Influences on Consumer Responses to Winter Olympics Sponsorship

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Interest in the Winter Olympics in the United States has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were the second most-watched Winter Olympics in history (Zap2it, 2002). Association with the Olympics is beneficial for corporate sponsors because of the large audience reach offered via television coverage, the lofty status of the Olympics among the audience, and the positive feelings toward Olympics sponsors (Stipp, 1998). However, the cost of an Olympic sponsorship is high (as much as $55-60 million) and requires additional investment in collateral advertising and other forms of marketing communication to establish an association between sponsor and event in consumers' minds (Crimmins and Horn, 1996).

The high financial stakes should force sponsorship managers to assess possible consumer responses to Olympics sponsorship prior to making such a large financial commitment. One key response, a fit between sponsor and event, has been found to be related to generating desired outcomes such as sponsor recognition, image transfer from event to brand, and favorable attitudes toward a sponsor (Gwinner and Eaton, 1999; Johar and Pham, 1999; Pham and Johar, 2001; Speed and Thompson, 2000). While the importance of brand/event fit has been established in previous research, little is known about variables that may be related to brand/event fit.

In this study, this issue is considered by examining Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Three attitudinal variables, attitude toward the sponsoring brand, attitude toward the event, and attitude toward sponsorships, were examined to determine their relationship to the construct of brand/event fit. Each attitudinal variable was hypothesized to be positively related to brand/event fit. Also, the relationship between these variables and brand/event fit was hypothesized to be stronger for consumers who were aware of Coke's Winter Olympics sponsorship.

A telephone survey was used to contact consumers to solicit their participation in the study. The sampling frame was a highly-populated three county area of a large southern US state. A total of 448 consumers consented to participate in the study. After asking a series of consumer confidence questions to ease them into the survey, respondents answered survey items that measured attitude toward the sponsor, attitude toward the event, attitude toward sponsorships, brand/event fit, and sponsorship awareness. Results of hypothesis tests indicate that attitude toward the brand is related to perceived brand/event fit (although the relationship is tenuous) and attitude toward sponsorships is positively related to perceived brand/event fit, but attitude toward the event is not positively related to brand/event fit. Also, some support was found for the hypothesis that relationships between attitudes and brand/event fit are more positive for those consumers with sponsorship awareness.

The findings about the effect of brand attitude on fit supports the idea that building brand equity with consumers can pay off in terms of favorable responses to marketing activities. Managers responsible for establishing brand-building priorities should use multiple tools, including sponsorship, to create positive feelings about their brands. The positive relationship between attitude toward sponsorships and brand/event fit suggests that sponsorship managers should focus on communicating the added value their sponsorships provide to event properties. Informing target audiences of the benefits of sponsorship could influence the development of mental associations formed about the sponsor and event.

The Role of Brand / Event Fit for Winter Olympics Sponsorships

Interest in the Winter Olympics in the United States has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. This increased interest can be gauged three ways: media interest, consumer interest, and corporate interest. …


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