Can brands have superheroes? : a study investigating the effects of brand alliances with superhero characters on the evaluation of the host brand
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- Master Thesis 
Despite the growing popularity of brand alliances, there has been a fairly low amount of research regarding this strategy if compared to others, such as brand extensions. Additionally, there is an increasing trend of using superhero characters in order to reach higher sales, either for movie tickets, toys or other kinds of merchandise. Many companies decide to use this growing trend and make a licensing agreement with the owners of these characters, trying to boost their own sales with their help. Therefore, these characters become brands themselves. However, there is currently no existing research focused on measuring the effects of using these superhero characters. The strategy seems to work, but we have no evidence of what exactly is the key to success. This is the reason why we decided to analyse the interconnections between host brands and superhero characters, with an aim of finding out how these characters affect the evaluation of the host brand. After conducting an extensive research on the existing theory, we have set up an experiment to measure the effects of the aforementioned brand alliance on brand evaluation. We have created four fictional alliances between two pairs of functional and expressive brands, where one member of the pair represented a high-fit alliance with the superhero character, and the other a low-fit alliance. Additionally, we created two control groups for both brand concepts: each control group contained both the high-fit and low-fit brand within the functional or the expressive concept. After collecting responses from 287 people, we have run several analyses, including two-way ANOVA tests and interaction contrasts. Our results show that forming a brand alliance with a superhero character has an impact on the evaluation of the host brand. Specifically, we have concluded that a high-fit brand alliance between an expressive brand and a superhero character has a better effect on brand evaluation than a low-fit brand alliance of the same kind. Additionally, in case there is a high fit, expressive brands have a better impact on brand evaluation than functional brands. However, some future research might be required because of some mixed results we obtained. Regarding alliances with functional brands, we found out that low-fit alliances have better results on brand evaluation than high-fit ones. Furthermore, in case there is a low-fit brand alliance, functional and expressive brands have similar impacts on brand evaluation. Finally, we can conclude that both perceived fit and brand concept are important factors when forming a brand alliance with a superhero character.