Sports Sponsorship Evaluation: A Behavioural Analysis

By Hoek, Janet; Gendall, Philip et al. | International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, November-December 1999 | Go to article overview

Sports Sponsorship Evaluation: A Behavioural Analysis


Hoek, Janet, Gendall, Philip, Theed, Katie, International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship


Introduction

The growth in sponsorship expenditure, both in real terms and as a proportion of promotion budgets, has been well-documented (see Meenaghan, 1988; Meenaghan & Shipley, 1999, for example). Otker (1988) and Meenaghan (1991) suggested that two factors promoted this growth: first, the increasing number of opportunities associated with sponsorship as event owners recognised the commercial potential of their events; and second, a growing disillusionment with mass media advertising and the clutter which arguably diminished the effectiveness of traditional media vehicles (see also Crowley, 1991; Thwaites, Aguilar-Manjarrez & Kidd, 1998). Meenaghan (1998) subsequently suggested that new technological developments and sponsorship's ability to reach consumers at leisure were on-going advantages that would continue to fuel its growth.

Although managers may sponsor almost any event they choose, the vast majority of sponsorship contracts relate to a sporting event or team. The reasons for this are self-evident: major sports events attract large on-site crowds and even larger media audiences. Because of its ability to transcend national boundaries, sponsorship also offers multinational companies the potential to reach global audiences more cost-effectively than with other promotion tools (see Thwaites, 1995). As well as the on-site and media exposure potential, sports sponsorships may also offer licensing and merchandising opportunities; in some cases, sponsors can also develop line extensions and sales promotions featuring the sponsorship. Thus sponsorship may extend beyond the event, team or individual sponsored by offering specific revenue-generating possibilities.

However, despite managers' increasing use of sponsorship, many questions still remain about how sponsorship works and its overall contribution to revenue or profit. Indeed, the proportion of organisations that routinely appraise their sponsorship campaigns is low and it is clear that at least some managers assume rather than evaluate the outcomes of their investment (Cornwell & Maignan, 1998; Marshall & Cook, 1992; Pope, 1998)

Ironically, managers' use of other promotion tools has come under increasing scrutiny and it seems both prudent and logical to investigate how sponsorship investments can be evaluated and, more specifically, how its effect on consumers' behaviour can be measured.

In this paper, we begin by considering different theoretical bases for sponsorship before reviewing the research to date on sponsorship evaluation; we then present the results of a small-scale empirical study and develop guidelines which could assist managers to examine the behavioural consequences of sports sponsorship.

A Theoretical Framework

Advertising and Sponsorship

Researchers have differed over whether they view sponsorship as an extension of advertising or as a distinct promotion vehicle. Hastings (1984) argued that managers had a higher level of control over advertising messages whereas sponsorship messages were less easily manipulated. McDaniel and Kinney (1999) also noted that billboards and hoardings offered less space for messages and were typically dominated by the brand name, again providing few opportunities for message manipulation compared to mass media advertising. Meenaghan (1991) concluded that advertising and sponsorship were complementary and described sponsorship as a "mute non-verbal medium" (p. 8) which required advertising support to be effective. Sponsorship of recent major sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup, also suggests that a symbiotic relationship exists between sponsorship and advertising.

However Witcher, Craigen, Culligan and Harvey (1991) suggested that since both advertising and sponsorship aimed to influence consumers' behaviour, sponsorship acted as a specific form of advertising, even if its communication format was more limited. Given these differing views of sponsorship, it is logical to examine whether sponsorship fits into a coherent theoretical framework and to explore its relationship with advertising, before questions of evaluation can be addressed.

Cognitivism and Behaviourism

Marketing has traditionally been dominated by the cognitive information processing model which views consumers as rational decision makers who seek out and evaluate information prior to making purchase decisions. Foxall (1992) summarised this approach: "The 'cognitive consumer' is credited with the capacity to receive and handle considerable quantities of information, to engage actively in the comparative evaluation of alternative products and brands, and to select rationally among them" (from East, 1997, p. 8). Although many different models exist, they typically posit a pathway along which consumers progress until some behaviour (usually purchase) occurs. For example, the Fishbein-Ajzen Theory of Reasoned Action suggests consumers first develop beliefs about a behaviour, then attitudes towards it and later intentions which, logically, culminate in the behaviour itself (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). This theory has informed more specific consumer behaviour theories such as the Engel, Blackwell and Miniard model and the Howard-Sheth model, which in turn have formed the basis of more specific models of advertising.

Despite the intuitive appeal of the models, however, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence to support the pathways proposed. For example, Kraus' (1995) review of attitude-behaviour studies found low correlations and, even where these were significant, a high proportion of the variance remained unexplained. Other researchers, such as Foxall (1983, 1993) have argued that although cognitive pathways might be interesting, it is not necessary to understand them in order to shape or predict consumers' behaviour.

