Unraveling team sponsorship in World Cup: What are the influencing factors?

Submitted by Cindy Lee* & Gonzalo Bravo

ABSTRACT

There are three parties involved in a simple sponsorship mechanism: the sponsor, the sponsored event or team, and the consumers (fans). However, this structure becomes more complicated in some cases where sub-sponsors exist such as in international sporting events. In these cases, would an overarching event influence sub-sponsorship such as team sponsorship?  Based on this question, this study aims to investigate the influence of overarching brand on team sponsorship effect, along with consumers’ attitudes toward team sponsors, team identification, and patriotism.

This study was conducted in the context of the 2010 World Cup with the United States team as a target subject. A total of 455 usable surveys were collected from the students at a Division I university two weeks prior to the 2010 World Cup. The results of multiple regression showed that only identification with the US National team (β= .54) and attitude toward the sponsoring companies (β= .28) were significant predictors (F(4,450) = 128.43, p < .00, R2=.53), explaining 53 percent of intention to purchase sponsors’ product. Interestingly, the attitude toward the World Cup and patriotism were not influencing factors on respondents’ intention to purchase sponsors’ products.

INTRODUCTION

The amount of money invested in sponsorship is growing year after year. Sponsorship spending in North America in 2012 reached $19 billion while the spending on a global level was more than $51 billion (IEG, 2013). As the amount of money invested in sponsorship grows every year, the need for sponsorship studies to understand sponsorship effects and its influencing factors have also grown, which has resulted in ever-expanding literature on sponsorship. Researchers have found various factors influencing sponsorships effect such as fan identification (Branscomb & Wann, 1993), the length of sponsorship (Howard & Crompton, 2004), congruency between sponsors and the sponsee (Cho & Kang, 2012; Cornwell, Humphreys, Maguire, Weeks & Tellegen, 2006; Meenaghan, 2001a), the extent to exposure (Kang, Lee, & Goo, 2012) and attitude toward the event (Bhat, 2011). However, literature has overlooked the influence of the overarching event as a brand when it comes to the sub-sponsorship effect (e.g., US team’s sponsorship effect in the World Cup).

When it comes to understanding sponsorship effect, there are three involved parties in general: sponsor (e.g. Buick), sponsored event or team (e.g., golf tournament), and consumers (fans). However, this relationship becomes more complicated when sub-sponsorship exists under an overarching event. In this case, will the brand of the overarching event influence team sponsorship? It is likely to assume that an overarching event has a certain level of influence on the team sponsorship effect, since teams compete under an overarching event. This concept is applicable not only to international events, but any context where there is sub-sponsorship. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the influence of an overarching event on the sub-sponsorship effect, along with other influencing factors on sponsorship (i.e., identification with team, attitude toward sponsoring companies and patriotism).

LITERATURE REVIEW

Attitude toward the World Cup

The World Cup (WC) is one of the most prominent sporting events on a global level along with the Olympics. As the biggest single sporting event in the world, the popularity of the event is already immense, but the number is still growing every quadrennial. The recent 2010 World Cup in South Africa reached an audience of 3.2 billion, 46.4% of the global population (FIFA.com, 2011).

The brand of the World Cup represents high prestige due to its high quality of games played by the best players. Not only playing in the World Cup, but hosting the World Cup is regarded as an honor for the host country. Thus, many countries have competitively sought the opportunity to host this international event with the hopes to enhance the image of their countries and bring some financial benefit by attracting tourists to their countries. In some cases, these expectations are actually realized: According to the German government, Germany’s tourism industry made an additional 300 million euros in revenue, an additional 2 billion euros in retail, and created 50,000 new jobs through the 2006 World Cup (Germany’s World Cup, 2006). Records have also indicated that the 1994 US World Cup games generated a surplus of $60 million from ticket sales, sponsorship and licensing agreements (Voigt, 2010). However, in some cases, hosting the World Cup does not bring much benefit: South Africa reportedly spent $1.48 billion on the construction and renovation of stadiums, but failed to bring a sizable financial benefit which fits the bill (Humphreys, 2010).

The international governing body of World Cup, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), made a decision to bring the World Cup to different corners of the globe such as Africa (2010 South Africa World Cup) and the Middle East (2022 Qatar World Cup), which drew mixed responses: Some praised this move in that it will increase the popularity of soccer, but others criticized FIFA’s political and economic motive behind the decision (Waldron, 2013).

