Sport Sponsorship: Evaluating the Sport and Brand Image Match

By Musante, Michael; Milne, George R. et al. | International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, February-March 1999 | Go to article overview

Sport Sponsorship: Evaluating the Sport and Brand Image Match


Musante, Michael, Milne, George R., McDonald, Mark A., International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship


Evaluating the Sport and Brand Image Match

Firms engaging in sport sponsorship note a number of reasons for employing this increasing popular marketing vehicle (Kuzma, Shanklin & McCally 1993). While increasing name exposure for a brand/firm is the most commonly acknowledged goal of a sponsorship, firms also cite fostering a favorable image for a brand as a sponsorship objective (Gardner & Shuman 1987, 1988, Meenaghan 1991, Irwin & Assimakopoulas 1992, Marshall & Cook 1992, Kuzma, Shanklin & McCally 1993, Javalgi et al 1994, Cornwell 1995, Lough 1996).

New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc, for example, is viewed by consumers as being boring and conservative. To modify this image, New Balance has elected to become the "Official Shoe" of the largest 3-on-3-basketball tour in the US, Gus Macker. By sponsoring basketball, a sport perceived to be both exciting and hip, New Balance hopes to be the beneficiary of an image "rub-off".

If reinforcing or modifying a brand's image is an objective of sponsorship, an accurate assessment of consumer perceptions of brands and sports has to be part of the analytical process. To date, a majority of the sponsorship research has addressed sponsorship's effectiveness in meeting awareness objectives, with little attention being paid to exploring image association benefits. While research exploring brand image enhancement via sponsorship is slowly surfacing, further research in this area is clearly warranted, as many questions remain unanswered.

The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology to assess the perceived image fit between a sport and a brand. This is meaningful to potential sponsor firms who note their concern with finding the appropriate image with which to align themselves (Irwin, Assimakopoulas & Sutton 1994, Marshall & Cook 1992). In order to assess the image congruency between entities, we feature a recently developed scale to measure brand personality. The scale employed was a slightly modified version of the Brand Personality Scale developed by Aaker (1997).

The balance of the paper is organized into four sections. In the first section we provide a background review of brand personality. In particular, we will discuss brand management and sponsorship. In the second section, we develop our personality matching methodology and review the context, procedures, and measures used to evaluate image fit. The results of our analysis will be presented in the third section. In the fourth and last section, we will discuss implications of the findings and research methodology, outline strengths and weaknesses of the approach, and offer suggestions for future research.

Brand Management and Sponsorship

Managing brands, and in particular brand equity, is an area of growing concern in marketing (Aaker 1991, 1996, Keller 1993, Owen 1993, Stanley 1995). At the same time, the importance of brand equity is also beginning to be acknowledged in other areas, such as sport (Gladden, Milne & Sutton 1998).

Keller (1993) argued that consumer-based brand equity is the outcome of brand knowledge, which is largely a function of brand awareness and image. If this is true, brand-building efforts must begin by creating brand awareness and establishing brand image. Of the two components, brand awareness would appear to be more easily managed, as it can be directly controlled through efforts to increase exposure to the brand name. Managing brand image, on the other hand, appears to be the more challenging and critical task.

Prior research has stressed the importance of a firm taking steps to elaborate and fortify the images of its brands (Park, Jaworski & MacInnis 1986). In creating a clear, rich brand image, firms should seek to build brand associations that share meaning, or are congruent (Keller 1993, Aaker 1996).

Brand associations are the perceived characteristics of the brand, or the images with which it is associated. …

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