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Journal of Marketing Communications
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Sport sponsorship, team support and
purchase intentions


Aaron Smith , Brian Graetz & Hans Westerbeek



School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management , Faculty
of Law and Management , La Trobe University , Melbourne,

School of Business , Faculty of Law and Management , La Trobe
University , Melbourne, Australia
Published online: 31 Oct 2008.

To cite this article: Aaron Smith , Brian Graetz & Hans Westerbeek (2008) Sport sponsorship,
team support and purchase intentions, Journal of Marketing Communications, 14:5, 387-404, DOI:
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sponsor integrity and purchase intentions for the sponsor’s products.Journal of Marketing Communications Vol. No. La Trobe University. in a sport property in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that ISSN 1352-7266 print/ISSN 1466-4445 online # 2008 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. *Corresponding author. The importance of bolstering the limited empirical work in this area is amplified as some case study descriptions suggest that under the right conditions. purchase intention Introduction Despite its importance and the proliferation of work on sponsorship in general. Australia. Faculty of Law and Management. they noted that awareness and association testing provides only superficial data about the nature of consumer reaction to. Australia This research assessed the influence of team support and perception of sponsors on the purchase intentions of sport consumers. Members are individuals who have paid an annual fee to ‘belong’ to a not-for-profit sporting club. comprising a suite of ticket and merchandise benefits along with the right to vote in the annual general meeting and in elections for positions in the Board of Management. Results revealed that the key pathway to purchase intention is associated with fan passion and a perception of sponsor integrity. . Sponsorship therefore involves an investment.informaworld. 5. Melbourne. in cash or kind. Return on investment has proven troublesome to sponsors associated with small sport properties (Ashill.1080/13527260701852557 http://www. Brian Graetzb and Hans Westerbeeka a Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 School of Sport. A paucity of empirical work seeks to explain the machinations of the relationship between sport sponsors and sport consumers. the nature of the relationship between sponsorship and consumer purchase intentions remains unclear. In a case study of a not-for-profit. Email: aaron. sponsorship can be more effective than traditional advertising or other promotional activities (Verity 2002). Meenaghan and O’Sullivan (2001) lamented that the research into sponsorship has predominantly focused either on management practices or on recall and recognition. La Trobe University. bSchool of Business. sport sponsorship. sponsorship. membership-based Australian professional football club. Keywords: consumer behaviour.smith@latrobe. and Joe 2000. 1647 respondents reported their perceptions of team support. This research employs the conventional definition of sport sponsorship proposed by Meenaghan (1991). It aims to identify the key variables in the sponsorship relationship and the processes that influence members’ purchase intentions toward the major (naming rights) sponsor’s products. 14. Furthermore. December 2008. Tourism and Hospitality Management. This research reports on the results from a survey of members of a professional Australian (rules) Football League club. team support and purchase intentions Aaron Smitha*. Melbourne. This implies that the best mechanism for sponsor return on investment comes in the form of activities to bolster both passion for the team and perceptions of sponsor integrity. and engagement with. Faculty of Law and Management. 387–404 Sport sponsorship.

Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Literature and conceptual background Measures of purchase behaviour focus on the direct effect of sponsorship on sales. and Scherer 2001. In addition to these two factors. even though exposure is the key element in determining the value of a sponsorship (Cornwell et al. Miyazaki and Morgan 2001). 2000). brand familiarity. there is persuasive evidence suggesting that sponsors should change their focus from raw volume of exposure to image matching or fit (Lachowetz et al. 2002). event involvement and exposure are the key factors predicting sponsor recall. Results from Speed and Thompson’s (2000) data indicated that sponsor-event fit. and Pruitt 2002). the familiarity with a sponsor’s brand emanating from exposure and sponsorship awareness has been claimed to increase consumption values (Levin. suggestive evidence points to the relevance of team support. and Theed (1999) cautioned. a positive attitude towards the brand. distributed to the membership population of a professional Australian football club. the impact of perceived sponsor commitment may also be relevant. The magnitude of image transfer depends upon sponsorship leveraging and the sponsor-property fit (Grohs. complemented by an awareness of the dangers of invasive marketing techniques (Irwin et al. new sponsorships have been shown to have an effect on the value of a company’s share price (Clark. However. Chadwick (2002) proposed that it is crude to conceive of sponsor commitment to pivot around the financial transaction. Wagner. It reports on the results of a 21-item instrument comprising a beliefs–attitudes–intentions hierarchy of effects framework. He argued that it instead demands a multi-faceted view of commitment that emphasizes a collaborative and relational perspective. Just as with other major announcements. Although troublesome. consumers’ intention to purchase can be derived from two predominant influences: first. and second. perceived sincerity of the sponsor. perceived ubiquity of the sponsor and attitude . Wagner. lies in isolating the effect of sponsorship from other activities within the promotion mix or from variables in the market (Miles 2001. and Vsetecka 2004). of course. However. Low exposure (and perhaps consumer awareness) can stimulate a greater sponsor commitment to the relationship. Cornwell. assessments of purchase intention have been employed to help ascertain the impact of sponsorship activities. Smith et al. Farrelly and Quester (2003) indicated that the sponsored sport organization’s actions do not directly influence the sponsor’s commitment to the relationship. Grohs. This research aims to explore the determinants of purchase intention and processes of decision making about the sponsor’s products in the membership base of a professional sport club in Australia.388 A. which is obtained from brand exposure and prior use. and Vsetecka (2004) provided evidence that sponsor-property fit. 2003). Roy and Graeff 2003). and Cameron 2001. The difficulty. Furthermore. the link between awareness and increased purchase behaviour is tenuous. It may be premature to conclude that brand familiarity is sufficient to stimulate purchase behaviour. as Hoek. Jackson. For example. They suggested that low levels of market orientation by the property might actually encourage the sponsor toward a deeper level of commitment to compensate. Pope 1998). According to Pope and Voges (2000). and sponsor integrity and fit. Joiner. Barry. Gendall.

and Sanders 1993).Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Journal of Marketing Communications 389 toward the sponsor are central in eliciting an advantageous response from the sponsorship association. Research considering the impact of sponsor-event fit on cognitive and affective responses has indicated that sponsors with high brand equity are perceived as more congruent sponsors than those with low brand equity (Roy and Cornwell 2003). and Anderson 2002. Jones 2000. team) may be seen as an extension of the self. including consumption behaviours. Self-concept motives include the desire for belonging. In turn. and Havitz 2000). the group (tribe. A company may further choose to go beyond celebrity endorsement and engage representative industry associations and . Positive attitudes toward a sponsor have further been positively associated with favourable perceptions and intentions to purchase a sponsor’s product (Speed and Thompson 2000). the more a fan is motivated to construct a sense of self through the sport object. tribal connections and vicarious achievement (Fink. Wann and Branscombe 1993). Trail. There is. it is identification which bears the greatest influence over whether a fan will develop a psychological or emotional connection to the team (Fink. Murrell and Dietz 1992. and Trail 2002). They may even attempt to amplify the level of identification through celebrity endorsement. sponsor-event congruence has been shown to be associated with favourable attitudes towards the sponsor. These outcomes were linked to three antecedents: prestige. where support. and refers to the association between an individual’s self-concept and the sport object. in fact. Identification is achieved when individuals are motivated toward the sport team. Wann and Branscombe 1993). The authors defined team identification as spectators’ perceived connectedness to a team and its performance. Shaw. evidence suggesting that of all the mechanisms of fan attachment. Sponsors may have reason to assume that they will be perceived as an ally of the high identification fan (Hoek. Wiley. It is unclear whether this positive association extends to sponsors (Wann and Branscombe 1993). situation or action). well known brands have a superior opportunity for brand building through sponsorship. the more closely they will become emotionally attached to it. may continue regardless of circumstances (James. the outcome of a strong psychological connection to a team is loyalty. Gendall. Kolbe. (2001) observed that highly identified fans evaluate in-group members higher than out-group members. a positive attitude toward the sponsor. sponsor patronage and satisfaction with the sponsor. club or athlete for reasons of constructing a self-concept. Trail. and one that gives rise to the positive associations that may encourage purchase intentions. it is a specific form of organizational identification. Gwinner and Swanson’s (2003) data supported the hypothesis that highly identified sport fans are more likely to exhibit sponsor recognition. and remain loyal (Fink. Madrigal 1995. spend more on tickets and products. Hughson 1999. Morris 1981. club. group affiliation. purchase merchandise. In other words. Group identification is a pivotal mediator of social perception (Wann and Grieve 2005). Wann 1995. and Anderson 2002. and Anderson 2002). Fans with greater identification are more likely to attend games. In other words. fan associations and domain involvement (the personal relevance of a particular object. a person’s sense of self may be associated with the team and self-esteem may be extracted from team success. Wann et al. Trail. The nature of team support has also been established as a precursor to consumers’ purchase intentions. When motivated by these factors. Thus. Therefore. Identification represents the final mechanism of fan attachment (Ferrand and Pages 1996.

