Audience Characteristics and Event Sponsorship Response: The Potential Influence of Demographics, Personal Interests and Values on Brand Awareness and Brand Image

Article excerpt

Introduction

The corporate practice of sponsoring sporting events has existed since the turn of the century and has recently become one of the fastest growing areas of advertising and promotion (Ukman, 1995). However, despite its long history and current growth, sport (or event) sponsorship has yet to receive the same type of rigorous research attention as other areas of marketing communication (Cunningham & Taylor, 1995; Gwinner, 1997).

The body of literature on sport marketing is somewhat disjointed, ranging from research focusing on effects (e.g. Crimmins & Horn, 1996; Javalgi, Traylor, Gross & Lampman, 1994), research that accounts for the influence of audience characteristics, such as demographics, and differences in related attitudes and/or media behaviors (e.g. Burnett, Menon & Smart, 1993; Stipp & Schiavone, 1996), as well as work focusing on specific psychological traits and/or states (e.g. Pavelchek, Antil & Munch, 1988; Tuan Pham, 1992). The research reported here attempts to replicate and extend these previous efforts using data from a two-stage random phone survey to examine audience characteristics impacting consumers' ability, motivation and opportunity (AMO) to process and respond to event sponsorship advertising regarding official sponsors in two product categories from the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The Olympics have become a highly desired marketing communications vehicle for a number of reasons, including the international scope and appeal of the event, as well its two week duration (Chalip, 1992). Aside from the event telecast, the Games can generate related media coverage that can heighten event interest and provide additional exposure opportunities for its sponsors (e.g. the Coca-Cola torch run). Therefore, the uniqueness of the Olympics, with its relative infrequency, prestige and human drama, provides a potentially large and highly involved audience, with whom brands try to build an affinity by paying large sums to become official sponsors (Schreiber, 1994; Stipp & Schiavone, 1996). And while there is data to support that Olympics sponsorships can be effective (Crimmins & Horn, 1996; Stipp & Schiavone, 1996), little is known about the influence of audience demographics, personal interests and values on such outcomes.

Literature Review Sport Sponsorship

Corporate sponsorship of a sporting event is a specific form of sport marketing, which is a more general strategy capitalizing on the interests of sport-involved consumers. Sport marketing is usually characterized by advertising (often containing sport-related themes and/or concurrent promotions) placed in and around sport-oriented media. The sponsorship of a specific sporting event, on the other hand, is a quasi-philanthropic practice involving "a cash and/or in-kind fee paid to an event property ... in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that property" (Ukman, 1995, p.1). Sponsorship rights fees paid across all categories of events worldwide were estimated at $10 billion in 1994 (Ukman, 1995, p. 2), with almost $3 billion accounted for by North American sports sponsorship (Ukman, 1995, p. 14). These figures do not include expenses incurred to leverage these sponsorships with any additional marketing communication support. Sponsorship characteristics can vary in terms of the following factors, all of which are associated with specific communications objectives:

* target audience, e.g. consumers, employees, business-to-business;

* the type of property sponsored, e.g. arts, causes or sporting events;

* the scope of the property's appeal, e.g. international, national, regional, local;

* the amount of mediated arena signage exposure, ranging from events with no arena signage, such as the Olympics, to highly-cluttered event venues, such as NHL hockey;

* the number of sponsors involved and the level of financial commitment of each sponsor, e. …