The Role of Mega-Sports Event Interest in Sponsorship and Ambush Marketing Attitudes

By MacIntosh, Eric; Nadeau, John et al. | Sport Marketing Quarterly, March 2012 | Go to article overview

The Role of Mega-Sports Event Interest in Sponsorship and Ambush Marketing Attitudes


MacIntosh, Eric, Nadeau, John, Seguin, Benoit, O'Reilly, Norm, Bradish, Cheri L., Legg, David, Sport Marketing Quarterly


Abstract

Sponsorship of mega-sports events continues to be one of the most popular forms of marketing. The international appeal and reach of the Olympic Games, in particular, is amongst the top advertising and sponsorship opportunities in the world for international branding. In turn, the marketing value provided by the Olympic Games has attracted the interest of multiple sponsors in various categories, leading to competitive hosting bids and ambush marketing. This study examined mega-sports event interest as a determinant of sponsorship and ambush marketing attitudes, as well as the purchase intention of affiliated properties during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. In total, 619 consumer surveys were collected from four different Canadian cities. Results showed that overall consumer interest was high, and that their purchase intention was strongly influenced by level of interest.

The Role of Mega-Sports Event Interest in Sponsorship and Ambush Marketing Attitudes

The sponsorship of mega-sports events has become a marketing tool of choice for corporations seeking reach and branding impact both globally, nationally, and locally within the host city and country. Megasports events are capable of transmitting "promotional messages to billions of people via television and other developments in telecommunications" (Horne & Manzenreiter, 2006, p. 2). In particular, the Olympic Games, and the global sponsorship program known as "The Olympic Programme" (TOP), has become a widely regarded sport marketing initiative.

Since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics displayed the marketing prowess of the Olympic brand, multiple large scale international organizations have desired affiliation. Indeed, research has shown that the TOP Programme has benefited both the sponsors (Séguin, Lyberger, O'Reilly, & McCarthy, 2005) and the rightsholder; the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (Rozin, 2000). The IOC's 2005-2008 (i.e., TOP VI program) brought revenues in excess of US $866 million from nine sponsors (IOC, 2010) and the 2009-2012 (TOP VII program) is expected to exceed US $1 billion in rights fees from its 11 TOP sponsors. The most recent edition of the IOC's bi-annual Games took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Above the monies generated by the 2005-2008 quadrennial, the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC) generated an additional CDN $760 million (VANOC, 2008) in domestic (national) sponsorship monies. Given the amount of international exposure and the considerable monetary investments to become an officially recognized sponsor (e.g., non-alcoholic beverage), understanding the consumer's perspectives on sponsorship activities is critical for sponsors.

The high interest and intense competition from other corporations wishing to benefit from the global mega-sports event platform has created some prominent issues for the IOC; namely the need for increased protection of sponsors from ambush marketing organizations (Séguin & O'Reilly, 2008). Ambush marketing is known to be "a planned effort (campaign) by an organization to associate itself indirectly with an event in order to gain at least some of the recognition and benefits that are associated with being an official sponsor" (Sandler & Shani, 1989, p. 11). In essence, this type of marketing tactic is meant to create confusion in the consumer's mind and hence gain the benefits of being an Olympic sponsor while weakening the competition's position (Meenaghan, 1994).

To date, few studies exist publicly on determining consumer perspectives regarding sponsorship and ambush marketing of mega-sports events. The research that does exist remains inconclusive. Sandler and Shani (1993) reported that 68.8% of their respondents indicated Olympic sponsorship had no impact on their purchase patterns. To the contrary, Stotlar (1993) reported that 66% of respondents indicated that Olympic sponsorship favourably affected their purchase habits. …

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