Nation Branding-Best Practices Through Sports, Laws and Science

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Another factor of substantial importance which plays an active role in nation branding is how the country portrays itself in various sports. Before we look in to the aspects of this, excerpts from the recent interview with Mr Simon Anholt, the brilliantly caustic, not conventions driven and outspoken nation branding (or as he prefers, ‘policy advisor’) expert, by Germany’s Deutschland Magazine about the relationship between sports and nation branding and sportsmen and nation brands only weeks ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is given below in brief. This presents an insight in to the nation branding as a whole and in to the Sports domain as a measure of enhancing the brand nation. Mr. Anholt, you are recognized the world over as the leading expert on a concept referred to as “nation branding”. In the world of marketing, the Nation Brands Index (NBI) is equally loved and feared. Why has nation branding become so important in the age of globalization? I hope that the “Nation Brands Index” isn’t loved or feared in the world of marketing, since it has almost nothing to do with the world of marketing! The index is produced for the benefit of national governments that wish to track their national standing and profile. As I have explained many, many times in my books and articles, this is not a marketing discipline: there is absolutely no evidence that countries can alter their international images through marketing communications, and many of them continue to waste enormous sums of their taxpayers’ money every year in futile propaganda campaigns in press and television, without any indication whatsoever that this can succed in changing anybody’s mind. Countries are judged by what they do and what they make, not by what they say. I don’t, therefore, believe in nation branding: it’s a false and dangerous idea. Nations have brands – in the sense that they have images – and those images are absolutely important to their progress and prosperity in the modern world. Countries with a powerful and positive image can export more products, more culture, more people, more services and attract more tourists, more investors, more immigrants and the attention and respect of other governments. Countries with weak or damaged images find it much harder and more expensive to achieve all of these goals. That’s why it is so important. I repeat: countries have brands, but they can’t be branded. Only new policies, new investments and innovations can change the image of a country – and it takes a very long time. You use your own methodology in your research. In short, how do you actually obtain your results? In partnership with GfK Roper, one of the world’s largest market research companies, we poll around 20,000 people in 20 countries, and ask them about 50 questions to measure their perceptions of 50 different countries. These questions include asking whether people think the country has a beautiful landscape, friendly people, good products, vibrant modern culture, whether its government respects human rights and free speech, contributes to the environment and poverty reduction, whether the country’s economy is strong or weak, whether they would like to visit the country as a tourist or to live and work and study there, and much else besides. These scores are then averaged to create a series of rankings whereby each country’s image can be directly measured against that of the other 49 countries. Admittedly, this is not your particular area of research, but can you see a connection between sports and nation branding? Indeed it is part of my area of research, and it’s one of the questions we ask in the “culture” section of the Nation Brands Index. I have written many times about the connection between major sporting events and a country’s image, and what makes the difference between a successful Olympics or World Cup, and one that’s forgotten within a few months. I have also researched in great detail how perceptions of a...
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