Alternative views, that consumers' purchase behaviour is based on habit, or is prompted in response to environmental stimuli, are gaining increasing support (East 1997, Nord & Peter, 1980). These views of consumers' behaviour have more in common with behaviour modification theory, which examines the environments within which behaviour occurs rather than the internal processes thought to lead to behaviour. Promotion activities such as advertising and sponsorship are thus stimuli used to elicit specific responses (such as behaviour) or to reinforce existing behaviours (maintenance of a brand within consumers' brand repertoire or continuation of an established purchase habit).

In a behaviourist context, sponsorship draws on aspects of both respondent and operant conditioning. Respondent conditioning uses "an established relationship between a stimulus and a response to bring about a learning of the same response to a different stimulus" (Hawkins, Best & Coney 1989, p. 322). According to this, the connotations of excellence, success and commitment associated with a highly successful sports team would thus become paired with the brand or organisation sponsoring the team or the event in which the team performed. The team's use of a given brand, and the pairing of attributes that occurred, would act as a stimulus intended to prompt purchase of the brand. For example, sponsorship of a sports team by adidas or Nike, immediately links the brand to heroes or role models, and this alone may be powerful enough to stimulate purchase of the brand. Sponsorship also reassures team followers who already own the sponsoring brand that the brand's values and priorities continue to mirror their own.

Unlike respondent conditioning which creates associations that precede or simulate behaviour, operant conditioning reinforces behaviours that have occurred. Nord and Peter (1980, p. 25) describe it thus: "Operant conditioning has occurred when the probability that an individual will emit one or more behaviours is altered by changing the events or consequences which follow the particular behaviour". Advertising explicitly highlights the benefits thought to arise from use of a particular brand and so provides consumers with reassurance about their choice. Sponsorship works less overtly since, as noted, it offers less control over the messages promoted. However, sponsorship of successful sports teams means that, through respondent conditioning, they come to symbolise the qualities associated with the sponsoring brand and so also reassure consumers about their choices.

On a more abstract level, many consumers view sponsorship as a demonstration of good corporate citizenship, thus the very act of providing funding to a sporting or community group may also be reinforcing attributes consumers view as desirable in the organisations with which they do business. In a practical sense, Steinlager's sponsorship of the All Blacks has created connotations of ruggedness, determination, strength and perseverance which are now intrinsic parts of the Steinlager brand. Consumers of the brand thus share in these characteristics every time they drink Steinlager, and the pairing serves also to maintain or enhance the brand's position in their purchase hierarchy.

Behaviour modification also employs vicarious learning, or role models, to educate consumers and to increase the probability that they will purchase the promoted brand. Thus if sporting heroes become paired with a certain snack food, type of car, brand of beer or range of clothing, those brands may also take on the characteristics for which the sports person is renowned. For ordinary consumers, the clear message is that they too can enjoy these characteristics (prowess, status) by purchasing the same brands that the hero uses.

These two theories of consumer behaviour have also given rise to two quite different models of how advertising works and, by implication, how sponsorship might also work. The remainder of this section evaluates these theories and their implications for sponsorship evaluation.

Theories of Advertising

AIDA Model

The Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) model, which arises from more cognitive models of behaviour, has been extensively applied in advertising evaluation and has also been used in sponsorship evaluation. Advertising's role, according to this school of thought, is to inform and persuade consumers and thus to promote movement from one phase of the model to another. Advertising thus seeks to change consumers' behaviour by inducing them to purchase brands, or even product categories, they had not hitherto purchased. According to the AIDA model, sponsorship should increase awareness and improve the organisation's and brand's image by enhancing consumers' attitudes. Like advertising, therefore, sponsorship should result in discernible shifts along the decision-making pathway. For example, sponsors of the 1998 Soccer World Cup would measure awareness of their brand, of the event and of the relationship between the two. They would also take pre-post measurements of attitude to assess whether improvements in brand or corporate image had resulted.

Given the role attributed to advertising, the logic of using measures such as awareness and recognition, and of monitoring changes in attitudes, is easily apparent and has attracted considerable research attention. Since some researchers view advertising and sponsorship as similar, many of the measures used to examine advertising effectiveness have also been used to evaluate sponsorship (see Pope, 1998). Initially the use of borrowed measures appears to have arisen from convenience, rather than from a clear rationale that the measures were logically consistent with sponsorship evaluation. However, more recently, researchers have attempted to link their use of these measures to an underlying theoretical rationale. For example, Cornwell (1997) suggested managers make greater use of the information processing paradigm, a suggestion adopted by Speed and Thompson (1997) who used a hierarchy of effects model to examine the effects and measurement of sponsorship. Lee, Sandler and Shani (1997) also pursued this line of reasoning and modified the AIDA model to orient it more specifically to sponsorship. They suggested that attitude towards the event, towards the promotion of the event and towards behavioural intention were the keys to examining how sponsorship affected consumers. However, this line of enquiry remains comparatively undeveloped and, before it is extended further, it is logical to consider criticisms levelled at the AIDA and similar models, and to examine the alternatives that exist.

