Exploring the Influence of Television Sport on Consumers' Attitudes towards Programme-Embedded Advertising Using Motivational Responses Generated by the Game

Article excerpt

Executive summary

This study explores the ways in which motivations induced from watching broadcasts of mega-sporting events influence audiences' responses to the commercials embedded in the broadcast. Evolutionary perspective suggests that programme-induced emotions are conceived of as activators of executive motivation systems, which direct energy to deal with particular adaptation problems (Schaller et al, 2009). Thus, the effectiveness of an advertisement embedded in a television programme is likely to be determined by the interaction between the activated motivation system and the capacity of the advertising cues to fulfill the audience's needs. These needs are governed by the motivation system, which is induced by the television programme (Griskevicius et al, 2009).

Sociality constitutes one of the most fundamental aspects of human nature (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). This study focuses on social motivations, specifically the motives for competence and relatedness, as these two motives are most likely to be activated by watching a televised sporting event. The relatedness motive reflects the 'horizontal' aspects of social groupings (the motivation to affiliate with others, for example), whereas the competence motive reflects the 'vertical' aspects of social groupings (such as the effectiveness of interacting with one's physical and social world).

In this study, we posit that the telecasts of mega-sporting events induce relatedness motives, rather than competence motives. Thus, the advertisements embedded in the telecasts will be more effective when they appeal to the relatedness motive. To test this idea, we classified advertising cues into two categories based on whether the cue activates the competence or the relatedness motivational system. For example, advertisements with cues of popularity, nurturance, family, community and affiliation were placed in the relatedness category. These cues directly imply human connections, affiliation with others or the formation of social bonds. Advertisements with cues of distinctiveness, vanity, sexuality, status and self-esteem were placed in the competence category. These cues help individuals positively differentiate themselves from others. We then tested how advertising cues from the different categories are associated with the commercial likeability of advertisements embedded in the telecasts of the events.

Overall, the findings were consistent with the hypothesis that broadcasts of mega-sporting events activate the relatedness motive, causing viewers to show preference for commercials with relatedness cues (e.g. popularity). Also consistent with predictions, there were no differences between commercials that did and did not include motive-inconsistent competence cues (e.g. distinctiveness cue).

Findings suggest that sports marketers should take programme-induced motives into consideration in order to prepare effective advertising campaigns during the telecasts of sporting events. Understanding the motives engaged by television programmes is important: as our results suggest, watching a television programme is likely to activate a specific motivation system. Thus, sports marketers should create advertisements consistent with the motivation system that they expect will be induced by the telecast.


Sports marketers have long attempted to identify effective advertising strategies (e.g. Bennett et al, 2006) that fit well with sports broadcasts. It is an established fact that the television programme being watched influences the way the embedded advertisements are perceived (Pavelchak et al, 1988). This is because the motivation system activated by the programme-induced affective state influences audiences' processing of advertising (Bal et al, 2009). Given that sports programmes are rarely emotionally neutral, they contribute to the context in which the advertising message is received and processed by making one motivational system more dominant than others (Gardner, 1985; Bal et al, 2009). Therefore, it is of great importance for sports marketers to understand which motivation system will be induced by watching the sporting events for which they are preparing an advertising campaign. In this study we focus on one of the largest sporting events in the U.S., the Super Bowl, which has been the topic of numerous sports marketing research studies (e.g. Lyberger & McCarthy, 2001; Mohr, 2007).

The goal of this study is to explore how motivations induced by watching the telecasts of the Super Bowl exert influence on audience responses to the commercials embedded in the telecasts of the sporting event. In particular, we posit that the telecasts of Super Bowl games induce the relatedness motivation (i.e. motivation to affiliate with others), rather than the competence motivation (i.e. motivation to attain power and control). This is because the Super Bowl, which was once just a meeting of the best NFL teams, has become a cultural and social phenomenon in the United States by incorporating various social aspects into the event (Nicholson, 2007). This study predicts that advertisements embedded in the telecasts of the Super Bowl are more effective when they match the motivation system activated by watching the Super Bowl. To test this idea, we classified advertising cues into two major categories, based on whether a given cue activates the competence or the relatedness motivational system. We then tested how each advertising cue is associated with the commercial likeability of the advertisements embedded in the telecasts of the Super Bowl.