Defined as “a summary evaluation of apsychological object captured in such attribute dimensions as good-bad, harmful-beneficial,pleasant-unpleasant, and likable-dislikable”(Ajzen, 2001, p. 28), attitude is one of the determinants of behavior according to the theory of reasoned action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). To summarize, attitudes are individuals’ evaluations and dispositions of an object, which drives people to engage in a particular behavior (Argyriou & Melawar, 2011). By collectively evaluating available information on the World Cup, individuals are likely to form certain attitudes toward the World Cup.

Sponsorship

‘Sport sponsorship’ is the most popular form of sponsorship, while venues of sponsorship vary, such as arts, social cause, entertainment, festivals, annual events, associations and membership organizations (IEG, 2013). Sports are considered as an ideal venue for sponsorship (McCarville, Flood, & Froats, 1998), due to the high public interest (Madrigal, 2001) and broad appeal to all socioeconomic classes (Ferrand & Pages, 1996). With these reasons, sport sponsorship was an estimated 69% of the total sponsorship expenditure in 2012 (IEG, 2013).

Sponsorship is also considered as a less intrusive method when compared to advertising (Meenaghan, 2001a), which made sponsorship as an alternative choice to traditional marketing communications (Roy & Cornwell, 2003). Now, the sponsorship expenditure, once a fraction of advertising expenditure, has surpassed the traditional advertising spending (IEG, 2013).

The World Cup marked its record number of $1.6 billion in sponsorship revenue from three sponsorship tiers (i.e., FIFA Partners, FIFA World Cup Sponsors, and National Supporters) during the ’07-’10 quadrennium (IEG, 2010). On a global level, spending in sponsorship surpassed $51 billion in 2012 (IEG, 2013).

Attitude toward Sponsoring Companies

Javalgi, Traylor, Gross and Lampman (1994) stated that “by associating its name with an event, a company can share in the image of the event itself in much the same way that a product shares the image of a celebrity who endorses it (p. 47).”  The World Cup’s global appeal and its prestigious image is very attractive to many transnational companies, so many of them are eager to associate with the World Cup through sponsorship. This high demand pushes already high sponsorship fees up continuously. To become a partner of the 2010 World Cup, Coca-Cola paid $90 million while Visa reportedly paid $200 million (Golden, 2010). This astronomical price tag is prohibiting too many companies, and might be only affordable to multinational companies.

However, there are more, inexpensive ways to be associated with the World Cup without being partners of the event such as team sponsors. Although team sponsors of the World Cup cannot put their logos on the team jersey, team sponsors can activate their sponsorship right through various promotions, advertising, and so on. These activation activities make consumers realize the official sponsors, which can further generate goodwill from the consumers.

When fans recognize that a company supports their team through sponsorship, they tend to have favorable attitudes toward the sponsoring company. By sponsoring sport teams, companies hope that individuals’ strong attachment and favorable attitudes toward the team will be transferred or extended to the companies’ brands and their products (Meenaghan, 2001b). Eventually, sponsors want to convert the goodwill to tangible benefits.

Sponsorship Effect: Intention to Purchase

Companies have used various marketing objectives (e.g., increasing awareness, enhancing image, reaching new markets, or increasing sales) (Lee, Pastore, & West, 2010; Pitts & Slattery 2004) to measure sponsorship effectiveness. Sponsorship begins to exert its influence once a consumer starts to become aware of the sponsor, which in turn leads to a favorable attitude and a higher purchase intention toward the sponsor’s brand. Similarly, Brooks (1994) stated that the overall goal of sponsorship is to encourage the potential consumer to move along a decision-making continuum, ranging from awareness to post-purchase evaluation. An increase in sales is often regarded as the ultimate sponsorship objective: Although other marketing objectives such as increased awareness and enhanced image are important, if they are not eventually transferred to the sales, these benefits may not be enough.

Due to the difficulty of measuring actual purchase behavior, many studies often use purchase intention since intentions have shown to lead behavior (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). With this reason,“intention to purchase sponsors’ product” was used to measure sponsorship effect in this study. Specifically, ‘purchase intention’ was defined as individuals’ willingness to purchase the official sponsors’ product of the US National Team.