Evolution of the ATR Model

Joyce (1967) argued that there was little evidence to support the view that consumers formed or experienced strong desire and Ehrenberg (1974 and 1992) suggested that belief in advertising as persuasive offended common sense. Ehrenberg (1974) also argued that the causal sequence set out in the Theory of Reasoned Action and advertising models such as AIDA which arose from it, were not well based, as the factors thought to lead to behaviour were often generated by the behaviour. Thus he suggested that advertising was noticed mainly by existing users of a brand who were already knowledgeable about it. He further argued that consumers "tend to perceive advertising for the brands [they] are already buying, and repetitive advertising allows the habit to continue to operate in the face of competition" (1974, p.32). Advertising therefore fulfils a defensive role as a positive reinforcer that helps retain existing customers and which may, possibly, attract new users (Barnard and Ehrenberg, 1997, later conceded that advertising might "nudge" consumers towards trial).

These criticisms gave rise to an alternative view, the weak theory, which views advertising as analogous to operant conditioning, a reinforcer which reassures consumers about their purchases and the benefits these are likely to bring. Known as the Awareness-Trial-Reinforcement (ATR) model, this theory suggests advertising's role occurs after rather than before purchase. Although both models attribute an initial role to awareness, the ATR model places strong emphasis on behavioural variables, such as trial and repeat purchase, both of which can be measured directly. Thus instead of attempting to observe consumers' internal thought processes and changes in these, the ATR model examines specific behaviours and the environmental factors which shape them.

In explicit contrast to the AIDA model, the ATR model suggests that advertising maintains rather than changes the status quo. That is, advertising works defensively to maintain a brand's market share in the face of competitive pressures. Given this, advertising is not expected to bring about long-term changes in market share, although it will cause short-term fluctuations. If sponsorship also works in this way, its role will be to maintain a brand's salience and to remind consumers of the benefits they associate with it. Sponsorship, like advertising, will be a cost of being in business and is unlikely to generate long-term changes in a market. This reasoning explains the argument that sponsors may support an event not because the pairing offers them any specific benefit, but because if they do not, the opportunity will pass to a competitor.

If sponsorship works defensively, its evaluation becomes more of a monitoring exercise where researchers examine the overall market structure and its stability over time. From a more political point of view, this vision of sponsorship is less appealing, since it suggests that there is little return on the investment, other than preservation of the status quo. As Javalgi, Traylor, Gross and Lampman (1994) argued, this outcome may not augur well for sponsorship managers' long-term career prospects. This reasoning alone may explain why almost all sponsorship research examines awareness, attitude, image or preference, or variables which are proxies for these, since they are more responsive to changes in sponsorship activity and thus demonstrate that something has happened as a result of the investment.

From the point of view of the ATR model, however, both advertising and sponsorship are reinforcers which can reassure existing users, maintain or increase the probability of repeat-purchase, and possibly help stimulate trial, but which are unlikely to create long-term changes to the market structure. Few researchers have explicitly examined sponsorship in terms of the ATR model (although Hoek, Gendall, Jeffcoat & Orsman, 1997, used the ATR model to evaluate sponsorship of the 1994 Soccer World Cup). Some of the research based on the AIDA model has, however, yielded findings which are more in keeping with the ATR model. Crimmins and Horn (1996) used the AIDA model to argue that sponsorship fulfills a persuasive role, analogous to that played by advertising. However, their claim that: "sponsorship improves the perception of a brand by flanking our beliefs about the brand and linking the brand to an event or organisation that the target audience already values highly" (p. 12) uses the behaviourist theory of respondent conditioning, not the cognitive theory of persuasion, to establish how sponsorship works (see also Meenaghan, 1983, p. 29 and Hansen & Scotwin, 1995, p. 176). Similarly, Javalgi et al. (1994) noted the presence of operant conditioning (or reinforcement) when they suggested that sponsorship may enhance corporate image "if the company has a good image before the sponsorship" (p. 57). Thus sponsorship, like advertising, reinforces existing attributes, beliefs and behaviours.

