Country Branding and Sport Success. The Impact For Spain of Becoming the Football UEFA Euro 2012 Champion Vs Italy 4-0

This is the last post in our series about media impact of football UEFA 2012.

We have monitored the impact of football matches during this top national sport competition in Europe, and we have addressed different issues using this common framework.

In all previous analysis about this competition, we have used image content analysis of photos used in published news as raw material for our metrics analysis.

We will use again image content analysis in this post.

Now the element we want to address is to propose some measurements about a much talked issue: the impact of sport mega events and championship for the hosting countries or for the champion team.

There are a lot of discussions and studies about the economic impact for the organizing country. There are also some studies and conversations about the benefits that a country can obtain after winning a top sport competition, besides the purely sport triumph.

We have addressed this issue in some of our previous posts in this blog. We have argued that one relevant element in measuring the impact of mega events and sport sucess is linked to enhancing country brand and reputation. We have discussed about place branding when we have monitored the impact of negative events like violent rioting in Barcelona during a Spanish general strike, (See here the Barcelona rioting media impact analysis) and the negative impact for brand image of Poland and and Warsaw of clashed between hoolingans during this Euro 2012. (See here the Clashes in Warsaw case)

But, of course, sport mega events may produce substantial positive effects for brand image of the hosting country if the organizing events go smoothly, and positive image effects for the country winning the championship.

We run a comprehensive mdia impact analysis of the positive benefits for South Africa for perfectly organizing the FIFA World Cup 2010. We also monitored in that study the extraordinary positive impact for the image of Spain as country champion of the competition.

You can access to the report (in Spanish) about the country brand impact of FIFA World Cup for Spain here: MRI Universidad de Navarra, Country Reputation section.

We applied in that case a news content analysis.

Now, we apply, as announced, image content analysis of news.

We have explained the insights of our image content metrics in previous posts in this series about Euro 2012. The intuition supporting the attractiveness of the news image content analysis is easy: a lot of information about an event or issue covered in the news is contained in the body of the article. It is sometimes difficult to seize the profile chosen by the author of the article, as many combined facts are included in the text. The title of the article will tell a lot about the perception selected by the journalist. The other element that provides a lot of information about the position taken by the journalist is the photo chosen to illustrate the article. Is many cases, the image chosen captures the ‘soul’ of the news. Even in cases were the image does not reflect the spirit of the article, if plays a huge influence in readers’ perception. This is why we consider that image content analysis of newspapers as developped by MRI Universidad de Navarra provide a powerful metrics tool for reputation or branding analysis.

The case we are covering in this post is really especially appealing, as we have a combination of news almost perfectly opposed as image profiler, in the same time period. In the economy side, Spain has become a leading international reference in the news in May and June for its critical economic and financial problems. Spain is suffering a year 2012 with an impressive economic recession, after four years of economic crisis. Unemployment rate is setting international records. Finally, the adjustment applied to its banking system has provocked the emergence of structural problems, driving to the nationalization of Bankia and the call to a financial rescue action to Europe. It is probably impossible to create a darker image in the economy front.

We have in parallel a number of recent sport sucesses by Spanish sport players and teams. Rafa Nadal in tennis (Roland Garros champion in May), Fernando Alonso in Formula One (current leader), MotoGP, and now the Spanish football team.

The Spanish football team is the new football champion in Europe after beating Italy in the final with an astonishing 4-0 result, the largest win in an Euro final. Big and spectacular game, and also outstanding sport performance: Spain in the first country in Europe winning three major championships in a row: UEFA Euro 2008 and 2012 and FIFA World Cup 2010.

Our aim in this post is to measure and to show you the media impact of the combination of good news and bad news about Spain, and the specific impact of the sport success in Euro 2012.

We have chosen to analyze the results coming from media in Germany. This is probably the most interesting country to monitor, as Germany is playing a major role in the current economic and financial crisis in Europe, as leading country deciding how to find solutions and providing funding for them. German media will be thus  specially aware concerning the ongoing financial crisis in Spain. Germany is also strongly interested in UEFA Euro 2012, as football is the leading sport in this country in popularity and German team was seen as one of top favorites to win the competition (it was eventually eliminated by Italy in the semi finals stage).

As explained, we have applied as metrics the image content analysis of the photos used in newspapers in Germany in news explicitly mentioning Spain (‘Spanien’).

The time period covered is between June 1 and July 9 2012. This include a pre Euro 2012 period (June 1 to June 8) and a post Euro period (July 2 to July 9).

We have monitored the news published in newspapers by units of three consecutive days. Applying image content analysis, we have organized the results into different categories, that will be explained when we comment the empirical results

Let’s present and analyze the results.

We present the global detailed results in the first figure. Photos showing positive imaging for brand Spain are coloured in green, photos showing negative perceptions are coloured in red, neutral images are in white.

The share of positive related images about Spain move beetween 48% and 70% of all news before Euro 2012 starts (it started in June 8, but it started for Spain in June 10, when it played its first match). So, just before the commencing of Euro 2012, negative news about bad economic conditions in Spain and the negociations for rescuing the Spanish banking system took som 40% of all news about Spain in German press.

What happened during the three weeks of Euro 2012 championship? As we could expect, news and images about the Spanish football team success took an ever increasing place. Images about football represented a minimum of 45% of all news about Spain and an extraordinary peak of 85% of all news when Spain got the title.

This means that sport almost completely overcome the negative news about the economic and financial problems of Spain during the Euro 2012.

The positive impact of Euro 2012 of Spanish country brand is confirmed only when Spain wins the title: the huge quantity of news created around the Euro is transformed into huge positive quality of news when Spain becomes the event champion.

The figure below summarizes the positive impact of Euro by representing the share of news that it represents in German media: this is a huge 60% of all news about Spain during three weeks.

In the following figure we show the detail of the source of news with a positive impact of brand Spain. It provides the evidence of the dramatic impact of sport successes like Euro 2012, as new brand capital.

In the final figure we show the global picture of all news about Spain in German newspapers, both positive and negative. News about Euro 2012 represent 45% of all news about Spain during this period.

Euro 2012 is by far the first provider of positive news for Spain during June 2012. Second source of positive news (16.3%) are touristic related images (touristic destinations, beaches, hotels). Other categories of positive news play a minor role in coparison: images about culture and cultural events (3.3%), images about food and gastronomy (2.5%).

The most relevant fact is that during the critical period when Spanish economy was under attack and pushed the Government to call and finally obtain a rescue fund from Europe forits national banking system, the size of the very negative news about these problems (21.1%) were less than half the size of images about the successful Euro 2012.

Yes, sport success plays a major role in country branding, and it can be measured.

Annex: Examples of German Newspapers Cover

We propose as a complement of this post a selection of few cover pages of some German newspapers. Both titles, content and images are relevant.

We propose first some examples of cover pages in German newspapers at the beginning of Euro 2012, around June 10. Spain appears as top news in Germany because of the Spanish banking rescue program by Europe.

Here the cover by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the most influential newspaper in Germany (‘The next one, please: Spain. Up to one hundred billion euro for ailing banks’)

The following cover reflects both the importance of the economic problems is Spain as viewed in Germany, and the media power of football. This is a cover page that captures quite well the story in our post about the impact of sport events and success in country branding.

And now three examples of leading German newspapers the day after Spain won the Euro 2012. Of course, ec0nomic and financial problems in Spain did not disappear by July 2 2012.