The determinants of the sports team sponsor's brand

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International Journal of Market Research Vol. 53 Issue 6

The determinants of the sports team sponsor’s brand equity A cross-country comparison in Asia Michael Chih-Hung Wang and Julian Ming-Sung Cheng National Central University

Bernardinus M. Purwanto and Kuntari Erimurti Gadjah Mada University

This research attempts to investigate the determinants of a sports team sponsor’s brand equity and whether the proposed structural relationships vary across countries. Field data are collected from sports team fans in two Asian economies/ countries, i.e. Taiwan and Indonesia. According to the findings, in general, team identification and perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team affect the sponsor’s credibility, which in turn has an impact on the sponsor’s brand equity. ‘Country’ moderates the above structural relationships. However, the effects of team identification and perceived congruence on the sponsor’s credibility do not receive supportive evidence in Taiwan and Indonesia respectively.

Research background Sponsorship, a communication medium that complements a firm’s marketing, promotion and advertising programmes (Walliser 2003), has been extensively used for marketing campaigns in recent years (Cornwell 2008). Of various sponsorship activities, sports sponsorship is one of the media most widely used to reach and communicate with target audiences (Roy & Cornwell 2004), to enhance positive perception of firms (Roy 2005) and to strengthen firms’ competitive advantages (Simmons & Becker-Olsen 2006). Because of its popularity, academics are paying heed to sports sponsorship (Rifon et al. 2004). In sports sponsorship research, studies related to the Received (in revised form): 9 December 2010

© 2011 The Market Research Society DOI: 10.2501/IJMR-53-6-811-829

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The determinants of the sports team sponsor’s brand equity

sponsor’s brand equity are relatively ignored and still in their infancy. Since the sponsor’s brand equity is the most important sports sponsorship goal (Keller 1993; Christensen 2006), more related studies should be encouraged so as to provide clearer guidance in increasing and enhancing the sponsor’s brand equity in the context of sports sponsorship. A review of the prior literature identifies a number of important sponsorship-related antecedents to consumers’ attitudes and their final behaviour intention towards the sponsor’s brand, such as team identification, perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team and the sponsor’s credibility (see, for example, Goldsmith et al. 2000; Speed & Thompson 2000; Gwinner & Swanson 2003; Rifon et al. 2004). Nevertheless, the ways in which these associations benefit the sports sponsor’s brand equity are unclear or inconclusive. In addition to this, the review of the prior literature also indicates that the existing literature in sports sponsorship is confined to developed economies/countries (e.g. Gwinner & Swanson 2003; Olson 2010; Speed & Thompson 2000) or pays attention only to a single-country context without cross-cultural comparisons (e.g. Close et al. 2006; Alexandris et al. 2007; see also Olson (2010) for a thorough review of the literature). Considering that the application of sports sponsorship in Asia (an economically less developed area that is home to more than half of the world’s population) is growing (Hong 2002), and that mainstream sports sponsorship theories and frameworks are formulated from the perspective of developed countries (Yang et al. 2008), understanding sports sponsorship effects in Asian marketplaces becomes critical. Moreover, the effects of sports sponsorship across border boundaries may vary (Olson 2010). Current literature needs to transcend market boundaries and take the cultural differences between individual Asian countries into consideration. In this study, an attempt is thus made to explore the effects of the aforementioned antecedents on the sponsor’s brand equity outside developed western economies/countries, especially in Taiwan and Indonesia in Asia. Taiwan and Indonesia represent Confucian and Islamic marketplaces, the two major Asian traditions that are culturally distinct from those of the West (cf. Huntington 1993). The differences in sponsorship effects between the two economies/countries are also compared. Such an attempt is reckoned to strengthen the significance of the understanding of the sponsorship effects in Asia. The current work is also deemed to contribute knowledge to international practitioners who are interested in Asian marketplaces and would like to benefit from the immediate and practical applications of current research findings.

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The remainder of the current paper begins with the proposal of a conceptual model and its related research hypotheses, followed by research methodology and empirical data analysis. Thereafter, conclusions, including research implications and future research, are discussed.

Research framework and hypotheses Based on prior literature, this study identifies the antecedents of the sponsor’s brand equity as sports team identification and perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team, which, through the sponsor’s credibility, benefit the sponsor’s brand equity (see the conceptual framework in Figure 1).