More generally, it can be argued that sponsorship works in a similar way to advertising, as a form of operant conditioning that serves to maintain behaviour patterns. Thus McDonald (1991) argued: "As more people have the sponsorship brought to their notice by publicity, they are reminded of something they already approve of; it is brought to the front of their mind. It does not follow that anybody's mind has been changed about the company because of the sponsorship" (p. 33). Barnard and Ehrenberg (1997) argued that advertising's role was to maintain salience, to foreground the brand's name and attributes and to maintain its position in consumers' brand repertoire hierarchy; McDonald's conclusion suggests that sponsorship works in exactly the same way, to maintain the status quo rather than to produce an increase in sales. For example, naming rights, logo exposure, on-air mentions by commentators and advertising support all assist a brand's profile in a cluttered marketplace.

Debate over these models, their empirical support, their usefulness in explaining or predicting different purchase categories and their ability to guide managers' decisions continues (see Ehrenberg, 1997; Jones, 1997; Dyson, Hollis & Farr, 1996, 1997). However, the ATR model has growing empirical support and, in addition, is more parsimonious, contains variables more open to direct measurement, and displays greater conformity to principles of empirical generalisations (Barwise, 1995). The purpose of this paper is not to resolve the debate, but to examine whether the ATR model could help explain how sponsorship works and offer more useful insights into how it should be managed and evaluated.

Sponsorship Evaluation

For over a decade, researchers have pointed to a general lack of work examining the effects of sponsorship (see Meenaghan, 1998; Farrelly, Quester & Burton, 1997, for example). Despite this, the void remains, as Pope (1998a) notes: "Micro-level issues, such as sponsorship's effect on the consumer have been largely ignored" (p. 2).

The work undertaken has examined four areas: media coverage, awareness, image and attitude, and persuasion and preference. Media audits, (which report the number of column centimetres of press reporting, or the seconds of broadcast exposure) are comparatively easy to undertake, but give little indication of the effect a given message has had, or of the number of people potentially exposed to it. Although this measure is widely used, media audits seem to have limited practical usefulness (see Meenaghan, 1994; Crimmins & Horn, 1996).

As a popular measure of advertising effectiveness, awareness has also been frequently employed in sponsorship evaluation. Researchers have examined awareness of the event, of sponsors of the event and of sub-branding that may have been undertaken, and there is general consensus that sponsorship can provide marked increases in awareness. However, although awareness is the first variable in both the ATR and AIDA models, the evidence that changes in this are directly correlated with changes in sales or other behaviours is tenuous. Haley and Baldinger's (1993) study suggested that awareness has only a weak link with purchase behaviour and their conclusions questioned researchers' reliance on awareness as a performance measure. In other words, the fact that consumers display increasingly high levels of awareness of a sponsoring brand does not mean that the brand's satisfaction will grow or that new users are being attracted to the brand.

Barwise and Ehrenberg's (1985 and 1987) work into descriptive and evaluative attributes offers some insight into why awareness may not have a high correlation with sales. They suggested consumers could hold two different types of attribute beliefs about brands: descriptive beliefs, which reflected heavily advertised attributes that had become strongly paired with a brand and thus differentiated between brands, but not between users; and evaluative attributes which, by contrast, are generated by consumers' experience of the brand and their beliefs about its performance, and thus differentiate between users and non-users of the brand. If awareness reflects only descriptive attributes, associations arising from awareness of slogans or other heavily-promoted characteristics, then its relationship with sales or other behaviours will be weak. It is possible that, over time, on-going pairing of a brand and a team or event will give rise to beliefs that do shape or stimulate behaviour; however, this question has not been addressed in the research literature.

Overall, Barwise and Ehrenberg's conclusions suggest that brand usage is an important variable which should be included in sponsorship evaluation studies. If existing users are aware of the sponsorship, then the ATR model suggests that the sponsorship will reinforce their behaviour by (at least) maintaining the brand's position in consumers' portfolio, and its repeat purchase probability. However, the implications of non-users' awareness of the sponsorship are less clear and would seem to offer fewer insights into their likely behaviour. Future research could track the behaviour of non-users who are aware of a brand and examine what proportion of this group eventually trialed and repeat purchased the brand.

As well as examining awareness, researchers have also explored how sponsorship affects the image consumers have of an organisation or a brand, and the attitudes they hold towards it (see Abratt & Grobler, 1988; Parker, 1991; Javalgi et al. , 1994 or Stipp & Schiavone, 1996, for example). Pope and Voges (1994) suggested that sponsorship's value as a promotion vehicle resided in its ability to shape image as opposed to changing purchase intention or even purchase behaviour. However, the results have been somewhat inconclusive (Javalgi et al., 1994; Hansen & Scotwin, 1995; Nicholls et al., 1999) and confounding variables, such as the relationship between respondents' interests and the sponsorship, have not been clearly identified or treated (but cf d'Astous & Bitz, 1995). Even where improvements in image have been documented (Stipp & Schiavone, 1996; Rajaretnam, 1994), the relationship between these and behaviour has not been examined and managers have received no guidance about whether the sponsorships have stimulated trial or maintained current levels of performance. For managers, this implies that improvements in image or attitude scores will not necessarily be mirrored in improvements in sales.