Identification with the US national team

Identification with a sponsored entity (e.g., team, player, or school) has been considered one of the critical factors in sponsorship effect (e.g., Meenaghan, 2001b; Wann, 2006). Defined as “an orientation of the self in regard to other objects including a person or group that results in feelings or sentiments of close attachment” (Trail, Anderson & Fink, 2000, pp. 165-166), identification is a contributing factor to explain various cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of sport fan behaviors (Capella, 2002; Wann, 2006). Cognitively, highly identified fans might have biased perceptions regarding their team’s performance (Dietz-Uhler & Murrell, 1999): For example, highly identified fans tend to think that their team’s success is due to the team’s excellent performance, while losses are due to some external factors or bad luck (Dietz-Uhler & Murrell, 1999). In regard to affective aspect, highly identified fans are likely to experience high levels of anxiety and emotion with their identified teams (Wann, Schrader, & Adamson, 1998). Behaviorally, highly identified fans tend to attend more games and spend more resources such as time and money to follow the team (Wann, 2006; Zhang, Won, & Pastore, 2005). Most especially, the behavioral aspect of highly identified fans has an important meaning for sponsors, because studies have shown that highly identified fans are more likely to support sponsors by purchasing sponsors’ products (Koo, Quarterman, & Flynn, 2006; Kwon & Armstrong, 2002) than their counterparts.

In terms of the subject of identification, multiple points of attachment were suggested in the sport context such as a player, coach, university, community, level of sport or sport itself (Robinson & Trail, 2005), but ‘team’ has been used as a popular attachment point in many studies (Woo, Trail, Kwon, & Anderson, 2009). As the subject of identification, the US national Team in the 2010 World Cup was selected.

Patriotism

Whether it is devoted love of one’s country or national loyalty, patriotism is likely to be observed in international sporting events. Literature in consumer behavior also found that patriotism is a factor when American consumers choose domestic products over foreign products (Granzin & Olsen, 1998). Similarly, the 2013 national gallop poll found that patriotism was the primary reason for ‘buying American’ rather than product cost or quality (Jones, 2013).

Literature has shown that patriotism influences various individual behaviors in the sport context, too: Patriotism was one of the influencing factors for individuals to watch international sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics Games (McDaniel, 2002; Nüesch, & Frank, 2009) especially for the respondents’ national team. Chiang and Jane (2013) also found that patriotism, along with regionalism, had a positive effect on TV ratings.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of the brand of an overarching event on the sub-sponsorship effect. More specifically, this study examined the influence of the World Cup brand on the sponsorship effect of the US National Team along with attitude toward sponsoring companies, identification with the sponsored team and patriotism. Since our investigation of the World Cup as a contributing factor on a sub-level sponsorship effect (team sponsorship) is rather exploratory, research questions were formulated rather than hypotheses.

Research Question 1. Would attitude toward the overarching brand influence customers’ intention to purchase the team sponsors’ products?

Research Question 2. Among the influencing factors on sponsorship (attitude toward the overarching event, attitude toward the sponsors, identification with the sponsored team, and patriotism), what is the most influencing factor on sponsorship effect?

METHOD

Instrument Development

A questionnaire was developed to examine the extent to which the factors of attitude toward the World Cup, attitude toward sponsoring companies, identification with the US National Team, and patriotism influence ‘purchase intention’ of US National Team sponsors’ products. Sponsors for the US National Team are treated as a group rather than separate individual companies to control the factors specific to individual companies such as activation activities or pre-existing attitude toward a company.

The survey included 20 questions in two sections: The first section included three items for attitude toward the event (adopted and revised from Lee, Sandler, & Shani, 1997), three items for attitude toward the official sponsors of US team, three items for identification with the USA National Team (TII from Trail & James, 2001), three items for patriotism (Adopted and revised from Funk, Mahony, Nakazawa, & Hirakawa, 2001; Bennett, Ali-Choudhury, and Mousley, 2007) and three items for the intention to purchase official US National Team sponsors’ products. All items in the first section were asked using a five-point Likert scale ranging from one being strongly disagree to five being strongly agree (see Appendix A). Adapted items were reworded to fit the context of this study. The second section asked demographic information of the participants including gender, ethnicity, age, nationality and school year.

