Many researchers involved in measuring sports event sponsorship have suggested that measuring levels of spectator awareness of sponsor company identities should involve more analysis of the extended effects of sponsorship. However, the literature is overwhelmingly filled with studies of awareness levels at single (individual) events, while only a few studies are found that have measured awareness levels over a specific duration of time. In addition, stakeholder-based evaluation models have been suggested as a theoretical framework for this analysis in sponsorship. Therefore, it was the purpose of this study to examine the level of sponsorship awareness of season ticket holders and the change in the awareness over the duration of one American collegiate football season through a sponsorship recall survey. Specifically, the research questions that guided this study were: As high-interest stakeholders, do season ticket holder spectators know who are the corporate sponsors of their athletic program? Will lengthened exposure to corporate sponsors increase the spectator's knowledge of the corporate sponsors? And, are season ticket holder spectators more willing to support the sponsors?
A sponsorship recall instrument was developed based on instruments in previous literature (Pitts, 1998; Singh and Rothschild, 1983). The survey instrument featured three main stadium sponsor categories as well as six company categories that advertised in surrounding areas. Also, three "dummy" categories were included to assess potential confusion between official sponsors and ambush companies. Subjects were asked to assess whether or not they noticed sponsor signs in or around the stadium (yes or no), and, if yes, fill in the blank for each category they believed to have a sponsor. Also measured were various demographic . items, and items related to history with the athletic program and involvement levels.
The findings of this study reveal some potential concerns for sponsors. These spectators did not have a high rate of awareness, awareness increased only slightly over the duration of the event (four months), and the majority were not willing to support the sponsors. The results showed that there were increases in the recall rates for eight of the nine actual sponsor companies used in the study from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. However, those recall rates for the nine sponsors ranged from zero to 81 per cent in the early season survey and zero to 88.6 per cent in the post-season survey. The results of the Z test for significant differences revealed that only three of nine Z tests were significant for the change between early-and post-season tests.
The results of this study raise questions about the typical purposes of sponsorship. It has been noted in previous sponsorship literature that too much sponsorship advertising is creating an over-exposure effect. That is, there is so much sponsorship advertising and it has been a part of the sports event and venue for so long that spectators do not even notice it any more. Moreover, there is a growing concern over "clutter"--there is so much sponsorship advertising at any given event that one's brain cannot discern between advertisers. In the current study, these factors could have had an effect. Indeed, in recent years, sponsoring companies are moving toward exclusive and title sponsorship contracts as a means of combating these effects.
The results of the current study have implications in relation to the current state of research involving sport sponsorship recognition and recall examination. It raises questions concerning theories and research into spectator involvement levels in relation to sport sponsorship. There has been only minimal research in sport sponsorship utilizing involvement theories. As a result of the findings of the current study, we believe that there is a need for attention to and increased research using these theories in sport sponsorship. …