Similarly, work examining preference and persuasion has also stopped short of linking the measures used with specific behavioural outcomes (Crimmins & Horn, 1996; Lee et al., 1997). Given the questions Ehrenberg, Foxall, East, and others have raised about these variables and their assumed relationship with behaviour, there is, as yet, no compelling evidence that changes in either preference or persuasion will also lead to changes in consumers' behaviour.

Overall, the work undertaken to date suggests that, like advertising, sponsorship can generate awareness of a brand, an event, and of the relationship between the two (Sandler & Shani, 1993; d'Astous & Bitz, 1995; Quester, 1997). There is some evidence that sponsorship can alter the values or belief attributes consumers associate with a brand or an organisation (Pope, 1998). However, as Pope concluded, "there is no guarantee that aspects of those values that are affected will necessarily be those that discriminate between brands or necessarily impact on product use" (p. 132). Attempts to examine the relationship between recall and preference and sponsorship have also produced rather inconclusive findings (Nicholls, Roslow & Dublish, 1999).

In summary, researchers have enjoyed mixed success in examining the relationship between variables from hierarchy of effects models and sponsorship, and the over-riding question of whether the variables explored relate to behaviour has yet to be satisfactorily addressed. Pope's (1998) rather pessimistic conclusion that "the relationship between sales volume and sponsorship activity remains both tenuous and contentious" (p. 124) has not yet been seriously challenged by any research findings.

From a management perspective, this situation is rather unsatisfactory: there is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that some sponsorships work, while others do not, but there is no over-arching framework to explain why this is so. The remainder of this paper examines a sponsorship which included a specific response mechanism, a phone-in competition, and analyses how the results of this fit with the various theories discussed above.

More specifically, the following research questions were addressed:

* Whether respondents who entered the competition had higher awareness of the sponsor;

* Whether awareness of the sponsorship varied by brand usage;

* Whether respondents who entered the competition had a higher probability of purchasing the sponsored brand than those who had not entered, and who had not viewed the sponsored event.

Methodology

The Case

This study examined sponsorship of the New Zealand netball team and, more specifically, of a particular series between New Zealand and Australia which has been the subject of strong trans-Tasman rivalry. As a female-dominated sport that receives good media coverage, netball offers opportunities to reach a sizeable proportion of the female population and was sponsored by Fisher & Paykel, a New Zealand-based manufacturer of domestic products such as washing machines, ovens and dishwashers.

In return for their sponsorship, Fisher & Paykel received naming rights to the test series. In addition, they purchased 30-second advertising slots during each of the advertisement breaks scheduled during the telecast (a total of approximately 150 seconds of advertising time).

The Fisher & Paykel logo was also displayed on the court and so occasionally featured during action shots; the commentators regularly referred to the Fisher & Paykel series; a Fisher & Paykel mascot appeared during quarter- and half-time breaks; and Fisher & Paykel received court-side signage.

In addition, Fisher & Paykel donated whiteware items to be used as prizes during a competition that ran for the duration of the game. Details of the competition were announced immediately prior to each game as part of the introductory material that preceded each telecast.

A direct-dial telephone number was available throughout the game and the prize was drawn and announced at the conclusion of each game.

Procedure and Sample

Fisher & Paykel gave permission to access a sample of people who responded to their competition during a New Zealand vs Australia netball test held in July 1997. The software used to respond to calls was altered to include a question requesting respondents' assistance in the project and a processing sample of 123 people was obtained from the group who consented to participate in the project. This sample thus comprised people who had been exposed to the sponsorship (via the competition they had entered). Entrants answered a "skill" question and then provided details of their name and telephone number.

In order to interview respondents who were not aware of the sponsorship and who had not participated in the competition, a second sample of 180 people (which resulted in a processing sample of 66 cases) was randomly selected from telephone directories. Because telephone directories do not contain numbers listed as private and confidential, every selected number had 2 added to the final digit in an attempt to overcome any bias that might otherwise have resulted.

Entrants to the competition were, predictably, mainly women; to generate a comparable sample from the telephone directories, interviewers were set a quota of two female for every male respondent. Respondents to this survey were selected using the next birthday method, with the gender requested determined by the quota set (interviewers using the next birthday method select the household member whose birthday falls next to be the survey respondent). Respondents from the telephone directories' sample were initially asked a screening question to ensure they had neither watched the netball test nor participated in the competition, and to make certain that they differed from the competition-generated sample in these respects. Respondents from both samples were then asked a series of questions about the event, the sponsor, their current brand usage and their likely purchase behaviour. Their responses are outlined in the following section.