The developed instrument was reviewed by a panel of experts composed of five sport management faculty and five graduate students. The panel of experts confirmed the content validity of the instrument.  Based on the suggestions and feedback, minor changes in wording were made to improve the clarity of the questionnaire.

Data Collection

Data were collected two months prior to the kickoff of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Twenty classes in the department of sport sciences were conveniently selected from a total of 65 classes at a large Division I university located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The size of each class ranged from 15 to 64 students. The students in the selected 20 classes were asked to participate in the paper and pencil survey on a voluntary basis during class hours.

From the total of 467 respondents, 12 respondents identified themselves as foreign nationals. Since this study used the US National Team as a target and patriotism was one of the influencing factors, these12 responses were deleted from the analysis. Of the remaining 455 responses, 76% (n = 346) were male while 24% (n = 109) were female. The majority of the respondents were Caucasians (88.8%), followed by African-Americans (5.5%), Asian-Americans (1.1%), and Hispanic Americans (0.7%). Thirteen people indicated themselves as ‘others’ (2.8%) and five people did not specify their ethnicity. The mean age of the respondents was 20.89 years old (SD= 2.63). The participants identified themselves as seniors (29.0%), juniors (24.0%), sophomores (24.6%), freshmen (18.5%), and graduate students (3.7%).

Cronbach’s alpha tests were conducted to check reliability of each construct. The results showed that all constructs were above the suggested cut point of .70 (Nunally & Bernstein, 1994): attitude toward World Cup (α = .81), attitude toward sponsoring companies of US National Team (α = .73), identification with the US National Team (α = .85), patriotism (α = .85), and intention to purchase US National Team sponsors’ products (α = .78). To see the relationships between variables in the study, a correlation analysis was also conducted. Although some of the correlations are high, the results of VIF were all under 3, which indicate there is no issue of multicollinearity (Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson, 2009).

Data was analyzed using a multiple regression with four independent variables of 1) attitude toward the World Cup, 2) attitude toward the sponsoring companies of US national soccer team, 3) identification with the US National team, and 4) patriotism and one dependent variable of intention to purchase sponsors’ products.

RESULTS

The results of the regression analysis showed that  ‘attitude toward sponsoring companies’ and ‘identification with the US National team’ were significant predictors for intention to purchase (F(4,450) = 128.43, p < .00, R2=.53) while ‘attitude toward the World Cup’ and ‘patriotism’ did not help predict intention to purchase sponsors’ products. The standardized coefficients indicated that ‘identification with the US National Team’ (β= .54) was the most important predictor which explains ‘intention to purchase’ almost twice as much as ‘attitude toward the US National Team sponsors’ (β= .28) (See Table 2).

Because the correlation analysis revealed that the respondents’ gender was significantly correlated to every variable except age, an ANOVA test was conducted to see whether gender is a significant predictor for purchase intention. The result showed that gender was a significant factor in predicting purchase intention (F(1.453) = 13.29, p < .00). Male respondents (M= 2.11, SD= .05) showed higher intention to purchase US National Team sponsors’ products compared to female respondents (M= 1.74, SD= .09). The results of additional ANOVA with gender revealed that male respondents showed significantly higher scores compared to female respondents on all areas of attitude toward event (F(1.453) = 21.37, p < .00)., attitude toward sponsoring companies of US National Team (F(1.453) = 18.84, p < .00)., identification with US National Team (F(1.453) = 4.50, p < .00)., and patriotism (F(1.453) = 42.33, p < .00).  Differences in mean score were shown in Table 3.

DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION

The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of an overarching event on sub-sponsorship effect (i.e., team sponsorship), especially on ‘intention to purchase sponsors’ products.’ While there are three parties (i.e., sponsor, sponsored entity, and consumer) usually involved in a sponsorship mechanism, team sponsorship in bigger events might be influenced by an overarching event due to the existing relationship between an event and teams playing within the event. Therefore, this study explored the extent to which the attitude toward the World Cup influences the US National Team sponsorship effect, specifically for ‘intention to purchase sponsors’ products.’ Based on the previous literature, other influencing factors (i.e., attitude toward sponsoring companies, identification with the US National Team, and patriotism) on sponsorship effect were also examined:

The results of the multiple regression revealed that the respondents’ identification level with the US National Team was the most important factor (β= .54) in predicting intention to purchase sponsors’ products. This result confirmed that fan identification is critical for sports sponsors to achieve their sponsorship effects as many previous studies have found (e.g., Fisher & Wakefield, 1998; Meenaghan, 2001b; Wann 2006). Therefore, individuals with high identification with the US National Team would be the prime prospects for the participating team sponsors.

