaign, it became apparent that Gamba Osaka had corporate governance issues, which saw then club president Kikuo Kanamori being replaced by Teruhisa Noro.)

The five dimensions of the Gamba Osaka brand personality include its sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. In terms of sincerity, the Gamba brand is genuinely interested in building and maintaining long-term relationships with the local community in Suita, which is historically given by its parent company being headquartered in the area. Offering a football academy for aspiring footballers and having Masanobu Matsunami, a former Gamba Osaka player, acting as an ambassador for the club are just two examples of Gamba’s efforts to build and foster honest relationships with its stakeholders.

Arguably, Gamba Osaka has been offering excitement since its inception by daring to do things a bit differently from other clubs. Being more fashionable with their name choice—Gamba is said to be adapted from the Italian expression ‘essere in gamba’, which translates to ‘being clever/skilled’—or by dreaming of big results and accomplishments is a further source of excitement for fans. As for the brand’s level of competence, it is safe to claim that the team has been playing entertaining matches throughout its J.League history. Even during their worst campaign, in 2012, the team gave their spectators goal-fests and football drama par excellence. It may be argued that Gamba’s top management was not competent, which eventually led to the relegation of the club. However, by taking corrective actions after the negative campaign, the Gamba Osaka brand regained its competent image—it is debatable whether it ever lost it. Additionally, the reliable infrastructure supporting the club in its community proves that the brand is a competent force in football.

Gamba Osaka had the highest percentage of female fans in the J.League in 2012, which brought an additional charm and sophistication to the image of the brand. Moreover, the fact that Gamba Osaka has been a crowd-pleaser in the first fourteen matches of their 2013 J.League Division 2 campaign, with audiences of more than 10,000 people, except in one match, confirms that there is a certain kind of brand magic at work for the Osaka-based club. Attributes like elegance, fairness, and decisiveness complete the Gamba Osaka brand personality. Symbols such as the club’s crest, the Gamba mascot and its cheerleaders, all sport the colors of the team: blue and black. These two colors are unique no matter which opponent stands on the pitch with Gamba Osaka and play a fundamental part in brand recognition. Furthermore, recounts of memorable events in the club’s history, as told by fans, add symbolic value to the brand by cementing its image as an established Japanese football brand.

Brand relationships as described by Biel (1997) can be seen from two perspectives: Consumer’s view of a brand and a brand’s view of its consumers. From a consumer’s point of view, the Gamba Osaka brand can be seen as a stylish brand that puts effort in being fashionably cosmopolitan by using foreign words in its communication, or trying more variety-show-like YouTube videos. Nonetheless, the club holds on tight to its local base with engagement in the community. Having a large percentage of female fans at the stadium helps reinforcing the sophisticated Gamba charm.

To find out how the brand views its consumers, it is advisable to gather data of online and offline activities and evaluate these to apply corrective measure. These measures will be aiming for more effective communication with emotional impact that enforces stronger relationships with consumers.

After having assessed all the above factors, it is safe to claim that there is an undeniable Gamba Osaka brand magic at play, giving fans a reason to follow and support the club in good and in bad times.

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