Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Managers' Use of Sponsorship in Building Brands: Service and Product Firms Contrasted

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Managers' Use of Sponsorship in Building Brands: Service and Product Firms Contrasted

Article excerpt

Managers' Use of Sponsorship in Building Image for Services

Corporate sponsorship of sports, events, and causes has increased dramatically over the past decade. Today, sponsorship is the fastest growing form of marketing communications. In 1997, sponsorship expenditures were 9% higher than the previous year compared to a 6% growth in advertising expenditures and 3% growth in sales promotion expenditures. This sustained growth of sponsorship has made it a $4.8 billion industry in the United States (International Events Group 1998). Approximately two-thirds of this expenditure is directed at sport (Smith, 1997).

The increased popularity of event sponsorship is often attributed to its ability to provide an alternative to traditional advertising. Advertising has been the primary mode of marketing communications, but it is plagued by an overload of messages, creating media clutter (Meenaghan, 1983; Gardner and Shuman, 1987). Also, event sponsorship is an attractive communications vehicle because of the potential for the event's image to transfer to the sponsoring brand (Gwinner, 1997). This image transfer includes the creation of non-attribute-based brand associations, or brand associations unrelated to product attributes (Park and Srinivasan, 1994).

Previous research in the area of event sponsorship has sought to identify the types of events firms sponsor (Abratt, Clayton, and Pitt, 1987; Marshall and Cook, 1992), objectives of sponsorship (Hoek, Gendall, and West, 1990; Kuzma, Shanklin, and McCally, 1993; Quester, 1997), target audiences (Crowley, 1991; Gardner and Shuman, 1987), and the influence of sponsorship on building brands with consumer audiences (Crimmins and Horn, 1996; Gwinner, 1997; McDaniel, 1995; Tuan Pham, 1992).

This paper extends sponsorship research by examining whether differences exist between service firms and product firms in terms of sponsorship utilization and perceived effectiveness of sponsorship in achieving desired objectives.

Although a good deal of sponsorship research has been conducted (see Cornwell and Maignan, 1998), this research is the first comparison of service versus product firms in this area. The purpose of this comparison is to determine whether generally held beliefs about the role and effects of sponsorship hold, regardless of whether the sponsor is a service firm or product firm.

Differences in the promotion of services and products have been acknowledged previously. The promotion mix for service firms has traditionally emphasized advertising and personal selling. Sales promotions or "below the line" promotions such as competitions (Peattie and Peattie, 1995) have never been popular in the marketing of services. Although sponsorship is not considered in the group of traditional measured media, service firms have utilized sponsorship as a communications vehicle.

Sponsorship may have attracted services marketers due to its ability to communicate the image of the service provider. Rushton and Carson (1989), in their analysis of the marketing of services, find that the points of difference in the promotion of services include aims, methods, messages, and techniques as follows:

* Methods of promotion based on having a physical product are automatically precluded for services. Without a physical substance there can be no promotion based on display of the product itself.

* A service has no physical appearance itself and so relies heavily on promotional activity and material to provide an image. This is usually based on creating an appropriate image for the provider of the service--the service organization is often something more tangible.

* Promotion is, of course, also used to help create images for tangible products--but while the purpose of image building is the same for both services and goods, creating an image for something intangible is different from creating an image for something tangible. …

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