How Fit Connects Service Brand Sponsors with Consumers’ Passions for Sponsored Events
International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2013
Date Written: February 28, 2013
Despite the strong trend for service brands sponsoring events, the literature provides few theory-based and field-tested guidelines for services marketing managers who are charged with selecting events to sponsor. In response, this study provides a congruity-based framework for sponsors’ decision-making and tests the hypothesized model explaining linkages among service brand sponsors, a sporting event, and consumer attitudes. The study’s findings help clarify not only how congruent event-sponsor fit can be realised but also the potentially valuable role that event-sponsor fit serves toward strengthening key consumer relationship outcomes.
Structural equation modeling is used to test the posited model using replicate samples of two distinct service brands (AT&T: n=563 and United Community Bank: n=435) operating at different levels of corporate sponsorship of the sixth annual Tour de Georgia (TDG) professional cycling race which drew an estimated 400,000 attendees. Investigation of the effectiveness of different brands at the same event is important to marketers as it reflects the plethora of brand messages typically communicated at sports events. The results do not reveal that tested individual brand sponsor congruity moderates consumers’ attitudes toward the event or sponsor. Surprisingly, AT&T did not experience any discernable advantage of sponsorship, despite its position as the title sponsor of the TDG and its high brand equity. Based on this preliminary evidence, the results offer directional evidence that sponsors may not necessarily reap results that are commensurate with their sponsorship level or brand equity position. Thus, established regional service brands may experience sponsorship effectiveness at regional or community events where their sponsorship investments can be recognised without serving as the title sponsor.
The current study extends previous congruity research because it lays out contributing factors for establishing event-sponsor fit. As a form of fan involvement, activeness in the event domain (i.e., sports activity) is shown to positively influence how consumers assess the link between an individual service brand and the tested sponsored sports event. In addition, the results make it clear that consumers form more favourable event-sponsor linkages when they enjoy the event as consumer affect toward the event is shown to positively and directly influence their perceptions of event-sponsor fit. This finding is particularly relevant for service brands high in functional or utilitarian properties. In particular, sponsorship of hedonic events can convey similar values and imagery and/or offer a logical connection with the service brand. In addition, the hypothesized path between consumers’ brand knowledge and their assessments of the sponsor’s fit with the event finds multi-contextual support.
The study further demonstrates how desirable relational outcomes are positively influenced by event-sponsor fit. Specifically, congruency positively and directly influences consumer’s favourable brand commitment to the sponsor’s brands, which in turn, benefits the sponsor by consumers’ intentions to purchase the sponsor’s services. Overall, the findings show how events and service brand sponsorships synergistically facilitate and deepen consumer relationships by connecting service brands with consumers’ passions for the sponsored event and its activities.
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