Results

Awareness

Both the AIDA and the ATR models include awareness as an initial variable in the series of relationships they posit. However, if Ehrenberg's (1974) argument that advertising is seen mainly by people who already use the brand is correct, we would expect awareness levels to differ according to usage as well as according to whether respondents were exposed to the event. Table 1 contains the results relating to this hypothesis.

Although the cell sizes mean the differences between the estimates are not significant, the pattern across both samples is identical: respondents who own a Fisher & Paykel washing machine have a higher level of awareness of Fisher & Paykel's sponsorship, irrespective of whether they were exposed to coverage of the netball test. Predictably, awareness declined amongst respondents who were not exposed to the test, although the same pattern was maintained. Overall, respondents exhibited a very high level of awareness; half the respondents who did not own a Fisher & Paykel appliance and who had not watched the netball test were still aware of Fisher & Paykel's sponsorship, even though the sponsorship contract had, at that stage, been in place for less than a year. However, it is also interesting that, less than a month after entering the competitions, awareness of the sponsorship had already decreased by between 10% to 20% (assuming all competition entrants were aware of the sponsorship link). The high overall awareness may be attributable to Fisher & Paykel's dominance in the New Zealand whiteware market; the company is well-known and sponsorship promotions can therefore focus on pairing the event and the brand with less concern for establishing the brand name itself.

The results reported in Table 1 lend support to both the AIDA and the ATR models. It is clear that sponsorship can generate high levels of awareness and that, even where good awareness levels exist, exposure to the sponsorship can increase these by around 30%. However, Table 1 suggests that the relationship between sponsorship exposure and awareness is mediated by brand usage and so supports the argument that sponsorship is reinforcing current behaviour patterns as well as maintaining brand salience.

Purchase Probabilities

Ultimately, managers are interested in how their promotions affect sales, an interest which also applies to their sponsorship promotions. The difficulties of isolating the specific effect of individual components of the promotion mix has already been noted; in this case the problem is compounded by whiteware's consumption cycles, which extend over several years. Thus rather than examine actual sales, we explored respondents' purchase probabilities using the Juster Scale (Juster, 1966). This scale, an 11-point probability scale which contains numeric probabilities as well as adjectival descriptions of these, examines the likelihood that consumers will perform a particular behaviour (see Appendix A). The Juster Scale has proven significantly more accurate than intentions scales (Day, Gan, Gendall & Esslemont, 1991) and was therefore used in preference to these.

In this study, respondents were asked to imagine that they needed to purchase a washing machine within the next week. They were asked to assume that the different brands had similar attributes and that they were available at the same price. Standardising brand features thus allowed other factors which could influence respondents' choice (such as sponsorship exposure) to come to the fore.

Respondents then used the Juster Scale to indicate the probability that they would purchase one of the brands currently represented in the market. Responses to this question were broken down by respondents' exposure to the netball test and are presented in Table 2, overleaf.

These results show that between 40% to 50% of both groups would be likely to purchase a Fisher & Paykel washing machine; the likelihood of purchasing the other brands examined was also very similar across both groups. The similarity of the two samples' estimates may be interpreted in several ways. First, it could suggest that the sponsorship had not had a marked effect on consumers' likely behaviour. This explanation is consistent with the reinforcing role attributed to advertising by the ATR model, but is less consistent with models which suggests that promotions should be moving consumers closer to behaviour. Alternatively, it could be that exposure to the sponsorship and the act of entering the competition were insufficient to move respondents along the continuum towards behaviour, although entering the competition arguably demonstrates the interest and desire thought to precede behaviour. Another explanation is that respondents who were not exposed to the particular netball test under investigation may still have been aware of the sponsorship through other sources. That is, the fact that respondents were not exposed to a specific game does not necessarily mean that they were unaware of the sponsorship. To explore this latter possibility further, the purchase probabilities were also analysed according to respondents' ability to recall the test sponsor. These results are presented in Table 3.

These results are virtually identical to those contained in Table 2; an estimated 40% to 50% of the sample would purchase a Fisher & Paykel product if they had to buy a washing machine within the next week. Neither exposure to the netball test nor awareness of the test sponsorship had any real effect on respondents' purchase probabilities. This finding is less consistent with the AIDA model, although it might be argued that awareness of Fisher & Paykel was so high among both groups that the sponsorship could have little influence, since little room for improvement existed. In this case, the sponsorship does seem to have reinforced the Fisher & Paykel brand amongst users and maintained its salience within the wider market.

As expected, the purchase probabilities reflect the overall market structure. Although specific market share details were deemed too sensitive for wider release, Fisher & Paykel dominates the New Zealand whiteware market and respondents' probability of purchasing a Fisher & Paykel brand was similar to their combined probability of purchasing all other brands, a result which reflects Fisher & Paykel's overall position in the market. (1) This result also supports the idea that sponsorship, like advertising, helps brands defend share by reminding consumers of the brands' benefits and by reinforcing these attributes through specific pairings which foreground them.