Advertising and sports marketing

One of the most common areas of research into sports advertising is athlete endorsement. In general, studies conclude that the effectiveness of athlete endorsement is enhanced where audience perceptions of the expertise or trustworthiness of the athlete are increased (Boyd & Shank, 2004). This is also the case where there is an increase in audience perceptions of athlete/product 'fit' (Koernig & Boyd, 2009). Other studies show that athlete endorsements work through transference of the affects and cognitive associations of the athlete and the product (Brooks & Harris, 1998).

Another important area of advertising in the sports marketing domain is sponsorship. According to Cornwell (1995) advertising is one of the core tools of sponsorship-linked marketing. Sports sponsorship programmes are almost always accompanied by advertising, such as that found on A-boards of stadiums or television commercials. Pham (1991) illustrates a study of sponsorship advertising by showing a curvilinear effect of involvement on the recognition of the game-embedded billboards of the sponsors. Pham and Vanhuele (1997) show that, in sports sponsorship, a message that only mentions a brand name can influence consumers by reviving established brand associations, even though these associations are not explicitly communicated.

Finally, virtual advertising has grown dramatically in sports programming and advertising in the sports marketing domain has evolved into the virtual world (Sander & Altobelli, 2011). Virtual advertising is a technology that allows digitised superimposition of images (such as advertising signage) in a television broadcast (Cianfrone et al, 2006; Pyun & Kim, 2004). Bennett et al (2006) found that virtual advertising, with logo ads above or below the score display of sports programmes, was considered more credible than conventional television commercials.

As summarised above, previous research has focused on the ads themselves, neglecting the context in which the ads appear. However, the context strongly impacts upon the effectiveness of advertising. This study investigates the effects of sports programmes on advertising effectiveness by investigating Super Bowl commercials.

Theoretical framework

Sports event and motivation system

Every sporting event, from grassroots level to the Olympic Games, elicits a broad mix of emotional reactions (Bal et al, 2009). A televised sporting event also causes a broad range of emotions amongst viewers. From an evolutionary psychology perspective, sport-induced emotions are considered to be activators of motivation systems, which direct energy in ways designed to deal with certain adaptation problems (Schaller et al, 2009). This study focuses on social motives because watching a televised sporting event is a social activity and, according to Baumeister and Leary (1995), sociality constitutes one of the most fundamental aspects of human nature.

Forming a social life poses adaptive challenges to an individual (Bugental, 2000; Kenrick et al, 2003), which can be classified via two motivational domains. The first challenge is to build connection or collaboration with others and the second is to compete against other individuals or groups for limited resources. The former is referred to as relatedness motivation and the latter competence motivation. Both of these motivation systems are likely to be triggered by exposure to televised sports events. That is, sports events are mainly win-or-lose games requiring competition among social entities; paradoxically, watching such competition facilitates social cohesion, creating a sense of community (Raney, 2006; Wann, 2001). Specifically, the relatedness motivation reflects the 'horizontal' aspects of social ties, for example, affiliation with others, building community, or forming a family (Schachter, 1959; Taylor et al, 2000). When one is confronted with danger, a core coping strategy is group cohesiveness (Griskevicius et al, 2006) as it helps individuals to effectively protect themselves from threats by building relationships with other members (Schachter, 1959; Taylor et al, 2000). In contrast, the competence motivation probably reflects the 'vertical' aspects of social groupings. As competence often results in attaining and controlling resources, it typically places individuals on an upper rung of the social hierarchy ladder (Keltner et al, 2003).

Although competence and relatedness motivations coexist within individuals, they represent opposite sides of a coin, i.e. they are unlikely to be activated at the same time. When individuals are motivated to get ahead of others, they are relatively unlikely to get along with those others. Thus, living in groups creates tension between competence and relatedness (Buss, 2005; Griskevicius et al, 2006). Therefore, even if sports events reflect the two contrasting domains in our social lives (competence and relatedness), each situation in which sports events play a part is likely to activate one motivation system over the other.

Super Bowl-induced human motivation

In this study, we propose that the telecasts of the Super Bowl tend to activate the relatedness motivation rather than the competence motivation. This is because the Super Bowl functions as a ritual through which people celebrate personal identities in relation to broader social norms (Langman, 2003). In the US, the nation stops every year for the Super Bowl, the championship game of the National Football League. Families and friends gather around television sets for what equates to a secular holiday (Nicholson, 2007) and party planners often start preparations months ahead, seeing it as their duty to deliver a memorable touchdown experience (Cadet, 2012). Such ritualisation of watching sporting events reflects the motivations 'coalition formation' or 'cooperative alliances with others' (Bugental, 2000; Kenrick et al, 2003).

