Sponsorship Awareness, Attitudes, and Purchase Intentions of Road Race Series Participants
Eagleman, Andrea N., Krohn, Brian D., Sport Marketing Quarterly
In light of the economic recession, the sport of running has remained strong in the United States, experiencing growth in participation, number of races, and apparel sales (Running USA, 2010). Because this sport grew during a period of otherwise economic decline, and because sponsors are often vital to the existence of road races, the researchers sought to examine sponsor recognition, attitudes toward sponsors, and purchase intentions of road race series participants and to examine differences in these variables based on demographics, level of identification with the series, and usage of the series website and/or Facebook page. No significant differences existed between respondents based on demographics, but several significant differences were found based on level of identification with the series, indicating that those more highly identified were able to correctly identify more sponsors, had a more positive attitude toward sponsors, and indicated a greater intent to purchase from sponsors.
Research shows that over half of the US population participates in sport on a regular basis in any given year (Humphreys & Ruseski, 2009). Furthermore, the economic value of participant sport in the US was found to be two to four times larger than that of spectator sport (Humphreys & Ruseski, 2009; Kim, Smith, & James, 2010). A study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (2008) found that over 24 million Americans participated in the sport of running/ jogging on a regular basis, ranking it as one of the most popular participatory physical activities behind walking, stretching, and lifting weights. Additionally, the study showed that running/jogging experienced a 30.8% increase in participation between 2000 and 2007 (SGMA, 2008).
Despite the US recession that began in 2007, the sport of running has remained strong, witnessing increases in the number of participants, running apparel sales, and the number of running events held throughout the country (Running USA, 2010). The number of runners classified as core participants, or those who train year-round, experienced a 9.2% increase from 2008 to 2009, with 25.5 million people in the US in this category (Running USA, 2010). Additionally, the number of US runners who completed a marathon increased 8.5% from 2009 to 2010, and the number of runners who completed a half marathon increased 24% in the same time frame, a phenomenon that Running USA (2011) referred to as half marathon "hyper-mania" (p. 4). Additionally, the number of runners who finished a road race grew 10% from 2009 to 2010, the largest percent increase that Running USA has reported since it began keeping track of road racing statistics in 1999 (Running USA, 2011). The total number of running events held in the US grew from 17,070 in 2009 to 22,825 in 2010, and running apparel sales were up 23% in 2010 (Running USA, 2010; Running USA, 2011).
Although much is known about the number of running participants in the US, little is known about running participants' feelings towards road race sponsors, which are often vital to the existence of participatory sporting events such as road races. Numerous studies have examined recall or recognition of sponsors from sport spectators' perspectives, but few have examined it under the lens of sport participation. Miloch and Lambrecht (2006) stated, "participants and supporters of these events may be different than the average sport consumer" (p. 148), and asserted that sport participants may be more likely to purchase products and services from participatory event sponsors. Miloch and Lambrecht (2006) urged researchers to continue examining sponsorship awareness among participants in grassroots and niche sports. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to further the participant sport sponsorship literature by completing a replication study based on previous sponsorship research (e.g., Bennett, Cunningham, & Dees, 2006; Bennett, Henson, & Zhang, 2002; Maxwell & Lough, 2009; Miloch & Lambrecht, 2006) examining Midwestern road race series participants' levels of sponsor recognition, attitudes toward sponsors, and intent to purchase; and to examine differences in these variables based on demographic variables, level of identification with the road race series, and usage of the series website and/or Facebook page. …