Abstract: An empirical investigation based on 222 sports fans of a university basketball team finds that sports enthusiasm and the mere exposure to sponsorship stimuli is positively associated with the awareness of event sponsors. In addition, the findings reveal the negative impact of advertising and sponsorship clutter on individuals' recall and recognition of sponsors.
Keywords: Sports, Promotion, Advertising communications, Sponsorship-linked marketing
This paper presents the development and examination of a theoretical model useful in understanding the various influences that shape an individual's recall and recognition of sponsors of an event. The model suggests that an individual's involvement with a particular sport, their enthusiasm for sports in general and their overall exposure to the sport all have a direct, positive influence on recall and recognition of sponsors supporting the event. The model also suggest that environmental clutter, in the form of promotional communications during the event, will negatively impact the individual's recall and recognition of event sponsors.
Findings from an empirical investigation of the model, based on 222 sports fans of a North American university basketball team, indicate that while involvement with a particular sport does not directly influence recall and recognition, it does have a positive influence on game attendance and resulting exposure to sponsor's messages. Enthusiasm for sports was found to influence both particular involvement and experience as well as to directly influence recall and recognition. Clutter, as expected, had a negative influence on both recall and recognition of sponsors.
While the measurement of most variables was good, the exception was the scale measuring promotional clutter. Although the measurement is in need of improvement it is important to marketers that a negative influence was found. This indicates that it is worthwhile for marketers to attempt to develop new measures of clutter and to include an assessment of the level of clutter expected at a venue and on broadcast events as important in evaluation of sponsorship proposals. However, until an adequate measure is developed no standardized assessment can be made and compared.
The findings regarding the indirect influence of involvement and enthusiasm on attending games, watching games on television and listening to games on the radio suggest that the marketer should seek sponsorship opportunities that increase both involvement with their particular sport and general enthusiasm for sports in the community. This may be accomplished through pre-game activities and communications thematically tied to increasing involvement and enthusiasm.
Understanding Long-Term Effects of Sports Sponsorship
Over the past few years, the sponsorships of sports, events, and causes has increasingly attracted the attention of marketers as both a promotion and a communication tool. Worldwide, sports sponsorships are the most popular and represent three-quarters of all sponsorship activity (Marshall and Cook, 1992; Smith, 1998). Despite this rapid growth, little is known about the effectiveness of sports sponsorship. Historically, corporate sponsors have not been inclined to evaluate the impact of their investments in events or celebrities (Hulks, 1980; McDonald, 1991). This situation is changing and there is a greater interest amongst marketers to quantify their investment in sponsorship. The few scholarly evaluations of sponsorship have yielded ambiguous results regarding the effectiveness of sponsorship: some authors record positive image effects, comparable to that of advertising (Rajaretnam, 1994; Turco, 1995), while other researchers report that sponsorship has little or no effect in terms of recall and company i mage (Javalgi et at., 1994; Otker and Hayes, 1987).
In light of the scarcity of past research and of its conflicting findings, the present empirical investigation examines some of the factors which may explain the differences observed in sports sponsorship recall and recognition. Specifically, it first assesses the ability of individuals to differentiate sponsors from advertisers. Then it analyzes the effects on sponsorship recall and recognition of involvement, knowledge, enthusiasm, and of viewership experience. Unlike previous analyses, this research focuses on the longterm recall of sponsors, and includes both recall (unaided recollection of sponsors) and recognition (aided identification of sponsors from a list). Also unique to this study is the inclusion of two types of audiences: those typically attending games in a stadium and those typically viewing the games at a televised location. A review of past research findings regarding the nature and effects of sponsorship follows.
Background of the Study Nature of Sponsorship
Sponsorship has been defined as "the provision of assistance either financial or in kind to an activity by a commercial organization for the purpose of achieving communications objectives" (Meenaghan, 1991, p.9). The activity sponsored may be an event (e.g. a special art exhibition or the Soccer World Cup), a team (e.g. basketball team), or a person (e.g. tennis players). Many different reasons may lead a company to become a sponsor. Some of the communications goals most commonly mentioned in past research include community involvement, image improvement, and increasing brand awareness (Hoek, Gendall and West, 1990; Polonsky et al., 1995).
Sponsorship is often compared with advertising. However, in contrast with an advertiser, a sponsor does not tightly control the medium and the content of the message it diffuses (Javalgi et al., 1994). The message of a sponsor is embedded in the nature and characteristics of the sponsored activity or individual (Pham, 1992). Further, the nature of the audiences involved can differ significantly. Sport sponsorships are often sought because they have both an event audience and a considerable media audience. For many marketers, media coverage has been shown to be the motivating consideration in sponsorship (Scott and Suchard, 1992) while the event audience is, in comparison, of much less importance. Crowley (1991), in a study of consumer goods companies, industrial firms, small businesses and exporting firms, found media coverage to be the most important promotional tool sought by all.
Past Assessments of Sponsorship Effectiveness
Most of the empirical studies evaluating the impact of sponsorship …