and when they respond to marketing or other communications about a product. Fan identification with the sport property and the opportunity for sponsors to influence consumers’ beliefs about the benefits of association. This cautious undertone was highlighted by Barry and Howard (1990) as well as Vakratsan and Ambler (1999). particularly as a mediating variable. and Carlson (1994) demonstrated in their experimental study that as the number of celebrity advertisement exposures increased. Tripp. the perceived importance of those beliefs. he concluded that favourable beliefs about the benefits provided to the sport property from the sponsor are positively related to attitudes toward buying products from that sponsor. the sponsored activity along with the associated goodwill directed to the sponsor. and knowledge about. Earlier research by Ohanian (1991) concerning the relationship of attractiveness. Hierarchy of effects models describe the assumption that consumers progress through escalating mental stages when they make buying decisions. He concluded that the role of inter-attitudinal relationships was central to the formation of social identity with the sport team. Lafferty and Goldsmith (1999) determined that while purchase intentions do indeed grow with corporate credibility. Meenaghan’s (2001) framework concerning the effects of commercial sponsorship on consumers revolves around the key variables of goodwill. but that there is scant evidence delineating the sequence and timing of the steps. One of the earliest versions of the model is attributed to Strong (1925) in the form of awareness– interest–desire–action (AIDA). His study reported on the influence of consumers’ beliefs about sponsorship. Madrigal’s research was pivotal in shedding light on the manner in which the belief–attitudes–intentions hierarchy unfolds in association with a sport sponsorship. identification with the sponsored sport team and consumer’s purchase intention attitudes. groups on their behalf as an approach to influencing consumer purchase intentions (Daneshvary and Schwer 2000). One of the central challenges to hierarchy of effects models revolves around the impact of involvement.Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 390 A. and expertise to intention to purchase showed that only the perceived expertise of the celebrity endorser was significant in predicting purchase intentions. Madrigal counselled that consumer passion for the sport team is the pivotal variable. Madrigal (2001) employed a beliefs–attitude–intentions hierarchy to investigate consumers’ connections to sport teams and their corporate sponsors. Indeed. In addition. a process preceding attitudinal development. image. are the key lessons. Silvera and Austad (2004) determined that product attitudes could be predicted by inferences about the endorser’s liking for the product and by attitudes toward the endorser. This relationship implies that a progression from beliefs to attitudes is important. affective and behavioural components. From a theoretical standpoint. Ambler (1998) claimed that there is consensus that decision-making structures include cognitive. the growth is not significantly related to endorser credibility. there was a corresponding deterioration in consumer intention to purchase. Smith et al. His model’s fundamental premise is that the consumer’s degree of involvement with. Thus. drive consumer response to sponsorship. the most important aspect of the hierarchy related to the tendency of consumers to hold favourable attitudes towards . Jensen. The emotional connection of consumers was interpreted through a social identity theory lens where a consumer’s self-concept is derived from membership to a group. trustworthiness. involvement and consumer response. as crudely predicted by hierarchy of effects models.

The exploratory factor analysis revealed a number of key dimensions . two in five earning between $AUS50. Speed and Thompson 2000.000. therefore. These distributions. Daneshvary and Schwer (2000) and Madrigal (2001). with the average being nine matches.000 ($US42. culminating in bolstered purchase intentions. Items were measured on a seven-point Likert scale ranging between strong agreement and strong disagreement.000. Respondents are also well distributed by age. Items relating to socio-demographic attributes and club membership were also included in the questionnaire. six items that did not contribute to the measurement of coherent constructs were discarded. Respondent attributes are summarized in Table 1. Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Data and method The data for this analysis are taken from a survey of the membership base of a professional Australian Football League club. 46% aged 30–49 years. suggest that responses are broadly representative of the club’s membership. and one in eight earning incomes in excess of $AUS100. A series of exploratory factor analyses was applied to the set of items relating to team support. J30. The aim of the research reported here is to identify the key linkages between sport fans. The instrument developed for this research was informed by previous studies of similar issues and populations (for example.000) per annum.Journal of Marketing Communications 391 those factors reflective of their own identities. 36% aged 50–64 years and 4% aged 65 and over.000 ($US21. their sponsorship attitudes may not have been because of their willingness to participate in the survey where others did not. J15. the specific objective remains to ascertain the manner in which team support and perceptions of sponsor integrity affect fan receptiveness to sponsorship and ultimately their intention to purchase sponsors’ products.000) per annum. with one in eight respondents earning less than $AUS25. and Shani (1997). In total 1703 responses were received.000. with 14% aged less than 30 years. However. The club is not-for-profit and consists of members who elect a board of governance.000. sponsorship and purchase intentions to identify optimal combinations of variables for measurement purposes. J60.000 ($US84. This research embraces Madrigal’s (2001) belief–attitudes–intentions hierarchy. Richardson and O’Dwyer 2003) as well as the more general approaches of Lee.000) and $AUS100. team support and sponsorship. Some 15 of these 21 items are used in the analyses reported below. However. Principal Axis Factoring (PAF) was used in this analysis. will forge positive associations with sponsors that support the sport properties that exemplify and house these identities. Respondents had been members for an average of 13. Consumers. They represent a range of income levels. Sandler. Tapp 2004.5 % (N519. A mail-out questionnaire was sent to the population of club members. representing a response rate of 8. together with the processes that influence members’ purchase intentions toward the chief sponsor’s products. J60.6 years and attended up to 30 football matches per year. although the respondents were demographically typical. Two out of three respondents were male and most had post-secondary education (technical college or university).295).000) per annum. This low response rate represents a limitation of this study as it presents the possibility of a bias due to the self-selection of respondents. together with the large number of responses received. of which 1647 were usable.000 ($US84.

