COMPETITIVE IDENTITY FOR NATION OF LATVIA – LESSONS TO LEARN FROM NATIONAL HOCKEY TEAM ‘’DINAMO RIGA’’
Nowadays global competition could be seen not only in corporate level, but also is exists among nations. Competition among nations is in following sectors – foreign investment, export and tourism. As there is competition between nations, regions and cities (as it is among corporations) there will be always need for methods to increase subject’s competitiveness – this can be deﬁned as a Competitive Identity (Porter 1998). Term Competitive Identity is used as broader expression of brand management for Nations, Cities and Regions. Higher marketing effort is needed for developing (emerging) nations, and nations without resources (natural or man made) representing absolute advantages. Nation branding has emerged relatively recently as an important ﬁeld in the domain of international marketing.
Anholt 2007 states marketing quality depends on all the national stakeholders (virtually society – people) working together in creating competitive identity. Media could be involved only after all the stakeholders speak one language about their country. Communication can’t substitute positive change; it can only help change to happen faster. Latvian authorities too often start from the least efﬁcient – communication. According to Nation Brands Index (NBI) and City Brand Barometer, Latvia and its capital Riga, shares one of the last places – 35 to 40th (depending on research type and year) place from forty among other nations and cities around the World.
After regaining independence and collapse of almost all the industry, there was little left for positioning Latvia as a nation, so fanning for ice hockey was spontaneous and very convenient way for local people to speak common language about their nation. So the state became branded without any positioning effort, by people themselves. The message to the outside world was; ‘’we are small nation risen from the rubble, but we can be part of worlds elite either as players or also as supporters.’’ In fact Latvian ice Hockey is among World’s elite nations ﬂuctuating between 7th and 12th places. Following victory over Russia and other dramatic success of Latvian national team (predecessor of club ‘’Dinamo Riga’’) number of fans increased rapidly. In the beginning of millennium there was notion in Latvian society ice Hockey would bring us to the very top of the World. Ice hockey became the most popular sport in Latvia and at the same time national game, and economical development and international recognition followed until ﬁnancial crisis stroked and ice Hockey was put in hands of professional marketers commercialising and merchandising every aspect of the game.
Due to ﬁnancial crisis Latvian society is far from unity, but this can’t be addressed to ice hockey. May be emotions are not as strong as before 10 years, you can still feel deep sense of national identiﬁcation and expression through ice Hockey. In could be explained as inertia, or lack of other alternatives for external communication. Could Latvian authorities repeat success of ice Hockey story in terms of national effort of self and social support in positioning nation of Latvia? Answer is positive there must be an alternative.