Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Complementarity Factor in the Leveraging of Sponsorship

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Complementarity Factor in the Leveraging of Sponsorship

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Event sponsorship is a common marketing communication strategy that companies utilise to increase consumer brand awareness and enhance image and reputation. Research has shown that, contrary to more obtrusive means of marketing communication (such as advertising or sales promotion), sponsorship generally creates positive consumer perceptions because the company is seen as supporting the event that it sponsors (Meenaghan & Shipley, 1999). Hence, sponsors' motives are perceived as being more altruistic than commercial.

In most cases sponsorship programmes are accompanied by other forms of marketing communications aimed at leveraging the effects of the sponsorship (Woodside & Summers, 2011). For instance, sponsors may engage in on-site sales promotion activities or use advertisements in order to actively promote their engagement as event partners. These supplemental marketing communication actions have been shown to increase consumer awareness of a sponsorship and improve consumer attitude towards the sponsor (McDaniel, 1999; Olson & Thjomoe, 2009; Quester & Thompson, 2001). However, research has suggested that, if supplemental obtrusive marketing efforts are too intense, consumers may perceive the sponsor to be over-exploiting the event. This creates impressions of commercial intent, which outweigh the goodwill benefits naturally associated with sponsorship (Carrillat & d'Astous, 2012; Meenaghan, 2001).

This paper argues that it is not just the intensity of marketing activity accompanying a sponsorship programme that is relevant. The extent to which such activities reinforce the type of relationship that unites event and brand must also be taken into consideration, especially considering the motives that consumers attribute to sponsors. If consumers perceive a sponsor to be commercially exploiting the event it sponsors, leveraging communication messages that belie the sponsor's commercial intents (such as a product-oriented advertisement) will encourage consumers to attribute commercial motives to the sponsor. In contrast, leveraging messages that emphasise the contribution and support of the sponsor or related aspects of the event (e.g. health or moral values) are likely to be less detrimental to the sponsor because they do not contain purchase appeals and so lead to more altruistic motive attributions. Furthermore, when the sponsor's involvement is seen as altruistic, leveraging strategies that lead to commercial attributions (e.g. inciting consumers to purchase products) may be used because they complement the positive impressions created by the sponsor's financial support and should not lead consumers to conclude that the sponsor's motives are purely commercial.

These ideas were tested by two experiments. In Study 1, 289 adult consumers were exposed to fictitious sponsorship stimuli that varied with respect to the form of sponsorship (in-kind or financial), the form of sponsorship leverage (none, product advertising or corporate advertising) and the degree of congruence between event and sponsor. The context of the study was a sports event (a tennis tournament or bicycle race) and the sponsor was Wilson. Results showed that probability of the consumer purchasing the sponsor's products was significantly enhanced when the advertising leveraging strategy complemented, rather than reinforced, the type of sponsorship. In general, leveraging the effects of sponsorship with advertising led to better results and moreso when sponsorship and advertising were complementary. A follow-up experiment (Study 2) with 107 respondents using real stimuli (footage of an ice-hockey game and a video advertisement for the leveraging strategy) confirmed these results. Specifically, a conspicuous TV broadcast sponsorship strategy led to commercially dominated attributions that produced optimum outcomes when the leveraging advertisement was more altruistic in nature (i.e. …

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