Leveraging Sport to Build City Brands: The Case of Cape Town as an Emerging City Brand

Leveraging Sport to Build City Brands: The Case of Cape Town as an Emerging City Brand

Brendon Knott (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa) and Janice Hemmonsbey (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0576-1.ch014
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This chapter sets out strategic implications for emerging city brand stakeholders wishing to leverage sport. Sport is already acknowledged as having a significant impact for city brands, particularly through the hosting of sport events, as a means of creating global awareness, improved image and differentiation. However, there has been little examination of the contribution of sport more broadly and especially within an emerging African city context. This chapter identifies the major challenges facing city brands and proposes how sport may provide solutions. It reveals the findings of an empirical study that assessed the strategic value of sport to the Cape Town city brand. The qualitative study featured semi-structured, in-depth interviews (n=12), conducted with definitive stakeholders. The chapter identifies the contribution of sport as a competitive differentiator for a city brand. It further reveals the contribution of the different sport elements to this brand benefit, namely: sport events and facilities (that can be used to showcase a city brand); teams/ franchises and personalities (that act as brand ambassadors for a city and contribute to the city brand identity); and sponsors and sport brands (that can be viewed as brand partners as they play a crucial role of supporting and enabling sport through their investment).
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Sport is proving especially popular among the emerging economy city brands as a means of generating and communicating a strong and coherent global brand. A particular advantage of sport is its ability to generate passion and create a connection with its fans and participants (Rein & Shields, 2007, p. 74). While most literature has focused on the impact of sport mega-events on urban tourism and legacy aspects (Kotze, 2006; Cornelissen, 2008), this chapter discusses the broader contribution of sport to city branding, in the form of other sport events, sport facilities, sport teams and personalities, and commercial sport brands and sponsors. After identifying key challenges facing city brand stakeholders, the chapter proposes clear branding benefits that these different sport elements provide for a city brand.

In view of the above, this chapter sets out to:

  • Discuss the current understanding of the relationship between sport and city branding;

  • Highlight the particular challenges for city brands, and especially the case of the emerging African city brand of Cape Town, that may be addressed through sport;

  • Review the findings from an empirical investigation that reveals the strategic importance of sport to the emerging African city brand of Cape Town;

  • Propose a set of brand benefits that sport elements contribute to city brands.



Sport and City Branding

Sport is increasingly acknowledged as a means for cities to gain the attention and respect of a variety of constituents and to establish a unique and differentiated brand identity and image. The growing body of place brand literature reveals an increasing awareness of the potentially significant brand-related impacts that hosting sport events can have for a host city. Indeed, these opportunities have led to heightened global competition in bidding to host events. The competition among nations to host major and mega-events has particularly increased, especially so among the recent number of emerging or “middle-income” mega-event host nations such as Beijing, China (2008 Olympic Games & 2022 Winter Olympic Games), South Africa (2010 FIFA World Cup), and Brazil (2014 FIFA World Cup and Rio 2016 Olympic Games). (SeeTable 1for more on the mega-events hosted by the BRICS emerging nations.) For emerging cities, hosting sport mega-events are viewed as “a fast-track to world recognition and reputation enhancement” (Heslop, Nadeau, O’Reilly, & Armenakyan, 2013, p. 13). Although mega-events are regarded as having the greatest significance for a host city, some authors have already advocated the importance of a portfolio of different event scales and types for destinations (Jago, Chalip, Brown, Mules, & Ali, 2003).

Table 1.
BRICS emerging economies and sport mega-events
CountrySport Mega-Events Hosted (Post-1990)Nation Brand Index Ranking (FutureBrand 2014)
Brazil• 2007 Pan-American Games
• 2014 FIFA World Cup
• 2016 Olympic Games
Russia• 2014 Winter Olympic Games
• 2018 FIFA World Cup
India• 2010 Commonwealth Games
• 2011 Cricket World Cup
China• 2008 Olympic Games
• 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships
South Africa• 1995 Rugby World Cup
• 2003 Cricket World Cup
• 2010 FIFA World Cup

Sport has been documented as playing a variety of roles as it relates to city brand development. The city of Melbourne, Australia, has focused on attracting sport events to not only build its city brand but also to strengthen the city’s tourism industry (Jago, Dwyer, Lipman, Van Lill, & Vorster, 2010, p. 222). Melbourne has clearly differentiated itself globally through its successful hosting of sport events, including annual events such as the Australian Open tennis championships and a Formula One Grand Prix. Top tier, once-off events held in the past decade include the 2015 Cricket World Cup, 2007 FINA (aquatics) World Championships, and the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Beyond brand image, sport also plays a role in city brand identity formation (Higham & Hinch, 2009). Sport in itself has been proposed as a means of generating and communicating a strong and coherent brand for a city, whether in the form of sport events, teams or places (Rein & Shields, 2007). However, the study by Zhang and Zhao (2009) of Beijing post the 2008 Olympic Games concluded that the sport mega-event had only a limited impact on the city brand as there was a perceived mis-match between the brand identity and the city’s core values.

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