An Investigation of Sponsorship Implications within a State Sports Festival: The Case of the Florida Sunshine State Games

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Revenue from sporting events and sponsorship has become increasingly important to marketing practitioners within the sports industry. Various marketing strategies have been developed to generate revenue from sports events and products. Among them, event sponsorship has been recognised as an effective means through which companies can communicate with target participants and attendees of sports events (Alexandris, Tsaousi & James, 2007; Irwin, Lachowetz, Cornwell & Clark, 2003; Lee, Sandler & Shani, 1997). Sponsors who align with sporting events or organisations receive a variety of benefits for their efforts, including brand awareness, brand enhancement, brand loyalty, organisational promotion and sales increase (Apostolopoulou & Papadimitriou, 2004; Tomasini, Frye & Stotlar, 2004). Numerous sponsorship factors have been shown to influence the investment commitments of companies to sponsorship activities (Lee at al., 1997). These include, but are not limited to, change of attitudes towards brand, product satisfaction, fan involvement and purchase intention. These factors have contributed to the definition of sponsorship effectiveness but do not appear to be thoroughly addressed in the current literature (e.g. Alexandris et al, 2007; Irwin et al, 2003; Madrigal, 2000; Thwaites & Carruthers, 1998).

Consequently, investigations focusing on the entire sponsorship process should provide many opportunities for research, particularly in developing an appreciation for sponsorship in unique event contexts. This is supported by observations from Meenaghan (2001), who asserted the need for event sponsorship research to quantify consumers' behavioural responses and attitudes to sponsorship. This study investigates how satisfaction towards sports sponsorship, goodwill and fan identification influence purchasing behavioural intentions at a state sports festival. Data were collected from attendees (N=351) at the 26th annual Sunshine State Games (SSG) held in Lakeland, Florida. Results suggest fan identification with the SSG had a significant effect on goodwill, overall satisfaction with SSG sponsors and purchase intentions of SSG sponsors' products. Overall satisfaction with SSG sponsors fully mediated the relationship between goodwill and purchase intentions of SSG sponsors' products while controlling for the effects of fan identification. In other words, respondents indicated that they form an overall assessment of the sponsor before considering purchasing that sponsor's products. This lends support to the body of knowledge on sponsorship effects. Results also give credence to the benefits of a coordinated marketing strategy at these sporting events. Additionally, the effect sizes of goodwill and overall satisfaction with SSG sponsors differed between competitors and spectators. For competitors, fan identification with the SSG had a greater impact on goodwill than it did for spectators. Likewise, combined effects of fan identification with the SSG and goodwill had a larger impact on overall satisfaction with SSG sponsors.

Thus, sponsorship activations at these events need to be strategically planned in order to convey the values of these sponsors to both competitors and spectators. While goodwill significantly influenced respondents' overall satisfaction with SSG sponsors, the results also indicated the existence of unexplained variances. Likewise, some variance remained unexplained for purchase intentions of SSG sponsors' products. Future studies aim to reveal additional constructs.

In conclusion, this study investigated event attendees' attitude formation process towards event sponsors at a state sports event. Respondents were satisfied with SSG sponsors and expressed their intent to buy sponsors' products.

This study adds practical and theoretical contributions to the existing body of knowledge on sponsorship effectiveness. Future studies should be directed at understanding consumers' complex decision-making processes. …