Ehrenberg (1988) has argued that it is difficult (though not impossible) to alter the structure of established markets because of enduring patterns, such as Double Jeopardy, which occur so regularly across so many markets that he has suggested it should be treated as a law-like generalisation (Ehrenberg, Goodhardt & Barwise, 1990). Put simply, Double Jeopardy suggests that small brands suffer in two ways: they have a lower penetration (i.e. they are bought by fewer people) and they have a lower repeat purchase rate (those people who do buy them purchase them less frequently). Conversely, big brands can enjoy the advantages conferred by Double Jeopardy and the results of the study reported here, which reveal Fisher & Paykel's dominance of the market, can also be explained by Fisher & Paykel's ability to "ride the Double Jeopardy curve" (Ehrenberg, Goodhardt & Barwise, 1990).

Management Guidelines

These results are pilot-scale only and so do little more than confirm that sponsorship, like advertising, can fit comfortably within a behaviourist paradigm. Detailed research is now required to test how well the ATR model explains sponsorship's effects on consumers, and how well this explanation compares with the AIDA model. Since the product examined in this study was a clear market leader, and because the product category had a long consumption cycle, further research should also explore how the ATR model explains sponsorship's effects on fast-moving-consumer-goods brands, or brands which are not market leaders. Clarification of how sponsorship works, and whether its effects vary across product categories, will also assist managers in determining whether sponsorship prompts trial, as sales promotions do, or whether it reinforces behaviour, as advertising does.

Notwithstanding a more detailed exploration of this question, it would be logical for managers to consider the behavioural goals they would like to achieve through sponsorship and to incorporate specific opportunities to prompt trial, request donations, generate awareness, or monitor repeat-purchase behaviour. This implies that managers should move away from setting objectives in terms of intermediary variables, such as awareness and image, and focus specifically on the responses they want to elicit from consumers. It also implies that managers should use techniques that will allow consumers' behaviour to be attributed to sponsorship.

There are several parallels in other promotion fields which could also be employed in sponsorship management. For example, direct marketing promotions always contain specific calls to action and these can be incorporated into sponsorship campaigns. Cause-related marketing draws on this idea by linking behaviour (purchase of a nominated brand) to a sponsorship reinforcer (donation to a specific beneficiary). In this type of sponsorship, behaviour precedes and determines the level of sponsorship provided and so enables better monitoring of the sponsorship's effects than do sponsorships which do not include direct calls to action. Where the sponsor maintains a client database, even greater monitoring becomes possible as managers can monitor initial trial, complementary behaviour (purchase of brands other than the sponsored brand), and client conversion and retention once the sponsorship contract concludes.

For fast-moving-consumer-goods manufacturers, who do not typically maintain end-user databases, it is possible to use sales promotion techniques to introduce behavioural measures into sponsorship. For example, use of sponsorship-linked competitions, where entries must be accompanied by a certain number of barcodes, may increase consumers' repeat-purchase behaviour and result in the sponsored brand attracting higher share of category requirements. These variables can be examined using aggregated grocery market data (which would reveal fluctuations in market share) and consumer panel data (which would reveal changes in repeat purchase behaviour, deviations from market norms, and changes in share of category requirements).

These suggestions link sponsorship to a variety of purchase behaviours, but such links may not be possible in some product categories, in which case managers may need to examine an intermediary variable. However, instead of using measures of awareness or attitude as proxies for purchase behaviour, it is possible to examine precursor behaviours, such as trial. For example, manufacturers of industrial or technical equipment could include on-site demonstrations as part of their sponsorship contracts and could collect contact details from trialists which would enable purchases to be monitored. Similarly, wineries and breweries often negotiate exclusive pouring rights for events; these arrangements enable an assessment of the profit earned on event-related sales with the cost of procuring the sponsorship rights.

In summary, management practice could be improved by a more explicit focus on behavioural outcomes and a more eclectic use of other promotion disciplines. Sponsorship already draws heavily on advertising and there is no apparent reason why aspects of direct-response promotions, database marketing, or cause-related marketing cannot also be incorporated. Greater use of these disciplines would also assist managers to achieve the behavioural goals they set and would simplify subsequent evaluations of the sponsorship's success.

Conclusions

Where sponsorship evaluation is undertaken, managers often rely heavily on cognitive-information processing models which do not offer clear insights into consumers' likely behaviour. The uneasy relationship between the objectives managers set and the behaviours they hope will result raises serious questions about the logic of the image and awareness goals typically set for sponsorship.