From the perspective of the relatedness motivation, the focus is on the role sport plays in creating a sense of community, camaraderie and solidarity (Raney, 2006; Wann, 2001). Sports fans are typically attached to the 'home' team rather than to the sport per se (Danielson, 1997). Fans also typically 'bask' in 'reflected glory' when their team wins (Cialdini et al, 1976). Even where audience members don't identify with a particular team, watching sports helps them to interact socially. At a sports bar or restaurant, viewers of sports programmes find opportunities for social interaction by sharing their viewing experiences with others (Eastman & Land, 1997).

The social interaction associated with the Super Bowl has recently expanded to the online realm where Tweeting or updating Facebook while watching TV has become a major trend. For example, in the last three minutes of the 2012 Super Bowl game, an average of ten thousand people (approximately one-seventh of the spectators that fit into the football stadium) per second were sharing their thoughts about the game on Twitter (Tsukayama, 2012). Online communities developed by the competing teams generated tremendous social activity as well. Last year, the two teams competing in the 2012 Super Bowl generated over 1.2 million unique visitors, who exchanged information with each other on the teams' websites (Sharon, 2012). All of these indicators imply that the Super Bowl has evolved into a social event in the US.

Human motivation and ad effectiveness

The contrast between competence and relatedness motivations has important implications for advertising sports broadcasts. This is because advertising messages appealing to a competence motivation in the domain of cooperation can create counter-productive effects and vice versa (e.g. Griskevicius et al, 2009). Thus, the effectiveness of the embedded advertisement is likely to be determined by the interaction between the activated motivation system and the capacity of the advertising cues to fulfill the audience's needs (Griskevicius et al, 2009).

Griskevicius et al (2009) demonstrated that ads featuring a 'social proof' cue (i.e. "the choice of millions"), rather than a 'scarcity' cue (i.e. "stand out from the crowd"), were more likely to be effective when individuals were exposed to a film that induced fear. This is because fear tends to activate a self-protection motivation, leading the audience to seek increased safety in numbers. On the other hand, the same social proof cue appeared to be counter-productive when individuals were exposed to a film that activated romantic desire. These findings suggest that advertising cues designed to help audiences deal with particular adaptation problems are most likely to be effective.

As stated earlier, the proposal for this study is that Super Bowl broadcasts activate relatedness rather than competence cues. The effectiveness of the ads, according to the evolutionary psychological perspective, depends on how well the ads fit with the motivational system activated by the Super Bowl telecasts. Therefore, we propose that advertisements embedded in Super Bowl telecasts will be more effective when they contain relatedness cues.

Previous studies indicate several significant instances of likeability as a way to judge viewers' reactions to television commercials (Leather et al, 1994). This study calculates advertising effectiveness utilising the likeability of these commercials as its measure. More specifically, the study has considered the likeability of commercials to be positively predictive of their persuasiveness (Haley & Baldinger, 1991; Leather et al, 1994; Stapel, 1994). As reported by Biel and Bridgwater (1990, p40), "People who like a commercial are twice as likely to be persuaded by it than people who simply felt neutral towards the advertisement". Moreover, according to Leather et al (1994), likeability can stimulate viewers' curiosity at the time of exposure to the ad, encouraging them to process the information within the ad further. Consequently, it is vital to understand the elements that create ad likeability.


As theorised above, commercials aired during or after a television programme can provide likeable experiences for the viewer by fulfilling the needs induced by watching that television programme (Griskevicius et al, 2009). This study proposes that the telecasts of the Super Bowl activate the relatedness motivation; therefore, when exposed to the Super Bowl commercials, relatedness cues (i.e. popularity, nurturance, family, community and affiliation) should lead to higher commercial likeability scores. Competence cues (i.e. distinctiveness, vanity, sexuality, status and self-esteem cues) should not.

Formally stated, the hypotheses linked to relatedness cues are:

H1a: Ads with popularity cues will be more likeable than those without them.

H1b: Ads with nurturance cues will be more likeable than those without them.

H1c: Ads with family cues will be more likeable than those without them.

H1d: Ads with community cues will be more likeable than those without them.

H1e: Ads with affiliation cues will be more likeable than those without them.

The hypotheses related to competence cues are:

H2a: Ads with distinctiveness cues will be as likeable as those without them.

H2b: Ads with vanity cues will be as likeable as those without them.

H2c: Ads with sexuality cues will be as likeable as those without them.

