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Sport Celebrity Influence on Young Adult Consumers

Steve Dix, Curtin University of Technology
The paper investigates how sports celebrities can be perceived as role models and
influence young adult consumers’ purchase and behavioral intentions. It also
examines if this influence differs between males and females. A self-administered
questionnaire, drawn from established scales, was completed by a ‘Generation Y’,
university student sample. Athlete role model endorsers have a positive influence on
young adults’ product switching behaviour, complaint behaviour, positive word-ofmouth behaviour and brand loyalty. This paper provides useful insight into the
influence of athletes endorsers on young adults and suggests athletes should be
considered as appropriate and influential spokespersons for brands. This study is a
significant step in providing useful information about how young consumers respond
to the use of sports celebrities in advertising.
Keywords: Advertising, Execution, Strategy, Celebrity

typical consumer endorser or no endorser. Yu-Ying and Minghua 2007). such as film stars and athletes. Byrne. Lathrop and Bradish. Charbonneau and Garland 2005). there are a number of perspectives on the effectiveness of sports celebrity endorsers in advertising. it does not significantly influence the attitude and behavioural intentions of the target market. Stevens et al. it was reported that only one of five commercials using celebrity endorsers lived up to the sponsor’s expectations (Miciak and Shanklin 1994). 2003. celebrities are said to have the ability to break through this media clutter and hold viewers’ attention (Miciak and Shanklin 1994. Moreover. Atkin and Block (1983) support this argument and maintain that advertisements featuring celebrity figures consistently produced more favourable impact than non-celebrity ads. Endorsement by a celebrity has a meaningful influence on young people’s evaluation of ads and products (Xu 2008). Thomaselli 2008. 2003. More importantly. 1 . Yu-Ying and Minghua 2007). Many believe that the celebrity and popularity of celebrity athletes would benefit brands. Sports celebrities and sport figures who display extraordinary personal characteristics were found to be a popular hero choice among young adults (Stevens. in a crowded media environment where advertisers face an increasing challenge of attracting consumers’ attention. Harris 2008. Chan and Zhang 2007. On the other hand. Yu-Ying and Minghua 2007). Wolburg and Pokrywczynski 2001). Schaefer and Keillor (1997) argue that.ANZMAC 2009 Page 2 of 9 Sport Celebrity Influence on Young Adult Consumers Introduction Businesses are spending millions of dollars in endorsement deals each year to associate their products or brands with some of the biggest names in sport (Bower and Mateer 2008. Celebrity endorsers. creating positive associations. Whitehead and Breen 2003). although the use of celebrity endorsers is a good foundation for effective advertisements. Tingchi Liu. Despite the widespread use of celebrity endorsers. Friedman and Friedman (1979) revealed that regardless of the type of product. Tingchi Liu. a celebrity endorser produced better recall of both the advertisement and the brand name than an advertisement using an expert endorser. Relevant Literature Young Adults and Sports Young adults are major sport consumers (Bennett and Henson 2003) and as such. college or university students are a highly coveted target market for sport marketers (Tingchi Liu. are beneficial to advertising message strategy and are most effective in influencing the attitudes of this market because they are respected by and are highly identifiable with young people (Atkin and Block 1983. contributing to brand name recognition and creating meaning for even the most ordinary products (Miciak and Shanklin 1994. Charbonneau and Garland 2005.

