Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Dynamics of Sport Sponsorship: The Case of English Professional Football

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Dynamics of Sport Sponsorship: The Case of English Professional Football

Article excerpt

Section 1: Introduction

Sport sponsorship is big business. Recent estimates suggest that the sponsorship market worldwide was worth $18 billion in 1997 (SRi, 1998).

Sport is the dominant sponsorship medium accounting for an estimated 60% to 70% of all sponsorship spend. Within total advertising expenditure, sport sponsorship is a small but not insignificant component that continues to grow quickly, currently representing around 4% of the total advertising budget.

Sponsorship expenditure on individual sport events can be very high, especially for those events with a global audience. The 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals held over five weeks in France attracted 12 global brand names as official sponsors--Adidas, Budweiser, Canon, Coca-Cola, Fujifilm, Gillette, JVC, MasterCard, McDonald's, Opel, Philips and Snickers. Each official sponsor paid 20 million [pounds sterling] to earn the designation "official sponsor". However, it is estimated that the total advertising and promotion expenditures of the 12 official sponsors during the World Cup totalled around 500m [pounds sterling] (Marketing News, July 9 1998).

Given its growing importance as a revenue source in sport, it is not surprising that sport sponsorship has become a key area of research within the field of sport management. So far much of the focus of this research has concerned the attractiveness of sport sponsorship as a communications medium. Evidence is accumulating from survey studies of selected cross-sections of corporate sponsors such as Thwaites (1995) on the sponsorship of English professional football and Copeland, Frisby and McCarville (1996) on the sponsorship of Canadian sport at different levels.

These surveys provide considerable empirical evidence on general corporate attitudes at a specific point in time to the various aspects of the sport sponsorship process--corporate objectives, the selection process and evaluation.

There has, however, been little emphasis in the research on the changing patterns of sponsorship in individual sports over time. Why do specific types of sponsors enter and exit individual sports? A theory of the dynamics of sport sponsorship is required.

A first attempt to provide a theory of the dynamics of sport sponsorship is to be found in Slack and Thwaites (1997). They argue that the theory of mimetic isomorphism drawn from organisational theory is applicable to the sport sponsorship process.

Mimetic isomorphism is the process by which organisations achieve conformity through imitation. Slack and Thwaites follow Haveman (1993) in suggesting that the dynamics of the imitation process can be modelled as density-dependent.

The applicability of the theory of mimetic isomorphism to sport sponsorship has been tested empirically by Scannell (1997) who examined the sponsorship of football clubs in England. Scannell concludes that there is little empirical support for the density-dependence model.

The objective of the present paper is to argue that mimetic isomorphism provides a useful starting point but density-dependence is too limited as an explanation of the dynamics of sport sponsorship.

A more general theory of the dynamics of sport sponsorship is suggested in which mimetic isomorphism is considered within the context of the exchange relation involved in the sponsorship process. In particular it is suggested that the entry and exit of sponsors from a sport is not only a process of imitation but can also be affected by exogenous changes in the attractiveness of that sport as a sponsorship medium.

A general theory of the dynamics of sport sponsorship has considerable practical relevance to sports marketing professionals. Given the importance of sponsorship revenues within sport, it is crucial to understand the reasons for changes in the attractiveness of individual sports to different types of corporate sponsors.

A general theory of the dynamics of sport sponsorship can provide a framework for sports marketing professionals to assess why a specific business sector is moving in or out of an individual sport. …

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