H2d: Ads with status cues will be as likeable as those without them.

H2e: Ads with self-esteem cues will be as likeable as those without them.


To identify competence and relatedness cues in Super Bowl commercials, a content analysis was conducted. The commercial likeability scores of the ads, using each type of cue, were then compared.

Sample commercials

A sample of Super Bowl commercials was collected in order to test the hypotheses. We developed an operational definition of the universe of material to be studied and it was determined that we would examine Super Bowl ads aired over the most recent decade. As the study was performed in 2010, all commercials aired between 2001 and 2009 were candidates for analysis. Several ads appeared more than once.

According to Davis (1997) conclusions drawn about advertising content can be distorted by coding multiple occurrences of the same ad. Because of this, and the emphasis of the study being on messages rather than total exposure, we decided to examine only one instance of an ad, eliminating duplicate occurrences. A total of 478 commercials satisfied these conditions. This included public service announcements (PSAs) and movie trailers (which, together, account for 14.8 percent of the total commercials aired), which were excluded from the analysis for the following reasons. First, they are not typical of product or service ads and thus not sufficiently comparable to other advertisements. Second, PSAs must meet less strict creative production standards than other types of product advertising, which may affect the likeability scores of the ads, regardless of the advertising cues employed. Third, likeability responses to movie trailers were considered to depend greatly on the audience's personal preferences for the actors and actresses, rather than on the advertising cues per se. These exclusions resulted in a total of 407 Super Bowl commercials for a nine-year time period, an average of 45 ads each year.

Commercial likeability measure

USA TODAY's Ad Meter scores were utilised to measure the likeability of advertisements examined in this study. Starting in 1989, USA Today has annually organised an average of 250 volunteer panel viewers (made up of inhabitants of several principal American cities) to estimate the attitudes of consumers towards the ads broadcast during the Super Bowl. Volunteer demographics are representative of the typical Super Bowl audience (Tomkovick et al, 2001). Using hand-held meters, volunteers record, second by second, how much they like the commercials they are viewing. Averaged by computer on a seven-point scale, the scores for each advertisement are then converted by the USA Today research team to a ten-point scale ranging from 1 (lowest likeability) to 10 (highest likeability).

On the Monday after the Super Bowl, USA Today publishes the Ad Meter scores. These scores have the advantage of ecological validity, in contrast to the measures typically used in laboratory environments (Kim & Cheong 2011a, 2011b). Just as the average Super Bowl viewer watches advertisements during the game, these volunteers evaluate actual commercials in real time during the telecast. Consequently, previous studies on Super Bowl advertising have used these Ad Meter scores to measure attitudes towards Super Bowl commercials (e.g. Kelley & Turley, 2004; Kim & Cheong 2011a, 2011b; Kim & Morrison, 2003; Tomkovick et al, 2001).

Coding procedure

The coding categories for the competence and relatedness cues are identified based on Pollay (1983) and Albers-Miller and Stafford (1999). Pollay (1983) identified 42 commonly used advertising cues. These were classified as 28 emotional cues and 14 rational cues by Albers-Miller and Stafford (1999). Ten of the emotional cues (considered to be effective in activating either the relatedness motivation or the competence motivation) were chosen for this study. The selected cues are described in Table 1.

Table 1 shows that there are five relatedness cues and five competence cues. The relatedness motivation is activated by cues such as popularity, nurturance, family, community and affiliation. These cues directly imply human connections, affiliation with others or the formation of social bonds (Pollay, 1983). They appeal to people who are motivated by relatedness, because such individuals take advantage of others' knowledge and experiences by conforming to social norms (i.e. popularity), caring about others (i.e. nurturance and family), building communities (i.e. community), or forming bonds (i.e. affiliation). The competence cues include distinctiveness, vanity, sexuality, status and self-esteem. Each of these cues has a direct implication for the competence motivation because it helps individuals positively differentiate themselves from others (Sundie et al, 2006) by signaling possession of scarce resources (i.e. distinctiveness), attractiveness (i.e. vanity and sexuality), prestige (i.e. status) and self-pride (i.e. self-esteem). Taken together, the ten cues shown in Table 1 are reflective of relatedness and competence motivations (Miller, 2000; 2009).

