A Framework for Understanding Cause-Related Sport Marketing Programs. (Research Paper)

Article excerpt

Abstract: To date, cause-related sport marketing (CRSM) has not received much academic attention. However, it is particularly relevant given recent estimates on the amounts that will be spent on cause-related efforts in 2002. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to set forth a framework for managing cause-related sport marketing programs. The framework is derived using both past research on cause-related marketing and branding theory It theorizes the necessary conditions that must be present if the CRSM program is to result in the intended outcomes of 1) enhanced brand image, 2) enhanced brand loyalty and 3) consumer brand switching.

Keywords: cause-related sport marketing, brand associations, brand loyalty, spectator sport, sponsorship

Executive Summary

While some types of corporate associations, such as celebrity endorsements (Agrawal and Kamakura, 1995; Heath, McCarthy and Mothersbaugh, 1994), have received much attention in the marketing and advertising literature, one increasingly popular strategic association - cause-related sport marketing (CRSM) - has had comparatively little academic attention. This is surprising in the fact that companies are projected to spend $328 million on cause-related marketing in 2002 (IEG Projection: Sponsorship Spending Will Lag Predicted Economic Rebound, 2001). This paper introduces a theory-based framework that will assist both academics and practitioners in the assessment and evaluation of CRSM programs tied to the spectator sport industry.

Beginning in the 1980s, both the private sector (Stroup and Neubert, 1987) and academics (Varadarajan and Menon, 1998) were beginning to understand that cause-related marketing (CRM) could be used as a viable tool within a firm's overall marketing strategy. For example, American Express benefited in 1984 from its sponsorship of the Statue of Liberty Restoration Program. The credit card company reported a 28 per cent increase in card usage. It should be noted, however, that ORM programs will not be wholly successful unless there is a genuine commitment to the cause throughout the organization and that the consumer recognizes this commitment, two of the necessary conditions/antecedents theorized in our framework.

Currently, there are thousands of organizations implementing some form of a CRM program. The popularity of this marketing strategy is supported by recent consumer research. For example, the Cone/Roper Cause-Related Trends Report examined consumer responses to companies' participation in CRM and found at least 80 per cent of those surveyed reported having a more positive image of a firm if it offers support to a cause they care about (Cone Communications Press Release, 1999). Furthermore, given parity in price and quality, more than two-thirds of the sample said they are likely to switch brands or retailers to those participating in CRM.

The goal of CRM programs is to create, develop, or reinforce positive brand associations for a corporation. For example, CRM programs could strive to have consumers feel good about purchasing a particular company's product because of their involvement with a particular cause, thus adding meaning and value (i.e. creating a benefit) to the consuming of a specific product. CRM programs also strive to create long-term favorable attitudes (e.g. trust, integrity, credibility) towards corporations as a result of their affiliations with causes (Arnold, 2001; Hoeffler and Keller, 2002).

In this paper, a framework is introduced that can be used to both understand and evaluate the effectiveness of CRSM programs in the spectator sport industry. It stipulates that there are necessary conditions that must be present for a CRSM program to be optimally implemented. These necessary conditions are: identifying a cause that resonates with consumers and organizations; complete and genuine organizational commitment to the cause; evidence of a tangible (e. …