18. J60k) 189 518 639 200 12 34 41 13 Mean Years of membership Matches attended per season 13. The items comprising each dimension. and the factor loadings and reliabilities obtained are presented in Table 2. The use of oblique rotation to simplify factors is justified in this analysis in view of the strong inter-factor correlation (r50. J15–30k) AUS$50–100k (US$42–84k. interest in learning more about the sponsor and knowledge of the sponsor’s business. As there are causal interrelationships amongst latent factors.64 and the reliability of both measures is very high. J15k) AUS$25–50k (US$21–42k. the exact question wording. Smith et al. a single pooled analysis is not appropriate.59) (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001). J30–60k) More than AUS$100k (US$84k. Table 1. sponsor receptiveness and purchase intentions. Off-factor loadings (not shown in Table 2) are negligible. These were team support (passionate. Sponsor receptiveness is a summated index. separate factor analyses were conducted as shown by the numbering of items in Table 2. which captures three separate aspects of receptiveness to the sponsor’s products and services: openness to further information. the highest being 0. sponsor integrity. positive).07 relevant to this analysis. . Measurement The questionnaire included several items about strength of team support.62 9. A high score indicates that respondents are open to learning and becoming more knowledgeable about the sponsor’s products and services. Factor loadings exceed 0. Hence. Exploratory factor analysis revealed two separate dimensions – passionate (three items) and positive (two items). N Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Gender Male Female Percent 1078 520 67 33 Age Less than 30 years 30–49 years 50–64 years 65 years and older 227 752 592 73 14 46 36 4 Education Secondary Tertiary University 634 386 602 39 24 37 Income Less than AUS$25k (US$21k.392 A. Socio-demographic and membership profile of respondents.

It encompasses genuineness.569 0.68) 1. have loadings in excess of 0.73) 4. The items are positively correlated. I am more likely to buy products from an organization that sponsors the club 2. virtue (it is good to see a big company sponsoring local football) and affection (I like sponsors because they support the team financially). The items comprising this measure are willingness to use the products or services of sponsors. Item wording Passionate supporter (Cronbach a50.80) 1. Finally.641 0. I would consider using the products or services of sponsors 0.815 0. I will always consider buying the products and services of the club sponsors before considering the products and services of non-sponsors 3. I know more about the business of the sponsors since they started sponsoring the club Sponsor integrity (Cronbach a50.504 0.819 0. (sponsors show a genuine interest in the club and its supporters). I always talk positively about the club Loadinga 0. The existing sponsors and the club fit well together 2. willingness to buy products from an organization that sponsors the team. Sponsor integrity is a composite measure of respondents’ views about the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored sporting team.Journal of Marketing Communications 393 Table 2.728 20.80). I love the club 3.673 a Factor loadings obtained using Principal Axis Factoring and Direct Oblimin rotation. Win or lose. I feel that sponsors of the club show a genuine interest in the club and its supporters It is good to see a big company sponsoring a local football team Purchase intention (Cronbach a50.80) 1. I would welcome receiving information about the products and services of sponsors Summated index 3. I automatically like all sponsors of the club because they support my team financially 3. purchase intentions. I passionately support the club 2.67 and strong reliability (a50. sponsorship and purchase intentions: item wording and rotated factor loadings. I passionately follow another team in the AFL Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Positive supporter (Cronbach a50. I always support my team in a positive manner 5.580 0. comprises three items reflecting respondents’ willingness to support their team’s sponsor by using and purchasing products or services.693 0.772 0. Regression factor scores have again been used to obtain an optimal . the dependent variable.780 0. fit (the sponsors and the team fit well together). Fans. and willingness to consider the products or services of sponsors before considering the products or services of non-sponsors. I am interested in learning more about the sponsors of the club 2.672 Sponsor receptiveness (Cronbach a5not applicable) 1.

