On ‘being there’ a comparison of the effectiveness of sporting event sponsorship among direct and indirect audiences

Publication Type:
Journal Article
European Journal of Marketing, 2015, 49 (3-4), pp. 621 - 642
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© Emerald Group Publishing Limited. The purpose of this paper is to assess the effectiveness of feld sponsorship through sponsor recall and recognition across two environments that differ on the degree of felt presence they trigger among viewers: on-site and television. A series of research hypotheses concerning the interaction effects of viewing environment, event – sponsor congruence and arousal intensity were developed. Design/methodology/approach – To test the effect of the viewing environment, a feld experiment was conducted where 44 ice hockey fans attended a professional ice hockey game in the local team’s arena, whereas 44 others saw the same game, at the same time, on television. The participants were randomly assigned to one of the two game viewing conditions. Findings – A higher level of arousal was detrimental to sponsor identifcation in a manner consistent with the intensity of the processing principle according to which arousal polarizes attention resources on the arousing stimulus (the event) while diverting resources away from the peripheral stimuli (the sponsors). In addition, because the event congruent sponsors are more superfcially processed in comparison with the incongruent ones, this negative impact was more pronounced in the former group. This was qualifed by a three-way interaction with the type of environment; the on-site, direct, audience was less affected by the processing intensity principle and exhibited better recall and recognition than the television audience as arousal and congruency increased, whereas, at lower levels of arousal, higher event – sponsor congruence hampered on-site sponsor identifcation in comparison with television. Research limitations/implications – The fndings were obtained in the context of a single sports event; additional studies need to be conducted using different sports. In addition, the comparison of on-site audience with other types of media audiences (e.g. on-line broadcasting) is warranted. Practical implications – Arousal intensity results from the game’s drama, which is a function of game importance and game outcome uncertainty. Hence, except for low-stakes games (e.g. pre-season matches, exhibitions), initiatives that promote a leveled playing feld such as salary cap, fnancial fair play and open leagues are likely to jeopardize sponsor identifcation, particularly for congruent sponsors. With respect to the impact of the viewing environment, congruent sponsors should reap superior benefts from the television audience when the stakes are low. However, when the stakes are high, their benefts will accrue to a greater extent from on-site spectators. Originality/value – This is the frst study to offer a rigorous comparison of sponsorship’s impact on direct (on-site) versus indirect (television) audiences through a feld experiment. This is also the frst research to provide a framework based on the processing intensity principle that encompasses predictions related to arousal and its interaction with event – sponsor congruence and the viewing
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