Sports Sponsorship Evaluation: A Behavioural Analysis

Article excerpt


The growth in sponsorship expenditure, both in real terms and as a proportion of promotion budgets, has been well-documented (see Meenaghan, 1988; Meenaghan & Shipley, 1999, for example). Otker (1988) and Meenaghan (1991) suggested that two factors promoted this growth: first, the increasing number of opportunities associated with sponsorship as event owners recognised the commercial potential of their events; and second, a growing disillusionment with mass media advertising and the clutter which arguably diminished the effectiveness of traditional media vehicles (see also Crowley, 1991; Thwaites, Aguilar-Manjarrez & Kidd, 1998). Meenaghan (1998) subsequently suggested that new technological developments and sponsorship's ability to reach consumers at leisure were on-going advantages that would continue to fuel its growth.

Although managers may sponsor almost any event they choose, the vast majority of sponsorship contracts relate to a sporting event or team. The reasons for this are self-evident: major sports events attract large on-site crowds and even larger media audiences. Because of its ability to transcend national boundaries, sponsorship also offers multinational companies the potential to reach global audiences more cost-effectively than with other promotion tools (see Thwaites, 1995). As well as the on-site and media exposure potential, sports sponsorships may also offer licensing and merchandising opportunities; in some cases, sponsors can also develop line extensions and sales promotions featuring the sponsorship. Thus sponsorship may extend beyond the event, team or individual sponsored by offering specific revenue-generating possibilities.

However, despite managers' increasing use of sponsorship, many questions still remain about how sponsorship works and its overall contribution to revenue or profit. Indeed, the proportion of organisations that routinely appraise their sponsorship campaigns is low and it is clear that at least some managers assume rather than evaluate the outcomes of their investment (Cornwell & Maignan, 1998; Marshall & Cook, 1992; Pope, 1998)

Ironically, managers' use of other promotion tools has come under increasing scrutiny and it seems both prudent and logical to investigate how sponsorship investments can be evaluated and, more specifically, how its effect on consumers' behaviour can be measured.

In this paper, we begin by considering different theoretical bases for sponsorship before reviewing the research to date on sponsorship evaluation; we then present the results of a small-scale empirical study and develop guidelines which could assist managers to examine the behavioural consequences of sports sponsorship.

A Theoretical Framework

Advertising and Sponsorship

Researchers have differed over whether they view sponsorship as an extension of advertising or as a distinct promotion vehicle. Hastings (1984) argued that managers had a higher level of control over advertising messages whereas sponsorship messages were less easily manipulated. McDaniel and Kinney (1999) also noted that billboards and hoardings offered less space for messages and were typically dominated by the brand name, again providing few opportunities for message manipulation compared to mass media advertising. Meenaghan (1991) concluded that advertising and sponsorship were complementary and described sponsorship as a "mute non-verbal medium" (p. 8) which required advertising support to be effective. Sponsorship of recent major sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup, also suggests that a symbiotic relationship exists between sponsorship and advertising.

However Witcher, Craigen, Culligan and Harvey (1991) suggested that since both advertising and sponsorship aimed to influence consumers' behaviour, sponsorship acted as a specific form of advertising, even if its communication format was more limited. …