These relationships are examined using both bivariate Pearson correlations and multivariate statistical techniques. Not all members are passionate supporters. The scale of measurement for the five composite variables has been adjusted so that all scores fall within a range of 0–10 points. whereas sponsor receptiveness has only a direct effect. purchase intention is dependent on team support. indicated by the high positive value for Figure 1. Explanatory model: team support. but the distribution is none the less strongly negatively skewed and peaked at high scores.394 A. sponsor integrity and sponsor receptiveness which themselves are causally inter-related as shown by arrows in Figure 1. sponsorship and purchase intention. however. . Team support is represented by three variables: passionate fans. Total causal effects are the sum of direct effects and indirect effects mediated through intervening variables and are estimated here using equations that omit intervening variables. brand receptiveness and purchase intentions. Results The distribution of scores on the five composite variables in this analysis is summarized in Table 3. team support and sponsor integrity will have indirect effects on purchase intention. positive fans and match attendance. In this model. As shown in Figure 1. controlling for all exogenous and endogenous variables in the model. so its total and direct effects will be equivalent. summary of responses. Direct effects represent the unique effect that each variable has on purchase intentions. in the manner of Alwin and Hauser (1975). Multiple regression is used to estimate the causal model presented in Figure 1. Respondents are found to be strongly passionate supporters of their team with a mean score of nine on the 10-point scale. A path analysis approach with incremental regressions and reduced-form equations is used to estimate total as well as direct causal effects (Kline 1998). sponsor integrity. Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Analysis The core of the analysis reported below focuses on the relationship between supporters (fans). Smith et al. Sponsorship is represented by two variables: sponsor receptiveness and sponsor integrity.

31 2. there is some variation around this. a small proportion of respondents are not willing to consider using or buying the sponsor’s services.27 1.03 Sponsorship Sponsor receptiveness 0. Fans.01 20.03 20. sponsorship and purchase intention: correlations with socio-demographic and membership attributes. The strongly passionate and mostly positive support expressed for the team is consistent with expectations for respondents who are all club members. with the modal response being an unequivocal intention to consider the sponsor’s services. with a mean score near to the mid-point of the scale and values for skewness and kurtosis close to zero.03 0. Although most fans have a highly favourable view about the sponsor’s integrity.14* 0.0. a Pearson correlations.93 21.11* 20.09* 20.02 *Statistical significance at P.11* 0. reflected by the considerably lower values for skewness and kurtosis.07* Sponsor integrity 20.29 8.12* 0. although the mean score is one point lower than for passionate support. Scores are close to normally distributed.79 22.10* 0.20 1.67 1.76 7.35 20.04 0.01 20. Respondents are also strongly positive in their support for their team. The mean score is eight points and most responses fall within the upper half of the scale.21* 0.08* 20.01.17* 0 20. Again.81 20. respondents express strong purchase intentions in relation to the sponsor’s services.60 1.06 0.12* 20.04 0.02 20. Table 4.75 Sponsorship Sponsor receptiveness Sponsor integrity Purchase intention 0–10 0–10 0–10 5. including a small proportion of respondents who do not rate the sponsor’s integrity highly at all. The perceived level of integrity of the sponsor is somewhat higher. Table 3 also shows there is a moderate degree of receptiveness amongst fans to the commercial appeal of the team’s major sponsor. Finally.08* 0.a Composite variables Gender Age Fans Passionate fan Positive fan 20.07* 0 .03 1.Journal of Marketing Communications 395 Table 3.38 2. Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Composite measure Range Mean Std dev Skewness Kurtosis Fans Passionate fans Positive fans 0–10 0–10 9.48 10. There is also more diversity of views expressed on this measure.85 kurtosis.05 0.11* 0.08* 0.68 20.06 20. Fans. Education Income Years of membership Match attendance 20.01 Purchase intention 0.32 0.30 20. however. with a mean score in excess of seven points.02 8. sponsorship and purchase intentions: univariate statistics.

age has no significant effect overall on purchase intentions.012 0. Passionate supporters are marginally more likely to be female.010 0.0. sponsorship and purchase intention. Supporters who always remain positive about their team are also more likely to be female. The results shown in Table 5 indicate that socio-demographic variables have little impact on purchase intentions. Smith et al.39* 0. Sponsor integrity is weakly correlated with education. Overall.439 0.001 0 0. estimated here using reduced-form equations).123 0 0.09* 0.063 0.50. with lower income and attend more matches. sponsor impact and purchase intention are related weakly to respondent attributes. Age is the only significant effect (older people have marginally stronger purchase intentions) but this direct effect is offset by an indirect effect in the opposite direction. a .a Independent variables Direct effects b Control variables Gender Age Education Income Years of membership b Total effects b b 0. The table presents both direct effects (depicted by the arrows in Figure 1) and total causal effects (the sum of direct and indirect effects. P.52* Sponsor receptiveness R squared Standard error of the estimate F.01 0 0 0.0.325 0. income (both negative) and match attendance.26* 0.004 0.03 0.184 0. significance 0. measures that are used collectively as indicators of team support in the explanatory models that follow.436 0.03 0 0.079 0. Purchase intention is related only to match attendance and then only very weakly.04 0.05 0. with older people less receptive to further information from the sponsor.30* Team support Match attendance Passionate fan Positive fan *Statistical significance at P.184 0. variations in team support.020 20. These correlations reveal only minor variations in responses.007 0. The strongest correlations are between passionate and positive fans and match attendance.16* Sponsor integrity 0.046 0.9976 96. have marginally lower education and income.210 0. Males. younger respondents and those attending more matches are marginally more receptive to the sponsor’s products and services.094 0.005 0.007 0.12* 0.04 0 0. Table 4 presents correlations between the socio-demographic attributes of respondents and fans.04 20. have been club members for marginally longer and attend more matches during the year. Direct and total causal effects for purchase intentions.001 0.001. Unstandardized (b) and standardized (b) regression coefficients.Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 396 A.30* 0.054 0. As a result. Table 5. Table 5 presents the results of the regression analysis estimating parameters for the explanatory model for purchase intentions depicted in Figure 1.

The results show that younger people. Sponsor receptiveness also has a substantial impact on purchase intentions. socio-demographic variables. however. These steps provide clear evidence of ways in which sporting clubs and sport sponsorship can work together for mutual benefit. positive fans and. Discussion The exploratory factor analysis applied here delivered a number of dimensions that appear consistent with hierarchy of effects models. Instead. and this in turn enhances receptiveness to the sponsor’s message and purchase intention itself. five dimensions . Its direct effect is more than three times larger than the effect of passionate support and its total effect is twice as large. the indirect effect arises both because of a positive link with sponsor integrity and through increased receptiveness to the sponsor’s product. most importantly by far. sponsor integrity is an even more important determinant of purchase intentions and the single most important effect overall. with very little of this explained variance attributable to socio-demographic attributes. The impact is less than that of sponsor integrity but it remains the second most important explanatory variable in the model. Fans who believe the sponsor has integrity are more receptive to information provided by the sponsor and are more likely to use their products. In this case. membership duration or match attendance. including components of indirect effect referred to above. both directly and in total. In summary. although only the total effect is statistically significant.Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Journal of Marketing Communications 397 Team support represents a more important set of explanatory variables. Passionate supporters have significantly higher purchase intentions. The critical pathways to purchase intention amongst members of this Australian football club are summarized in Figure 2. Table 6 shows standardized and unstandardized regression coefficients and goodness of fit statistics for the endogenous variables in the model. This means that a two-point upward shift in sponsor integrity increases purchase intentions by almost 9% on average. each point of sponsor integrity (as measured on the 0–10 scale) enhances purchase intentions directly by one-third of a point and by close to half a point in total. frequent match attendance has no significant impact on purchase intentions. are not influenced by socio-demographic attributes. but passionate and positive team support both have significant effects. Moreover. duration of club membership and match attendance all have negligible impacts on purchase intentions. Positive supporters are also more likely to use and purchase the sponsor’s products. sponsor receptiveness and team support. Perceptions of sponsor integrity. sponsor integrity all have statistically significant effects on sponsor receptiveness. membership duration or match attendance. Finally. the explanatory variables in the model account for 44% of the variance in purchase intentions. These fans rate sponsor integrity much more highly. The indirect effect arises primarily because passionate supporters have significantly higher regard for sponsor integrity. and a three-point upward shift by 13% on average. For example. The key steps in the purchase intention chain involve fans who are passionate and positive supporters of their team. the key determinants of purchase intention are sponsor integrity. In contrast. Collectively. members of longer duration. In comparison with team support. The indirect effect arises from a substantial link between sponsor integrity and sponsor receptiveness.

001 5.06 20.130 0 0.85. sponsor integrity and team support.04 0.20* 0.05 20.0.178 0. Smith et al.03 20.835 0.717 0.620 0.128 20.031 0.0.07 20.100 0.020 1.391 20.001 *Statistical significance at P.08 20.670 0.05 20.232 1.092 20.021 20.125 4.85. P.05 0.788 53. Explanatory models for endogenous variables: sponsor receptiveness.03 20.0.07 0. P.118 20.278 1.011 20.111 20.0.123 0.001 10. P. 398 A.05 20.13* 20.30* 0.097 20.028 0.308 20.001 38.02 0.001 47.002 20.68 20.014 20.140 20.0.20* 0.04.a .07 0 21.019 0. Table 6.001.01 0. P.16* 20.11* 0.29* 20.08 20.15* 20. significance Sponsor receptiveness Sponsor integrity Match attendance Passionate fan Positive fan b b b b b b b b b b 0.07 0.11* 20.06 0.385 0.Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Team support Dependent variables Independent variables Control variables Gender Age Education Income Years of membership Team support Match attendance Passionate fan Positive fan Sponsor integrity R squared Standard error of the estimate F. a Unstandardized (b) and standardized (b) regression coefficients.037 1.247 0.388 0.285 0.013 .339 20.09 0.68.090 20.07 20.234 20.111 0.084 20.93. P.0.097 20.45* 0.02 20.10* 20.

it might be assumed that the respondents are strongly identified and involved. have an influence of the formation of purchase intentions. Kolbe. omitting minor effects). Note: *indicates statistical significance at P. A strong psychological connection to a team leads to loyalty.001. higher spending on tickets and products. and their attitudes to sponsors. and hence the level of positive attitude toward the sponsor. The presence of passionate and positive fans reflects a constituting and central element of their identities (passionate) as well as their selfconcept (positive).Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Journal of Marketing Communications 399 Figure 2. Much like the first two dimensions. and feel that there is a reasonable fit between the sponsors and the team. Key pathways to purchase intention (standardized regression coefficients. It is clear from the results that the underpinning passionate beliefs held by members about their club. A high level of perceived sponsor integrity is reported in this study. In turn. in this case. and Anderson 2002. which in turn leads to higher levels of merchandise purchases. sponsor integrity is reflective of the attitudes respondents have. about what it takes to be a ‘good’ sponsor. were highlighted that align broadly with Madrigal’s (2001) belief–attitudes– intentions hierarchy. Given that respondents can be described as ‘strongly passionate’ or ‘strongly positive’. the level to which sponsor and the sponsored entity fit together. This is further corroborated by results in Table 4. As Speed and Thompson (2000) argue. A third dimension identified as sponsor integrity expresses the views respondents hold about the sponsor. Madrigal 1995. and Trail 2002). are critical in delivering positive consumer responses to the sponsorship association. Murrell and Dietz 1992. passionate and positive supporters are more likely to attend more matches.. and loyalty is often expressed in support regardless of circumstances (James. team support impacts upon sponsor receptiveness and directly on purchase intentions. Wann and Branscombe 1993). the degree of perceived sponsor sincerity. and higher levels of team loyalty (Fink. . The attitude towards sponsors is expressed in sponsor receptiveness and respondents report a moderate openness towards receiving information about sponsors. Trail.

