Melanie Valenzia

6 February 2024

Does sports sponsorship boost fans’ willingness to pay? 

Researchers experiment on Australian soccer fans to find out if sponsoring a team can change more than just brand attitudes

Photo by Justin Shen on Unsplash

Beyond purchase intention in sports sponsorship: an alternative approach to measuring brand equity using best-worst scaling

By Khaled Hamad Almaiman, Lawrence Ang and Hume Winzar. Published in the European Journal of Marketing.

Give it to me in one sentence.

Sports sponsorship can change not just people’s attitudes but also their buying behaviour.

Give me a little more detail.

The researchers surveyed fans of three Australian A-League football (soccer) teams: Melbourne Victory Football Club (MVC-FC), which is sponsored by Adidas; Western Sydney Wanderers Football Club (WSW-FC), which is sponsored by Nike; and Sydney Football Club (SYD-FC), which is sponsored by Puma.

The survey questions used best-worst scaling, presenting participants with a list of items and asking them to indicate their most and least-favoured options from that list. The participants had to look at images of white t-shirts — at varying prices and made of varying materials — emblazoned with one of the three sponsor brands’ logos. They then had to select which t-shirt they were most and least likely to buy.

The results showed that — for the most part — fans were willing to pay a premium for their team's sponsor. MVC-FC supporters were ready to shell out an additional A$2.61 ($1.80) for Adidas over Nike and an extra A$15.5 ($10.30) for Adidas over Puma. And the WSW-FC fans would pay a premium of A$10.8 ($7.20) for Nike over Adidas and A$21 ($14) for Nike over Puma.

Nike and Adidas also demonstrated a significant market share among the fans of their respective sponsor teams. Adidas’ market share among MVC-FC fans was 43%, nearly 5% higher than Nike’s and 23% higher than Puma’s. Nike meanwhile acquired 49% of the WSW-FC fan market, which was 19% more than Adidas and 29% higher than Puma.

But the SYD-FC fans, whose team is sponsored by Puma, did not show a preference for any brand. The researchers suggest that this is because prominent brands benefit more from sports sponsorship than smaller ones. Puma is a bit of a minnow in Australia, and the researchers’ theory about size would explain why the Sydney fans were not persuaded to shell out more for its products. It would also explain why Nike enjoyed the highest willingness to purchase, market share and brand preference.

Why is this interesting?

By focusing on a specific type of merchandise (a branded white t-shirt), this study helps brand managers better evaluate the ROI of their sponsorships by assessing the direct relationship between a product and brand equity.

Any weaknesses?

The football teams analysed in this study are among the most popular football teams in Australia, so similar results may not translate to lower-profile teams. The distribution of gender and age were not the same among the sample groups, so results may vary when the makeup of the groups are the same.

Where can I find the whole report?

Here, and it’s free.

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