The exponential growth that has occurred in the sponsorship of sport and entertainment in the last two decades indicates that corporations have recognized the potential of sponsorship to achieve a range of goals and objectives. Sponsorship has been identified as an element of the marketing mix that potentially enhances social responsibility, strengthens consumer identification, provides avenues for new product development/ penetration, influences key publics, cultivates legitimacy and enhances corporate culture (Cousens and Slack, 1996).
The growth and expansion of sponsorship activity may be driven by factors outside the immediate realm of sponsorship. The utilization of multiple advertising mediums has created complexities in measurement and evaluation. In addition, escalating costs, lack of consumer identification and differentiation, as well as increased consolidation, continue to impact each of the critical elements of the sponsorship triad, that is the sponsee, the corporate sponsor and the consumer (Hume, 1991; IEG, 2000; Lyberger and McCarthy, 2001).
This study was an attempt to ascertain consumer perceptions regarding sponsorship/advertising specific to the 1998 and 2000 Super Bowls. The Consumer Perception Index (CPI) was utilized as a means to measure consumer perceptions of the 1998 and 2000 Super Bowls, specific to volume consumption, perceptions toward sponsorship, advertising, commercialization, and purchase behavior. The study sought to identify significant perceptual differences among categories of the 1998 and 2000 respondent populations.
The results of this study suggest a growing trend in consumer apathy toward sponsorship of the Super Bowl. Though consumer interest in the game remains high, consumer support of sponsors and advertising was lower in 2000 than in 1998. It would appear that complexities surrounding growth and clutter of the event impact consumer differentiation of sponsorship and advertising.
Corporations who advertise during the telecast were less likely to be regarded as industry leaders in 2000 than in 1998. In addition, the attachment of the moniker "Official Sponsor of the Super Bowl" in advertising was not seen to be a mediating influence. Indeed it was seen as a negative connotation in that companies who utilize the term in their campaigns were considered to be doing so purely for profit motives. Sponsors and sponsees must recognize consumer discourse associated with profit motives and construct influential sponsorship and advertising campaigns to defer relative impact.
While sponsorship of events such as the Super Bowl may have what might be called intermediary objectives, the ultimate objective of many sponsorship arrangements is to increase brand awareness or sales (IEG, 2001). The 2000 set of respondents were less likely to purchase from event sponsors than were the 1998 set. Not only were they less likely to purchase from sponsors, but they also indicated that they were less likely to purchase from corporations who advertised during the event. This trend could have an impact on corporate sponsorship objectives.
Official sponsors were not regarded any differently than non-sponsors. The respondents did not feel that sponsors produced superior products, nor did they show a higher level of concern for the consumer. They felt less need to distinguish between official sponsors and non-sponsors. Sponsorship also had less of an impact on purchase patterns. This suggests that the consumer has become extremely blase about the level of corporate support that the Super Bowl receives.
Analysis of geographic regions revealed that differences exist relative to purchase; that purchase decisions may be influenced by perceptions of sponsorship and consumer apprehension of its presentation. In addition, support, willingness to pay, corporate concern of the consumer, and purchase impacts were seen to vary slightly among geographic regions. …