Although the cognitive paradigm has dominated the advertising and promotion literature, equally plausible (and arguably more compelling) alternatives to it exist. One such alternative is the behaviourist approach. A behaviourist framework places more emphasis on the outcomes of the sponsorship and correspondingly less on the processes thought to mediate these. Use of the behaviourist-based ATR (Awareness-Trial-Reinforcement) model offers managers more specific guidelines about how sponsorship can be linked to specific behavioural outcomes and thus how its overall effectiveness can be assessed.

The results reported here suggest that sponsorship effectiveness can be determined using the ATR model, and other known regularities in consumers' behaviour. However, the specific sponsorship examined did not track entrants' subsequent behaviour and more detailed research is required to explore the longer-term consequences of sponsorship.

Nevertheless, it is clear that sponsorship management has much to gain from the adoption of a more behaviourist orientation and, in particular, its application to sponsorship evaluation. Evaluation is a critical, but often neglected, phase of any promotion campaign and, despite the difficulties in measuring sponsorship that have been outlined, there is no reason why the behavioural effects resulting from sponsorship cannot be assessed more straightforwardly. To achieve this goal, however, managers may find it more useful to develop objectives in terms of the ATR model by drawing on the behaviourist notions of cueing and reinforcing behaviour, and by organising their sponsorships to include specific calls to action.

Appendix A: The Juster Scale

--   10   Certain, practically certain    (99 in 100)
--   9    Almost sure                       (9 in 10)
--   8    Very probable                     (8 in 10)
--   7    Probable                          (7 in 10)
--   6    Good possibility                  (6 in 10)
--   5    Fairly good possibility           (5 in 10)
--   4    Fair possibility                  (4 in 10)
--   3    Some possibility                  (3 in 10)
--   2    Slight possibility                (2 in 10)
--   1    Very slight possibility           (1 in 10)

Received: 22 October, 1999

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Biographies

Dr Janet Hoek is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Massey University's main campus in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Her research interests include sponsorship evaluation, legal and ethical issues in marketing, research methodology and the development of empirical generalisations in marketing. She has published extensively in these areas in outlets such as International Journal of Advertising, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of the Market Research Society and International Marketing Review.

Endnote

(1) Respondents who recalled the test sponsor had a purchase probability of 47% for Fisher & Paykel compared to a 48% probability of purchasing all the other brands (i.e. the sum of the purchase probabilities for Simpson, Smeg and AEG). Estimates for respondents who did not recall the sponsor were 44% and 50%, respectively.

Janet Hoek

Senior Lecturer, Dept of Marketing, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Tel: +64 6350 5583

Fax: +64 6350 2260

Email: J.A.Hoek@massey.ac.nz

Philip Gendall

Dept of Marketing, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Tel: +64 6350 5582

Fax: +64 6350 2260

Email: P.Gendall@massey.ac.nz

Katie Theed

Former graduate student

Professor Philip Gendall is Head of the Department of Marketing at Massey University. He has a particular interest in questionnaire design and question wording, and he also has strong research interests in pricing and promotion evaluation. Professor Gendall heads New Zealand's involvement in the International Social Survey Programme and he has published numerous academic articles in leading scholarly journals.

Katie Theed is a former graduate student of the Department of Marketing at Massey University.

Table 1: Awareness by Event Exposure and Brand Awareness

                Exposed to Netball Test   Not Exposed to Netball Test

                                Not
                F&P Owners   F&P Owners   F&P Owners   Not F&P Owners
                  (n=54)       (n=69)       (n=30)         (n=36)

                    %            %            %              %

Recall of F&P
as sponsor          91           80           67             50

Table 2: Purchase Probabilities by Exposure to Netball Test

                                Purchase Probability

                 Exposed to Netball Test   Not Exposed to Netball Test
                         (n=123)                     (n=66)

Brand

Fisher & Paykel           4.9 (1)                      4.1
Simpson                   2.4                          2.4
Smeg                      0.9                          1.2
AEG                       0.7                          0.7

Note:

(1.) A purchase probability of 4.9 means that 49% of those questioned
would purchase a Fisher & Paykel washing machine. The purchase
probabilities do not sum to 100% because some respondents nominated
other brands and because some indicated that they would not purchase
any of the nominated brands.

Table 3: Purchase Probabilities by Recall of Sponsor

                              Purchase Probability

                 Recalled Test Sponsor   Did not Recall Test Sponsor
                        (n=145)                    (n=44)

Brand

Fisher & Paykel          4.7 (1)                     4.4
Simpson                  2.5                         1.9
Smeg                     1.4                         1.8
AEG                      0.9                         1.3

Note:

(1.) A purchase probability of 4.7 means that 47% of those questioned
would purchase a Fisher & Paykel washing machine. The purchase
probabilities do not sum to 100% because some respondents nominated
other brands and because some indicated that they would not purchase
any of the nominated brands.

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