The Role of Involvement in Sports and Sport Spectatorship in Sponsor's Brand Use: The Case of Mountain Dew and Action Sports Sponsorship

Article excerpt

Brand use is a critically important measure of business and marketing success (Allenby et al., 2002), and the search for empirical evidence explaining product or brand use is a major stream in marketing literature (Fennell, Allenby, Yang, & Edwards, 2003). Over the past century, research has examined the relationship among several variables (e.g., psychographics, age, gender, and other demographics) in an effort to better understand consumption rates and brand use (Shaw, 1912; Smith, 1956) so strategies can be developed to increase brand use.

In an effort to increase brand use, firms have frequently sponsored sporting events to communicate with targeted consumers via demographic and psychographic variables (Bennett, 1999; Cliffe & Motion, 2005; Fennell & Allenby, 2004; Nicholls, Roslow, & Dublish, 1999; Roy & Cornwell, 2004). Sponsorship particularly provides access to specific target markets that may be hard to reach through traditional media (IEG, 2004). One such example is Mountain Dew's sponsorship of action sports1 events, which provides access to a coveted target market, consisted of primarily young males (Bennett, Henson, & Zhang, 2003). In fact, Browne (2004, p. 174) connects the "reinvigoration" of the Mountain Dew brand and increases in brand use (sales) to its long-term sponsorship of action sports. The increasing popularity of action sports and the amount of investment they have attracted from corporations is noteworthy (Bennett, Henson, & Zhang, 2002; Browne, 2004).

Despite the access to target markets and other benefits that sponsorship may provide, sponsors may mainly activate the sponsorship via TV broadcasting or live attendance. Therefore, sport spectatorship can play an important role in the implementation of a sponsorship. However, for inaugural events, sponsors generally are in a position to engage in contractual agreements without much evidence of historical attendance or viewership data. Consequently, there is a fair amount of uncertainty of how well the sponsorship will work for brand new events.

As research has indicated that highly involved consumers of sport tend to consume the sport through event attendance more than those who are not as involved (Stone, 1984), sponsors must rely on the expectation that those who are "into" a sport will eventually watch and attend its events. Evidence exists that many individuals attending action sporting events tend to be involved with action sports (Bennett et al., 2003). Therefore, for inaugural events and sponsors alike, there is a need to understand the mechanism that potentially leads to event spectatorship, and how this potential spectatorship is linked to sponsor's products. This discussion leads to the main question of this study, which has not yet been addressed in the sponsorship literature: a) how is involvement, sport spectatorship, and target markets related to sponsor's brand use?

As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between involvement, demographic characteristics, action sport consumption, and use of an event sponsors brand. We sought to examine the degree to which involvement with action sports (enduring and behavioral), demographics (age and gender) and action sports consumption (spectatorship, participation, and videogaming) actually predict Mountain Dew use among those attending an action sports event.

This study makes a contribution to the extant literature by providing an initial understanding of how involvement, sport consumption, and brand use are related within the context of a sport sponsorship. More specifically, we propose a model that examines the mediating role of sport spectatorship on the relationship between involvement in action sports and brand use.

Hypotheses Development

The role of involvement and sport spectatorship in brand use is presented in Figure 1. Essentially, the premise of the model is that increases in involvement and sport event spectatorship/viewership eventually influence the use of a sponsor's brand, after controlling for important demographic characteristics. …