UVA Darden School Partners With APCO Worldwide on the ‘Top 100 Champion Brands’ Study

12 November 2014

By Laura Hennessey Martens

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business Institute for Business in Society (IBiS) and global communication and business strategy firm APCO Worldwide announced today the ranking of the world’s “Top 100 Champion Brands,” based on a global study evaluating the brand strength of nearly 500 of the largest public and private corporate brands. The highest scoring brands in 2014 were Microsoft, Intel, Google, Nestlé and Disney. Darden provided academic insights for the study.

Conducted by APCO Insight, the opinion research group of APCO Worldwide, the study addressed today’s changing stakeholder landscape, in which individuals have increased expectations for corporations and see them playing a greater role in their lives. Seventy-seven percent of respondents stated that corporations now have a bigger impact on their lives than they did 10 years ago, and 68 percent indicated that, when evaluating companies, it is as important to know how the company operates as it is to know what it sells.

APCO recently partnered with the Darden School to deepen the knowledge and research behind Champion Brand. IBiS is using the survey’s rich data set and APCO’s Champion Brand model to map out key survey findings and common attributes of Champion Brands. Darden and APCO will use these findings to assess potential impact to companies that use Champion Brand to guide corporate brand strategy.

IBiS prepares leaders to positively impact society through business by providing research, teaching, thought leadership and innovative business practices around business and society issues. Darden Professor Bidhan L. Parmar and other faculty at the institute have been working with the survey data to deepen the knowledge around what makes a Champion Brand with the goal of offering insights and real-world implications to large corporations that may want to adopt the Champion Brand model.

“Business is a key part of making our lives better in the 21st century,” said Darden Professor R. Edward Freeman, an IBiS academic director and a globally recognized author and scholar on stakeholder theory. “For any business to be successful, it has to create value for all of its stakeholders collectively, versus any one in isolation; companies that become Champion Brands do just that. And this approach leads not only to a stronger brand, but to a stronger society.”

In the study, more than 36,000 individuals in 14 key markets around the world provided their opinions about the role of and expectations for corporations. Nearly all who participated (94 percent) believe companies have the ability to shape a better society, and almost as many (87 percent) believe that most companies exist to create value for multiple interests in society.

The Champion Brand Index measured how companies are meeting stakeholder expectations against four main elements — alignment, authenticity, attachment and advocacy. Each measurement rates how stakeholders view a company’s ability to align with their core values, behave authentically, forge deep emotional connections and act on behalf of their interests in order to add value to society.

“Corporate brands are operating in an era of increased stakeholder expectations and influence; simply being well-run and profitable is not enough,” said Margery Kraus, founder and CEO of APCO Worldwide. “In order to be successful, great brands must recognize that they need to go beyond trust and be champions for their stakeholders before those stakeholders will champion them. Only companies that ingrain this into their DNA can earn their place as true leaders in their industries and society.”

More information about Champion Brand, the survey and company rankings are available at http://www.apcoworldwide.com/champion.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Sophie Zunz
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia