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Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to present the theoretical conceptualisation that led to the communication improvements needed for water polo in Greece. The paper also studies the implementation process. The proposed improvements were: (a) arrangement of symbols on the players' caps; (b) addition of team logo and name on players' caps; (c) redesign of players' caps; (d) addition of colour to players' caps; and (e) introduction of a full-body swimsuit. The result was that all but one (e) of the proposed modifications was implemented and adopted during the 1996-2000 National League periods of the Greek men's water polo Division A1.
In the late 1990s water polo in Greece was in the 'saturation' stage of its life cycle and needed new forms of marketing/communication to promote growth. The packaging of the sport was identified as the first element requiring modification (where 'packaging' is considered to be either the players' caps or the athletes' appearance).
For the implementation of any communication process, the coding of a message is essential. In sport, the message relating to which team an athlete belongs is conveyed by his/her uniform where the symbol/sign/logo of the team is depicted.
Greek water polo teams, however, did not have their logos on players' caps. As a result, the sport's image in the mass media was reduced, because it excluded basic communication elements in the form of extrinsic stimuli needed for the transferring of meaning to sports fans. Theoretical models, listed below, were selected to drive the changes because they provided short and clear sequential steps that helped senior management through the process of marketing communication.
1. Shimp's (1990) communication objectives
In common with classical marketing practice, the objectives for the model included: building product category wants, creating brand awareness, enhancing favourable attitudes towards the brand, influencing brand purchase intention and facilitating purchase at the point of sale.
2. The VIEW (Visibility, Information, Emotional appeal and Workability) model for the evaluation of the sport's package (Twedt (1968) in Shimp, 1990)
Using this model, all but one (e) of the following elements were modified in the Greek men's National League of water polo Division 1 between 1996 and 2000:
a Arrangement of symbols on the players' caps
b Addition of team logo and name on players' caps
c Redesign of players' caps
d Addition of colour to players' caps
e Introduction of a full-body swimsuit.
3. The Johnson, Scheuing & Gaida's (1986) New Product Evolution Model
This model was used to formulate and test strategic development issues relating to the sport. For example, a series of further measures was proposed as the second stage in the development of the sport in Greece. These included the use of team mascots, the publication of a promotional flyer explaining the sport's rules, an exhibition match featuring players with full-body swimsuits and an official nationwide beach water polo tournament. The use of mascots and the national beach tournament were rejected on cost grounds, but the other two proposals were accepted and implemented.
The paper demonstrates that, despite using theoretical models to smooth the process, there was considerable resistance to change among all of the parties involved in the adoption and implementation process. Internal politics and a culture of resistance among administrators was one problem. The cost of implementing new ideas was another factor.
There were, however, practical issues that led to opposition to the proposals, such as referees arguing that introducing players' caps would make it more difficult to identify teams. And the players objected to wearing the full-body suits on the grounds that it made them look like female competitors. A key lesson, therefore, is that when proposing major changes to a sport, it is important to consider every possible reason for resistance and to prepare counter arguments.
Because most of the measures proposed have been adopted, it is recommended that further research would be useful to evaluate impact.
Water polo was introduced to Greece at the time of the establishment of the Hellenic Swimming Federation in 1927 (Gravathiotis et al, 1997). In terms of national team competition, Greek water polo teams have appeared in the Olympic Games more often than any other national sports team. The sport is second only to basketball in Olympic Games achievements among team sports (6th place at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1994). Furthermore, in international club competition, Vouliagmeni and Olympiakos water polo clubs were respectively champions and runners-up in Europe in 1997 and 2001.
Despite water polo's excellent record in major global competitions, few spectators attend games regularly (this includes the men's A1 Division matches). This has led to entrance to most official games being free of charge at all levels of competition (with the exception of a few very important games). Furthermore, the regular television broadcast of one weekly match from the men's A1 Division in the 1996-97 national championship season was terminated because of low viewing figures.
According to the Ministry of Culture (also responsible for sport), the European Union has imposed a gradual, but steady, reduction of public funded subsidy to all sports (Efstathiou, 2000). This is likely to become an increasing problem for water polo because it is one of the five most state-subsidised sports in the country (Loukis et al, 1996). This critical fact alone forced the marketing office of the Hellenic Swimming Federation to seek new avenues to expand the sport's fan base.
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More specifically, the objective of the sport federation was to increase the funding of the sport from non-state sources by attracting commercial interest such as new TV contracts and sponsorships. To accomplish this goal, some improvements to the sport were considered necessary because broadcasters and sponsors are attracted by a sport's public appeal. The purpose of this paper is to present the theoretical conceptualisation that led to the improvements needed and the implementation process.
The New Service Management Approach (NSMA) to a sport's life cycle
According to Scheuing (1989), "... the term product describes a complex bundle of tangible and intangible benefits that a business offers to the marketplace ... If less than half of a product's price …