After the coding categories were identified, a codebook with operational definitions of each of the coding categories was developed to provide a common frame of reference for coders, thus increasing the likelihood that independent coders would view and respond to the same stimulus in the same way. Three coders were recruited and trained. The coders were unaware of the research objectives and trained following Davis' (1997) guidelines. Each coder was instructed about the specific types of advertising cues, according to the operational definitions shown in Table 1. To assess the coders' understanding of category definitions the instructions were followed by practice, coding commercials not used in the study. Inconsistencies in coding were identified and discussed and additional training was provided until all three coders were fully familiar with the process.

After the training session, the three coders independently coded all 407 Super Bowl commercials for the five competence and five relatedness cues. The intercoder reliability was calculated using Perreault and Leigh's (1989) formula, which corrects bias in the calculation that may be caused by agreements among the coders that occur by chance. The lowest reliability score was .80 (community) and the highest reliability score was .90 (sexuality). Aside from advertising cues, the years when the commercials were aired, the generic product categories and the length of the commercials were also coded.

This study was conducted as part of a series of studies examining various aspects of Super Bowl ads. Other studies published based on the analyses of the same or similar set of sample commercials and/ or likeability measures include Kim, Cheong and Kim (2012), and Kim and Cheong (2011a; 2011b).





Table 2 shows number of commercials and commercial likeability scores by time periods and product categories. Specifically, there were three periods of time--Period 1 (2001-2003), Period 2 (2004-2006) and Period 3 (2007-2009)--and ten generic product categories utilised in the analysis.

Table 2 shows that Food & Beverage (31.9%) was the most frequently advertised product category, followed by Telecommunication & Online Services (17.4%) and Automobiles (10.8%). The top three product categories accounted for more than 60% of total ads examined. The least advertised product category was Medicine (2%). As shown in Table 2, the number of ads increased gradually from Period 1 (127 ads) to Period 3 (141 ads), while there was no substantial change in commercial likeability scores from Period 1 (M = 6.64, SD = 1.15) to Period 3 (M = 6.51, SD = 1.10). The overall mean commercial likeability score is 6.55 (SD=1.14).

Figure 1 and Figure 2 show the trend in the distribution of commercials over the three time periods. Figure 1 shows the pattern of the ad appearances for the top five product categories, while Figure 2 shows the pattern of the bottom five product categories. As shown in Figure 1, Food & Beverage products, the most frequently advertised, increased their appearance in the Super Bowl telecasts over time, while Insurance & Financial Services, the third most frequently advertised product in Period 1, decreased to fifth in Period 3. Figure 2 shows that Household & Personal Care Items increased their appearance during the Super Bowl telecasts from Period 1 (1 ad) to Period 2 (12 ads), but then dropped in Period 3 (9 ads).


Hypotheses tests

Analysis of relatedness cues A series of t-tests was performed comparing commercials with and without each relatedness cue. As shown in Table 3 and Figure 3, the commercials appeared to be more likeable when they used popularity cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.79 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.41), t = 3.28, p < .01; nurturance cues ([M.sub.with] = 7.23 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.52), t = 2.62, p < .01; family cues ([M.sub.with] = 7.17 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.53), t = 1.98, p < .05; and community cues ([M.sub.with] = 7.01 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.52), t = 2.51, p < .01, than when those cues were not present. These findings confirm hypotheses H1a to H1d. However, there were no statistical differences between commercials with and without affiliation cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.67 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.54), t = 0.63, n.s., disconfirming H1e.

Research in evolutionary psychology shows the favourable effects when there is a good match between advertising cues and the programme-induced motivation system (Griskevicius et al, 2009). From this perspective, the findings reported above suggest that the relatedness motivations would have been activated among the Super Bowl viewers. This is demonstrated by four of the five ads with relatedness cues being associated with higher commercial likeability than those without. However, due to the restriction in the data set (no direct measure of audiences' motivations was available for analysis) we could only assume that the relatedness motivation system had been activated. This point is revisited in the Limitations section later.