One thing to note is that the logos and names of official sponsors for national teams are not seen on the players’ uniforms in the World Cup, due to the FIFA regulation to protect the integrity of the competition as well as the right of official sponsors of the World Cup (Football Marketing, 2010). Therefore, only highly identified fans are likely to recognize the sponsors of their national team via television commercials, promotions and social media outlets. This also means that the respondents’ willingness to support their team sponsors might not be realized because they do not recognize the actual sponsors of the national team due to the lack of sponsors’ exposure on the field.

The second influential factor was ‘attitude toward the sponsoring companies of the US National Team’ (β= .28). As mentioned above, a group of sponsors of US National Team was used as a whole rather than a specific company’s name to control other external factors and specific factors to each company. It is conceivable that if a specific name of company was used, the results would be easily influenced by the factors such as quality of the product and reputation of the company. It is also possible that depending on the product category of sponsorship (e.g., automobile, soft drink); consumers would be more or less influenced by a company’s sponsorship in their purchase decision (Lee, Pastore, & West, 2010).

Thus, the construct of ‘attitude toward sponsoring companies’ intended to find out the importance of being official sponsors of the US National Team for the respondents. In other words, how much would the respondents value company’s sponsorship of the US National Team when they make purchase decisions?

The fact that ‘attitude toward the World Cup’ was not an important predictor for sponsorship effect (intention to purchase) was somewhat unexpected. This result can be interpreted in a few ways. The first is the possibility of similar status of international games where national teams play. Although the Olympic Games and the World Cup are prestigious international games, so are many other international events where different national teams play. Therefore, there was not much distinction among these international events in the respondents’ mind. The second possibility is the usage of ‘intention to purchase’ as an indicator of the sponsorship effect. Sponsorship begins to exert its influence on consumers once they become aware of sponsors, which leads to a favorable attitude and purchase intention. Therefore, the result might have been different if sponsorship effect was measured differently such as by ‘attitude change’.

In terms of gender, additional analyses revealed that male respondents showed significantly higher scores in every construct (attitude toward the World Cup, identification with the US National Team, attitude toward sponsoring companies, and purchase intention). This result might suggest that sponsoring companies would have a better chance in appealing to male customers. Thus, their marketing efforts may be more fruitful when they target male fans.

There are a few limitations in the study. The first limitation is the usage of student sample, which limits the generalizability of the result of study. Using the general population will increase generalizability in future studies. The second limitation is the fact that ‘a group of sponsors’ was used rather than specific sponsors. Although this was intended to control other external factors, it might have been harder for the respondents to imagine their attitude or behavior intention toward the non-specific sponsors.

CONCLUSIONS

This study examined the influencing factors on team sponsorship effect in an international event, using the US National Team in the 2010 World Cup. Among four factors of attitude to the World Cup, attitude toward sponsoring companies, identification with the US National Team, and patriotism, only ‘identification with the US National Team’ and ‘attitude toward sponsoring companies’ influenced ‘intention to purchase sponsors’ products.’ More future studies should be followed to better understand the role of an overarching event on sponsorship as the results are mixed: Attitude toward an event was not a significant factor for the sponsorship effect in this study while some researchers (e.g., Bhat, 2011) have found positive influence of the event on sponsorship effect.

APPLICATIONS IN SPORT

Much effort has been put in understanding sponsorship effect in the literature of sport consumer behavior. However, there is more need to identify influencing factors in sub-sponsorship effect (e.g., team sponsorship in the World Cup) in international events. As the number of international sporting events increases, multi-levels of sponsors are affiliated with an event, teams, and players within one sporting event. Therefore, more research will be required to understand and identify influencing factors on different levels of sponsorship effect.

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Table1

Table2

Table3

Apendix

 

 

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