A model of image creation and image transfer in event sponsorship Kevin Gwinner
School of Business, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, U S A Introduction Due to the proliferation of leisure events in today’s society, the awareness and opportunity for corporate event sponsorship is at an all time high. Loosely defined, sponsorship “can be regarded as the provision of assistance either financial or in-kind to an activity [e.g., sport, musical event, festival, fair, or within the broad definition of the Arts] by a commercial organization for the purpose of achieving commercial objectives (Meenaghan, 1983, p. 9)”. Until the past decade the majority of firms have viewed event sponsorship as an obligation to the community (Catherwood and Van Kirk, 1992). Sponsorships had been placed on a level somewhere between charitable donations and public relation opportunities. Furthermore, the selection of which events to sponsor was often determined by the current pet project of the firm’s CEO (Meenaghan, 1991). Today, although still representing a small percentage of the overall promotional budget, the outlay of promotional dollars for sponsorship activities is growing rapidly (Parker, 1991; Sandler and Shani, 1989; Scott and Suchard, 1992). Not only are today’s sponsorships more sophisticated (i.e., more than simply the donation of cash for event production), but most firms are expecting a reasonable return on their sponsorship dollar in the form of increased sales (Catherwood and Van Kirk, 1992). While firms enter into sponsorship arrangements with a variety of goals, two of the most important are: to increase brand awareness; and to establish, strengthen, or change brand image (Crowley, 1991; Marshall and Cook, 1992; Meenaghan, 1991; Meerabeau et al ., 1991). Recently, these goals have been theorized to be important in the development of customer-based brand equity, defined as the differential effect of brand knowledge on the consumer’s purchase decision (Keller, 1993). In Keller’s conceptualization, brand knowledge (which drives customer-based brand equity) is a function of both the consumer’s awareness of the brand and the image(s) associated with that awareness. “In particular, the favorability, strength, and uniqueness of the brand associations play a critical role in determining the differential response” (Keller, 1993, p.8). Brand awareness is achieved by exposing the brand to as many potential consumers as possible (Aaker, 1991). Sponsorship activities present multiple opportunities for achieving awareness objectives, and much of the research to
Image creation model
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date in the sponsorship literature has focused on awareness issues such as sponsor recall (e.g. McDaniel and Kinney, 1996). Regrettably, less attention has been given to event and brand image issues. A number of questions exist regarding the effect of sponsorship promotional activities on brand and event image. For example: • What factors contribute to an event’s image? • Do consumers associate an event’s image with sponsoring brands? • If there is an image association between event and sponsor, is there a theoretical explanation that can be used to understand this linkage? • If there is an image association between event and sponsor, what factors moderate (strengthen or weaken) this relationship? • How does event image influence attitude towards the brand? Although attempts at measuring the return on the sponsorship investment have been made (e.g., total event attendance, exit polls, sales following the event, and number of media mentions), an understanding of how sponsorship “works” has yet to be developed (Catherwood and Van Kirk, 1992; Javalgi et al., 1994; Meerabeau et al ., 1991; Parker, 1991). The purpose of this article is to present a model explaining the mechanisms by which brand...
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