As reported above, affiliation cues, unlike the remaining relatedness cues, did not have any impact on likeability scores. One possibility is that affiliation cues may have interacted with other advertising cues such that, with the presence of the, presumably more powerful, advertising cue, the influence of affiliation cues could have been attenuated. Therefore, a simple comparison of means across the two groups might be inappropriate to detect such a complicated situation. In order to further investigate this unsupported hypothesis (H1e), a series of two-way analyses of variance (ANOVA) was performed to examine possible interaction effects associated with the affiliation cues. It appeared that the interaction between popularity and affiliation cues on commercial likeability was statistically significant, F(3, 403) = 7.07, p < .01. Simple effect tests to examine the pattern of interaction followed. They revealed that, when popularity cues were not used, commercials with affiliation cues were significantly more likeable than those without ([M.sub.with] = 7.11 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.37), t = 2.28, p < .05; however, when popularity cues were present in the commercial, there was no difference between commercials with or without affiliation cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.39 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.85), t = 1.79, n.s. In short, the significant interaction effect between popularity and affiliation cues suggests that the impacts of popularity cues overpowered those of the affiliation cues, because affiliation cues led to higher commercial likeability when popularity cues were absent from the commercials. Comparable two-way ANOVAs were performed with every possible pair of relatedness cues, but none was statistically significant.

Analysis of competence cues

A series of t-tests was performed comparing commercials with and without each competence cue. As shown in Table 3 and Figure 3, there was no significant difference between the mean likeability scores for commercials with and without distinctiveness cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.45 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.60), t = 1.17, n.s.; vanity cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.48 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.56), t = .39, n.s.; sexuality cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.49 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.56), t = .36, n.s.; status cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.40 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.56), t = .57, n.s.; and self-esteem cues ([M.sub.with] = 6.67 vs. [M.sub.without] = 6.55), t = .48, n.s. These findings confirm H2a through H2e. It should be noted that the two motivation systems (relatedness and competence) tend not to simultaneously dominate a person. This is because meeting a need in one domain does not necessarily imply gratification in other domains. For example, in the domain of gaining status, individuals are motivated to achieve superiority over others (competence), not form an alliance with competitors (relatedness) (Griskevicius et al, 2009; Miller, 2009; Sundie et al, 2006). In this sense, discovering that none of the competence cues had significant impact on the commercial likeability scores suggest that it was the relatedness motivation, rather than the competence motivation, that was active in the minds of Super Bowl viewers. Otherwise, competence cues would have influenced the commercial likeability scores.

Regression analysis

In addition to analysing the impact of each advertising cue (by comparing the mean differences of the ads with and those without each of the ten advertising cues) we performed regression analyses to understand how each advertising cue would affect commercial likeability when the influence of other cues' impacts are controlled. Three multiple regression models were run. The results are displayed in Table 4. In the first regression model (Model 1), commercial likeability was regressed on all ten advertising cues (i.e. both competence and relatedness cues). For the second and third regression models (Model 2 and Model 3), the commercial likeability scores were regressed on the five competence cues and the five relatedness cues, respectively.

The results of running Model 1 and Model 2 indicate that none of the five competence cues significantly predicted commercial likeability, thus confirming H2a through H2e (See Table 4). On the other hand, two of the five relatedness cues (popularity and nurturance) were significant predictors when commercial likeability was regressed on either all ten cues (Model 1), or on the five relatedness cues only (Model 3). Also, the community cue predicted commercial likeability in both Model 1 and Model 3, at a marginally significant level (i.e. p < .10). Taken with the information demonstrated in Table 3 and Figure 3, findings show that none of the competence cues significantly predicted commercial likeability, while three of the five relatedness cues had significant influence on commercial likeability--at least at a marginally significant level (p = .01).


The findings of this study support the idea that where a television programme activates relatedness motivations (such as Super Bowl telecasts), advertisements embedded in that programme are more likeable when the ads contain cues that appeal to the same motivation. Ten advertising cues were selected from previous advertising research and were classified as either relatedness cues or competence cues. Overall, the findings were consistent with the hypotheses that the Super Bowl telecasts activated the relatedness motivation and that it led the viewers of the Super Bowl to prefer commercials with motivation-consistent relatedness cues (e.g. popularity cue) over ads without these cues. Also, consistent with the prediction, there were no differences between commercials with and without the motivation-inconsistent competence cues (e.g. distinctiveness cue).

This paper contributes to the academic research in sports marketing because, to the best of the authors' knowledge, this is one of few attempts in sports marketing research to adopt an evolutionary psychology approach in order to address how audiences respond to advertising. Specifically, the perspective of evolutionary psychology helps gain theoretical understanding of how programme-induced motivations affect audiences' responses to programme-embedded advertising. The results suggest that likeability is not determined solely by what is communicated in the message of the commercial. Rather, the content of a commercial appears to interact with the programme-induced motivation to affect how the audience responds. This study takes the first step in providing evidence that motivation (in the dimension of competence-relatedness) induced by the telecasts of the Super Bowl was transferred to the evaluation of the following advertising. Prior research mostly focused on excitation-calm (Pham, 1996) or good-bad feelings (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007) when investigating advertising responses. This study adds an additional factor (competence-relatedness motivations) in the study of affect-cognition interaction, specifically in the sports marketing domain.

