The spirit of sauna: legitimating the Finnish place brand

Jack S. Tillotson*, Vito Tassiello, Alexandra S. Rome, Katariina Helaniemi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate inhabitants of Finland and their continuing efforts to narrate a national identity within the constraints imposed by discursive meanings of Finnish culture through the experience of sauna. Design/methodology/approach: Data collection comprised semi-structured interviews with Finnish local residents and entrepreneurs; these were supplemented with secondary data including books, articles, advertisements and documents referencing sauna in the context of Finland. Findings: The analysis and interpretation by the authors show that the symbolic resource of sauna constitutes the legitimation of Finnish nation branding discourses at three levels: regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive; we label these sauna governance, communal identity creation and mythmaking, respectively. Originality/value: The research contribution reveals that nation branding discourses are also forms of legitimation work. Finnish nation branding discourses are interwoven with sauna as the symbolic resource of “Finnishness” and become conduits for the expression of discursive meanings. This demonstrates that institutional legitimacy is an intrinsic aspect of the ways place branding discourses can be used as a mode of governance (i.e. a policy instrument).

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Early online date23 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jun 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Institutional theory
  • Legitimation
  • Nordic
  • Place branding discourses
  • Sauna
  • Symbolic resources


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