Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Effects of Sport Celebrity Transgressions: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Effects of Sport Celebrity Transgressions: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt


This paper has developed a conceptual model that has been based on the perceptions of consumers about the impact of different types of sport celebrity transgressions (SCTs) on their sport celebrity brand image. Focus group results have indicated that when SCTs ensue, consumers may have a positive attitude towards the sport-related brand attributes, while at the same time a negative attitude towards the non-sport-related brand attributes. Furthermore, SCTs seemed to impact negatively on consumers' attitudes towards both the symbolic and experiential brand benefits. Findings showed consumers indicated positive emotional responses to some on-field SCTs. These findings have shown that the type of SCT may influence the impact of an SCT on the sport celebrity brand image.


Many organizations are reliant on the sport celebrity brand image to increase their own image (Boisvert 2010), especially during sport celebrity endorsement (Henseler, Wilson, & de Vreede, 2009; Hung, Chan, & Tse, 2011; Kitchen, Brignell, & Spickett, 2004; McCracken 1989; Spy, Pappu, & Cornwell, 2011; White, 2012). When a sport celebrity transgression (SCT) negatively affects the sport celebrity brand image, it is possible that the SCT may affect the sport celebrity's associated brand partners through the process of brand image transfer (McCracken, 1989). This is because celebrity endorsement has previously been described as a brand alliance (Jaiprahash, 2008), where negative information was found to spill over to other brand partners in the alliance (Votolato & Unnava, 2006).

A celebrity is highly valued because of their high levels of attention, interest, and profit generation (Gupta, 2009), and the celebrity enters a sponsorship arrangement with an already attained brand image (McCracken, 1989). Therefore, sponsor organizations align their products and services with these brand images, believing that the message delivered will achieve significant attention and recall from consumers (Erdogan & Drollinger, 2008; Ohanian, 1991). However, when the sport celebrity brand image is affected by an SCT, it is likely to impact the sport celebrity brand image (Till & Shimp, 1989) and the sponsorship campaign (Westberg, Wilson, & Stavros, 2008).

During sport celebrity endorsement, sponsors align their brand image with a specific brand association of the sport celebrity brand image (Till & Busler, 2000). Furthermore, consumer attitudes toward these brand associations in sport are based on their uniqueness and favorability (Bauer, Stokburger-Sauer, & Exler, 2008). When celebrities transgress, the meanings associated with their brand image may also change. It may even affect the uniqueness and favorability of a specific brand association. However, it is not clear which brand association may be more sensitive to an SCT when a specific type of SCT occurs.

Brand image has been described as the perceptions of consumers regarding a particular brand that is reflected by the brand association that is held in memory by the consumer (Keller 1993). As a result, any study investigating the impact of SCTs on the sport celebrity brand image should focus on the perceptions of consumers. In this study, consumers are referred to as individuals who closely follow a sport celebrity, attend sporting events, and/or follow sports on television (Solberg, Hanstad, & Thoring, 2010). Studies that focus on consumers' perceptions of SCTs do not take into account the brand image of a real sport celebrity during their investigation (Doyle, Pentecoste, & Funk, 2014; Solberg et al., 2010). Previous research has shown that sport consumers perceive a fictitious celebrity as different from a real sport celebrity (Till & Shimp, 1998). Therefore, this study investigates the impact of types of SCTs when real sport celebrities get involved in a transgression.

Transgression refers to the abuse of the implicit or explicit rules guiding relationship performance and evaluation (Aaker, Fournier, & Brasel, 2004). …

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