Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Nature of Commitment in Sport Sponsorship Relations

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Nature of Commitment in Sport Sponsorship Relations

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

A review of the vast array of official announcements and press releases made by sport sponsors upon the agreement of a new sponsorship deal reveals a recurring theme: commitment. Sponsors will often claim that their relationship with a team, an event or a sport represents "a major commitment". In the broadest terms, this means that a company is spending an amount of money from which they expect to receive a tangible return. Nevertheless, leveraging the full value from a sponsorship contract demands that a much broader interpretation of commitment should be adopted.

The study begins by providing an overview of some recent cases where corporations have expressed their commitment to a sponsorship property. These examples are subsequently set in the context of an emerging perspective of sponsorship. It is initially noted that sponsorship thought to date has been characterized by a one-off transactional view whereby a sponsor pays for the placement of a logo or name on a sports property. This view has recently been challenged by the emergence of a relationship marketing view of sponsorship. This emphasizes the long-term nature of relations between sponsor and property and indicates that parties to a sponsorship contract are more likely to realize the full benefit of their agreement if they work together in alliances, joint ventures and partnerships. The study consequently outlines the key features of the relationship marketing paradigm, noting its relevance for sponsorship management.

To enable the development of a mutually beneficial relationship requires the existence of a number of key relationship features, one of which is partner commitment. Given the prominence of commitment as a concept in both the sponsorship and relationship marketing literatures, the study examines the notion of commitment and addresses how sponsors can build commitment in their relationships with sports properties. This initially begins with an analysis of the antecedents to a committed relationship. Drawing from the relationship marketing literature, the study identifies that shared values, relationship termination costs and perceived relationship benefits are key factors in establishing commitment. In cases where this successfully takes place, the literature identifies that a range of beneficial relationship outcomes emerge. These include the propensity to continue in a relationship, partnership acquiescence and enhanced co-operation. The study thus examines these outcomes, illustrating their relevance for sponsor/property relations using practical examples.

The study concludes by examining the implications for practitioners of the emerging relationship marketing paradigm and, more specifically, of the need to build commitment as the basis for successful sponsorship relations. In particular, this highlights that sponsors need to adopt a strategic partnership approach to managing their relationships with sports properties if they are to realize a continuing stream of benefits from a contract, that sponsors must address how they can work to build partnership commitment, and that partners need to accept that sponsorship benefits can be qualitative and relational as well as quantitative and financial.

The Nature of Commitment in Sport Sponsorship Relations

A review of recent sponsorship announcements reveals that commitment is fundamental to the apparent strength and success of the relationship between a primary sponsor and a team, event or sport. On the Southampton soccer club web-site (2001), the Friends Provident financial services group has emphasized that:

"As [Southampton soccer club's] sponsor, Friends Provident is committed to success".

Elsewhere, BT (the telecommunications company) has recently sponsored the Belfast Ice Cup, an international ice hockey tournament held in Northern Ireland. Paul Hendron, BT Northern Ireland's Director of Marketing, has stated:

"The sponsorship deal ref lects BT's commitment to this tremendous family event" (Mulligan, 2001, p. …

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