In addition, this study contributes significantly to the practice of sports marketing, helping sports marketers develop effective advertising campaigns for mega sports events by taking into consideration the motivation system induced by that sporting event. Specifically, understanding the motivations engaged by television programmes is important because it helps sports marketers decide what type of persuasion should be incorporated into an advertisement. Suppose a sports marketer plans to run an ad sponsoring a large sporting event such as the Super Bowl. In deciding which kinds of advertising cues to employ, the practitioner should consider which motivation will be activated by watching the sporting event. The findings of this study indicate that the Super Bowl activates the relatedness motivation system. However, each event has unique features and characteristics, so different events may activate different motivations. This study demonstrates that sports marketers need to have a full understanding of the sports event they plan to use.

There are several limitations of our study, which point to important further research. First, we concluded that the relatedness motivation was activated when audiences were exposed to the Super Bowl telecasts. This is because the commercials with relatedness cues were deemed more likable than those without them, whereas the competence cues made no difference. However, there was no direct test of the corresponding hypothesis because audiences' motivations were not measured. Future researchers are encouraged to incorporate direct measures of the specific motivation system, hypothesising that they will be activated by watching the televised athletic events. One way to measure human motivation is to adopt existing measures such as the Ryan et al (2006) scale devised to measure the degree to which relatedness and competence motivations are fulfilled in a game-playing context when considering situations such as 'I found the relationships I formed while playing fulfilling' for relatedness motivations and 'I felt very capable and effective' for competence motivation. Alternatively, researchers are encouraged to perform a preliminary study to develop an exact scale measuring competence and relatedness motivations, using appropriate psychometric methods in the context of watching sports events.

Second, this study employed likeability as the measure of audiences' responses to advertising. However, future research incorporating a variety of advertising response measures is needed. In particular, researchers are encouraged to investigate behavioural responses to advertising. This paper focused on motivation systems. The basic rationale was that the more ads fulfill audiences' motivation, the more likeable the ads will be. However, influencing cognitive and affective responses towards a product is considered a pathway through which ads influence behaviour. Also, more often than not, the conative dimension is understood as higher-stage consumer responses towards advertising, as theorised in the traditional hierarchy of effects models in advertising (Lavidge & Steiner, 1961; Preston & Thorson, 1984). In this regard, future researchers should expand the scope of this study to incorporate important conative constructs.

Finally, although this study focuses on the social aspect of human beings by examining the two basic social motives of relatedness and competence, there are other, non-social, motives that govern behaviours and thoughts. Non-social motives that may influence an audience's processing of persuasive messages are survival and autonomy, which deserve systematic investigations in future research. According to terror management theory, preservation of life (survival) is the most fundamental motive for a living being. For humans as living entities, survival is the highest priority motive affecting human behaviour. This includes the way people respond to advertising (Pyszczynski et al, 2000). According to self-determination theory, autonomy is also one of the fundamental motives for humans (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Autonomy refers to self-governance, the perception that a person's behaviour is engaged in by the self, as organiser of autonomous action, not by external and uncontrollable forces. Future researchers are encouraged to examine how survival or autonomy motives might impact audience perceptions of persuasive messages, especially in the context of sports programmes.


This study was supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Research Fund.


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Dohyun Ahn

Senior Researcher, Coexistence Research Team Kyunghee University, South Korea

Yunjae Cheong

Associate Professor Division of Media Communication Hankuk University of

Foreign Studies, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Kihan Kim

Associate Professor Global Sport Management, Department of Physical Education, Seoul National University, 599 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu Seoul, Republic of Korea 151-742 (Corresponding Author)

Tel: +82-2-880-7792

Email: kihan@snu.ac.kr

Dohyun Ahn is a senior researcher in the Department of Interaction Science at Sungkyunkwan University, specialising in media psychology with an emphasis on the cognitive and motivational functions of emotion in media. His work has appeared in the Journal of Media Psychology and Computers in Human Behaviour, among others.

Yunjae Cheong is an associate professor in the Division of Media Communication of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Her research interests focus on advertising media planning, with an emphasis on the media exposure model and evaluating advertising media spend efficiency. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Advertising, the Journal of Advertising Research and the International Journal of Advertising, among others.