and less likely than men to consider athletes as materialistic. on the one hand. The source credibility model advocates that the effectiveness of the advertising message depends on the expertise and trustworthiness of the source (McCracken 1989). Finally. 2 . 2005). and (c) brand loyalty. They value respect and the social aspect of sports and thus prefer to buy sporting goods that are endorsed by their favourite athletes from companies that are socially responsible and supportive of female sports (Bush et al. Young women view sports as fun. Research has also found that women are 22% more likely to buy a product or service that is endorsed by a female athlete (Women’s sport foundation 2003.Page 3 of 9 ANZMAC 2009 Female consumers have become a key niche within the sport marketplace and have grown in strength as sports-related decision makers and spenders (Bradish and Lathrop 2001). Martin and Bush (2004): (1) product switching or complaining behaviour. and the endorsed product. cited in Bush et al. Hypotheses This study provides insight into Bush. The Product Match-Up Hypothesis proposes that a message is most effective when the image of the celebrity and the product match one another (Kahle and Homer. Thus. For the present study. 1985. cited in Braunstein and Zhang 2005. the meaning transfer model advocates that an endorsement succeeds when an association is created between the cultural meanings of the celebrity’s world. making them more receptive to sports celebrity role models. Martin and Bush’s (2004) proposition that athlete endorsers can have significant influences on behavioural intentions of young adults. (2) positive word-of-mouth. this is the basis for the following hypothesis: H4: Young adults’ athlete role model influence among females is more positively related to (a) product switching and complaint behaviour. These measures will form the basis against which the following hypotheses are tested: H1: Young adults’ athlete role model influence is positively related to product switching and complaint behaviour H2: Young adults’ athlete role model influence is positively related to positive or positive word-of-mouth behaviour H3: Young adults’ athlete role model influence is positively related to brand loyalty Young women were identified as more likely to be influenced by athlete endorsers and to spread positive word-of-mouth. and (3) brand loyalty. Theoretical Models Influencing Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsements A number of models and theories have been suggested to explain how endorsers might influence consumers and what aspects of the endorsement are more likely to succeed (Braunstein and Zhang 2005). on the other (McCracken 1989). 2005). than among males. (b) positive word-of-mouth behaviour. YuYing and Minghua 2007). behavioural intentions are defined by the following three dimensions identified by Bush. Tingchi Liu.

7% male respondents (n=107) and 48. Martin and Bush (2004). this revealed a high correlation between items resulting in a unidimensional factor. The usable responses from 207 students equates to an 83% response rate. with 51.7%). Around 60. This scale provides responses to a variety of purchase and behavioural intention questions specifically related to the consumer’s favourite athlete. Section A consists of the five-item athlete role model influence scale developed by Rich (1997). 17. Three distinct factors emerged. On the other hand. Berry and Parasuraman (1996).2% watched less than one hour of sport per week. 21 to 22 years old (22. An exploratory factor analysis was also conducted on the 12-item purchase and behavioural intentions scale developed by Zeithaml. Both scales are 7-point likert scales. The five items loaded on the same factor. When asked to think of their favourite athlete.5%). anchored on a ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ continuum. Section B consists of a 12-item purchases and behavioural intentions scale developed by Zeithaml. 19 to 20 years old (27. Correspondingly.7%). This corroborates the survey findings of Elling and Knoppers (2005) that male athletes are the predominant choice of sport heroes. Berry and Parasuraman (1996) which was adapted for this study.9% of respondents were actively involved in sports. 95% of respondents identified a male athlete. approximately 15% of respondents did not watch any sport and 23.4% of respondents did not play any sport or played less than one hour of sport per week (21. As expected.9% of the variance. Factor Analysis and Reliability An exploratory factor analysis was conducted on the five-item athlete role model influence scale developed by Rich (1997). The factor analysis with a varimax rotation and principal axis factoring confirms previous results obtained by Bush. with the proposed items loading on the intended 3 . Research Instrument The two page self-administered survey comprised three sections.7%) and 23 to 25 years old (13.ANZMAC 2009 Page 4 of 9 Method Sample This study focuses on young adults aged between 17 and 25 residing in Australia.3% female respondents (n=100). which explained 59. A convenience sample was drawn from students at a large university in Western Australia and a total of 249 students voluntarily participated in the survey. Results and Analysis Sample Characteristics An acceptable gender split among respondents was obtained.5%). Respondents’ ages varied across 17 to 18 years old (35.