which revealed that team identification was the only significant predictor of impulse merchandise purchasing. an outcome of a strong psychological connection to a team is loyalty. The issue of perceived sponsor commitment may be more important than has previously been highlighted. the more likely it is that the sponsor is considered to be part of the team. this research has provided some suggestive evidence that this may be a reasonable hypothesis. Smith et al. This research provides some evidence that the level of perceived commitment of the sponsor to the team positively impacts the intention to purchase the sponsor’s products. Trail. The indirect effects are supported by data from Wann et al. Murrell and Dietz (1992) and Wann and Brandscombe (1993). Moreover. If team identification is defined as spectators’ perceived connectedness to a team (passionate supporter) and its performance (positive support). This finding further undermines the popular assumption that exposure is the uppermost determinant of sponsorship success. Although it remains unclear if sponsors are counted towards the membership of the in-group. or more specifically. then to listening to another ‘loyal supporter’ of the team – its sincere sponsor – is merely an expression of loyalty. Wagner. then our results indicate that the level of team identification directly and indirectly (through sponsor receptiveness and sponsor integrity) affects the intention to purchase a sponsor’s products. Rather. and Anderson (2002). Finally. That the perceived ‘fit’ between sponsor and sponsored entity is important. and this unconditional support is often expressed in consumption of team or club-related products or services. by a positive view in regard to the integrity of the sponsor. Receptiveness is about ‘being listened to’ and if this is a well-communicated and packaged sales message. in line with Gwinner and Swanson (2003). and Trail 2002). As identified by Fink. . This finding provides support for shifting the attention from socio-demographically targeted marketing strategies to strategies that take a more holistic view of the sponsorship arrangement. and therefore a sound platform for its impact measurement. Carlson.Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 400 A. To be considered as part of the in-group is also likely to be positively influenced by the duration of the sponsorship association. respondents’ intention to purchase was shown in this research to be influenced by a positive attitude towards the brand. and Zimmerman 2005). is further supported by the outcomes of this study. The constituting items of sponsor integrity support Chadwick’s (2002) contention that sponsor commitment revolves around a multi-faceted view of commitment emphasizing a collaborative and relational perspective. and Vsetecka (2004). it supports the contention that the need for affiliation positively affects team identification (Donavan. sponsor integrity and sponsor receptiveness both play a substantial role in promoting purchase intentions. continuing in both the good and bad times (James. Kolbe. there is insufficient evidence to conclude that building brand familiarity is enough to stimulate intention to purchase perceptions. This might prove an important implication for point of sale marketing in sport clubs when considered in light of Kwon and Armstrong’s (2002) study. This research provides strong support for the proposition that team support and consumers’ purchase intentions are intertwined (Gwinner and Swanson 2003). as evidenced by results from Speed and Thompson (2000) and Grohs. the longer a sponsor supports the sponsored entity. Madrigal (2001). Socio-demographic variables have little effect on purchase intentions. In line with Pope and Voges (2000). (2001) who observed that highly identified fans evaluate in-group members higher than out-group members.

This has a positive impact on perceived integrity and receptiveness. Australia. the introduction of behavioural measures would be advantageous in explicating the connection between purchase intentions and the actual consumption of sponsor’s products. it is reasonable to be cautious about projecting the findings beyond the context of Australian professional football. Australia. this study was limited by a low response rate. which are the primary factors influencing purchase intention. Future research might expand the approach presented here by taking into account the level of exposure the sponsor receives and its associated impact on purchase intentions. American Sociological Review 40 (February): 37–47. Hauser. the strength of the results is suggestive of some salient practical implications. Teams that already enjoy high levels of member support are more likely to boast a customer base that is willing to consider sales offers from sponsors. D. (2002) that sponsors should change their focus from raw volume of exposure to image matching or fit has been strongly supported by the outcomes of this research. sponsor receptiveness and sponsor integrity are key components of the relationship that sponsors may build with the members of the sponsored organization. Brian Graetz is a Professor in the School of Business at La Trobe University in Melbourne.Journal of Marketing Communications 401 Downloaded by [University of Bucharest ] at 11:24 08 March 2015 Conclusion This research has examined key processes in the sponsorship relationship that influence members’ purchase intentions toward the major sponsor’s products. In other words. which suggests the potential of a self-selection bias in regard to sponsorship opinions and attitudes. Team support. Compatibility with the sponsored team. The decomposition of effects in path analysis. Although a large sample was employed. . and financial support for the team all contribute towards enhancing sponsor integrity. Therefore.. supporting local communities. 1975. All three variables contribute significantly to higher purchase intentions. Nevertheless. The results also constitute a single case in a professional sporting league comprising 15 other teams in one country. The argument made by Lachowetz et al. Sponsors can also bolster the purchase intentions of club members by focusing on strategies to strengthen perceived sponsor integrity. The results reported here suggest that sponsor success can be amplified by enhancing enthusiasm for the team. Generating passion and enthusiasm for the team may do more for purchase intentions than targeting market segments in isolation from the broader context of the club and its members. and R. in sport sponsorship it may be better for the sponsor to engage with the club and its members. The level of sponsor integrity is therefore another criterion that can actively be manipulated and managed by the sponsor. showing a genuine interest in the club and its supporters. In addition. References Alwin. Notes on contributors Aaron Smith and Hans Westerbeek are Professors in Sport Management at La Trobe University in Melbourne. and encourage members to participate actively in club activities.

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