Kihan Kim is an associate professor of the Global Sport Management programme in the Department of Physical Education at Seoul National University (SNU). His work has appeared in, among others, the Journal of Advertising Research, the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and the International Journal of Advertising.

TABLE 1 Descriptions of advertising cues



GRACEFUL,                         SUPPORT.



                                  TO BE SOCIAL.

NOTE. Each advertising cue signals the value of products
or services by emphasising the attributes summarised for
each cue; source pollay (1983).

TABLE 2 Overview of Super Bowl commercials by
product categories and years

                            PERIOD 1      PERIOD 2      PERIOD 3
                            (2001-2003)   (2004-2006)   (2007-2009)

FOOD & BEVERAGE             40            42            48
TELECOMS &                  24            22            25
AUTOMOBILES                 10            17            17
SNACKS & RESTAURANTS        13            14            16
INSURANCE &                 19            14            4
HOUSEHOLD & PERSONAL CARE   1             12            9
ELECTRONICS & COMPUTERS     3             5             7
APPAREL                     6             0             4
SHIPPING SERVICES           3             3             3
MEDICINE                    2             5             1
OTHER                       4             5             7
TOTAL ADS                   127           139           141
MEAN LIKEABILITY            6.64          6.54          6.51
SD                          1.15          1.12          1.10

                            AD#    %

FOOD & BEVERAGE             130    31.9
TELECOMS &                  71     17.4
AUTOMOBILES                 44     10.8
SNACKS & RESTAURANTS        43     10.5
INSURANCE &                 37     9.1
APPAREL                     10     2.5
SHIPPING SERVICES           9      2.2
MEDICINE                    8      2
OTHER                       18     4.4
TOTAL ADS                   407    100
MEAN LIKEABILITY            6.55
SD                          1.14

Notes: Product categories with fewer than three
commercials were collapsed into the 'Other' category
(these included Retail, Hotels, Movie Rental Stores,
Pet Care and Food); Ad#: number of commercials by
product category.

TABLE 3 The likeability of each ad appeal

                  CUE PRESENT   CUE ABSENT    t


DISTINCTIVENESS   6.45 (1.11)   6.60 (1.15)   1.17
VAIN VANITY       6.48 (1.09)   6.56 (1.14)   0.39
SEXUALITY         6.49 (1.07)   6.56 (1.14)   0.36
STATUS            6.40 (1.10)   6.56 (1.14)   0.57
SELF-ESTEEM       6.67 (0.92)   6.55 (1.14)   0.48


POPULARITY        6.79 (1.10)   6.41 (1.14)   3.28 **
NURTURANCE        7.23 (1.31)   6.52 (1.12)   2.62 **
FAMILY            7.17 (1.01)   6.53 (1.14)   1.98 *
COMMUNITY         7.01 (1.18)   6.52 (1.12)   2.51 **
AFFILIATION       6.67 (1.24)   6.54 (1.13)   0.63

* p < .05, ** p < .01.

TABLE 4 Multiple regression analyses of the impact of advertising
cues on likeability

                          MODEL 1                 MODEL 2

COMPETENCE CUES     b (S.E.)       [beta]   b (S.E.)     [beta]

  DISTINCTIVENESS   -.15 (.12)     -.06     -.13 (.13)   -.05
  VANITY            -.07 (.21)     -.02     -.03 (.22)   -.01
  SEXUALITY         -.03 (.21)     -.01     -.06 (.21)   -.01
  STATUS            -.17 (.29)     -.03     -.11 (.28)   -.02
  SELF-ESTEEM       .14 (.27)      .03      .12 (.27)    .02


  POPULARITY        .40 ** (.12)   .17      --           --
  NURTURANCE        .56 * (.28)    .10      --           --
  FAMILY            .37 (.33)      .06      --           --
  COMMUNITY         .34A (.20)     .08      --           --
  AFFILIATION       -.03 (.21)     -.01     --           --

                            MODEL 3

COMPETENCE CUES     b (S.E.)       [beta]

  DISTINCTIVENESS   --             --
  VANITY            --             --
  sexuality         --             --
  STATUS            --             --
  SELF-ESTEEM       --             --


  POPULARITY        .37 ** (.12)   .16
  NURTURANCE        .59 * (.28)    .11
  FAMILY            .37 (.33)      .06
  COMMUNITY         .35A (.20)     .09
  AFFILIATION       -.06 (.21)     -.01

* p < .05, ** p < .01, (a) p < .10


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