2% of the variance. Regression analysis revealed that athlete role model influence is a significant predictor (p = . A Cronbach’s Alpha analysis confirmed all factors above were reliable. Hypothesis 1 is therefore supported. Athlete role model influence explained 10. 4 .8% of the variance in positive wordof-mouth (t = 6. this contradicts the replicated study by Bush. and Brand loyalty (three items). therefore rendering those factors acceptable for analysis (Churchill 1979).000) of brand loyalty (F=18. This result is congruent with Bush.336 .8% of the variance in switching and complaint behaviour (t = 4.959 . The three factors explained 56.19) expressed a higher level of agreement than females (M = 3. showing no significant difference between the average rating of females and males on almost all items except ‘The opinions of my favourite athlete influence me to complain to other customers if I experience a problem with a company’s service’ (p < . Complaining and switching behaviour (six items).328 .052 Positive Word of mouth . Athlete role model influence explained 16.069 .4% of the variance in brand loyalty (t = 4. Martin and Bush (2004) which found no support for this contention. which shows that athlete role model influence is significantly related (p = . Martin and Bush’s (2004) findings among teenagers. Positive word-of-mouth (three items). brand loyalty).value Sig.798).336).168 6. Athlete role model influence explained 8.290 4. .283 Dependent Variable Product switching and complaint behaviour Beta Adj R2 t .000) to positive word-of-mouth (F = 41. However. the present study focuses on young adults aged 17-24 who are likely to be more conversant with product switching and buyer complaint behaviour. Interestingly.416 . Regression Analysis The athlete role model influence was separately regressed onto each of the three dependent variables (switching and complaint behaviour.591). demonstrating that athlete role model influence is a significant predictor (p = .79.000 . each having alpha values exceeding 0.065 .410 . positive word of mouth. Hypothesis 3 is also supported.168).084 Gender Differences An independent sample T-test was conducted to test Hypothesis 4.000) of product switching and complaint behaviour (F = 24.959).000 .108 4. Hypothesis 2 is also supported by a regression analysis.000 .05) in which males (M = 4.Page 5 of 9 ANZMAC 2009 factors.440 Brand loyalty . Table 1: Regression of Role Model Influence on Purchase and Behavioral Intentions BValues .416).95).259 Std Error .

Future research might look into whether males and females hold the same perceptions of the influence of celebrity athletes. this study did support this hypothesis.ANZMAC 2009 Page 6 of 9 Discussion and Implications The results obtained in this study offer some important considerations for marketing and advertising practitioners in regards to the use of athlete celebrity endorsers. Martin and Bush. than their male counterparts. their tendency to talk about brands in a positive manner and their inclination to complain about products. This suggests that celebrity athlete endorsers have an impact on young adults’ decisions to switch brands. In the current study. Martin and Bush (2004) did not find any support for the contention that celebrity athletes influence teenagers’ product switching and complaint behaviour. The most interesting finding of this study is that celebrity athlete endorsers have a positive influence on young adults’ product switching behaviour. The only exception was that male respondents were significantly more inclined to ‘complain to other customers’ than female respondents. 2004). Martin and Bush (2004). It is feasible that this difference is because the Bush et al. This finding however was not supported by this study. positive word-of-mouth and brand loyalty. ad impact (Atkin and Block 1983. A later study by Bush et al. stating that teenage girls were more adept at spreading word-of-mouth. switching behaviour and brand loyalty demonstrates that celebrity athlete endorsement can manifest in consumers’ actions around the brand. Xu 2008) and consumer attitudes (Atkin and Block 1983. It offers partial confirmation of previous results obtained by Bush. Females were expected to spread more positive word-of-mouth about a product or brand that is endorsed by their favourite athlete than males (Bush. young adult females rated the influence of their favourite athlete on positive word-of-mouth behaviour and brand loyalty similarly to young male adults. 5 . complaint behaviour. (2005) also supported this result. This adds value to the body of knowledge since it goes beyond the cognitive and affective associations that appear in the literature between celebrity and brand recall (Friedman and Friedman 1979). The establishment of a link between celebrity influence and hard behavioural measures such as word-of-mouth. (2005) study surveyed teenage girls whereas the current study focuses on young adult females. Wolburg and Pokrywczynski 2001). especially for products endorsed by their favourite athlete. It is interesting to note that although Bush.

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