Team identification and sponsor credibility In this study, team identification refers to the perceived connectedness of individuals to the sports team (Ashforth & Mael 1989), while the sponsor’s credibility is communicated as the extent to which the sponsor is perceived as trustable and believable (Goldsmith et al. 2000). The purpose of individuals’ connectedness to their favourite sports team is to define themselves as a member of the team and to maintain their identification with the team (Fisher & Wakefield 1998). Identified sports team fans

Item identification

H1 Sponsor credibility

Perceived congruence

H3

Sponsor brand equity

H2

H4

Country

Figure 1 Conceptual research framework

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The determinants of the sports team sponsor’s brand equity

seek strong association with the team (Mael & Ashforth 1992) and view the fate of the team as their own (Ashforth & Mael 1989; Gwinner & Swanson 2003). Perceiving themselves as in-group members, fans who strongly identify with their favourite sports team will show in-group favouritism to other in-group members (Gwinner 2005). Through the sponsorship of a specific sports team, the sponsor will be perceived as aiding the team in accomplishing its goals (Gwinner 2005). Thus, the sponsor can obtain association with the sports team (cf. Meenaghan 2001) and will be recognised as an important partner (Hoeffler & Keller 2002) and an in-group member by fans (Gwinner & Swanson 2003). Consequently, fans are likely to show their favouritism (Roy & Cornwell 2004) and feel well disposed towards the sponsor (McDonald 1991). Eventually, the credibility of the sponsor will be created and enhanced among fans (Anderson 1971). Based on the aforementioned argument, the research therefore proposes that: H1: Higher identification of the sports team fan leads to higher sponsor credibility.

Perceived congruence and sponsor credibility In this study, perceived congruence refers to the relatedness, relevance, fitness or compatibility between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team as perceived by fans (Rifon et al. 2004). Sports team fans will collect and process relevant information related to the sponsor and the sponsored sports team, which are two individual entities probably without any prior connection (Rogers 2003). The perceived relatedness, relevance, fitness or compatibility between the two entities, when consistent with fans’ expectations (Simmons & Becker-Olsen 2006), will facilitate fans in making the connection of the match (Lafferty 2007). Eventually, image transference linking the two entities will be accomplished (Neijens et al. 2009) and the match between the two entities will become convincing rather than evoking scepticism (Rifon et al. 2004). Under such circumstances, fans’ altruism and positive attitudes towards the sponsor will be created and developed (Speed & Thompson 2000) and the sponsor’s credibility is thus formed (Rifon et al. 2004). Thus, the following hypothesis is formulated: H2: Higher perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team leads to higher sponsor credibility.

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Sponsor credibility and brand equity Brand equity reflects various types of brand-related information such as product characteristics and brand images (Keller 2003). Such brandrelated knowledge can reside in consumers’ memories (Roy & Cornwell 2004) and will have differential effects on their responses to marketing activities and advertising programmes (Keller 2008, p. 51) for different brands. Fans’ attention to the sponsored sports team will be transferred to the sponsor because of the sponsorship relationship (Gwinner 2005) and their interest will be aroused towards the marketing and advertising messages of the sponsor both inside and outside sporting contexts (Cornwell et al. 2005). Messages delivered by a more trustable and believable sponsor will be deemed more persuasive (Rifon et al. 2004) and the uniqueness of the sponsor will be more easily noticed and reside in fans’ memories (Keller 1993). Therefore, a higher level of preference for the sponsor’s marketing activities and advertising programmes will be formed (Goldsmith et al. 2000) and fans will show their loyalty to the sponsor. Eventually, the brand equity of the sponsor will be enhanced (Keller 1993). Based on the above deductive argument, this research hypothesises that: H3: Higher sponsor credibility leads to higher sponsor brand equity.

Moderating effect of ‘country’ Individuals from different countries inherit the pattern of their social and cultural lives (Pothukuchi et al. 2002). These patterns shape their personal characters and form their beliefs and values (Westerbeek & Smith 2003, pp.  176–177). Based on these beliefs and values, sports team fans in different countries make dissimilar and distinguishable attitudinal judgements towards sporting activities and sports sponsorship (Yeniyurt & Townsend 2003). For example, the manner and ways in which sports team fans view their in-group members can be different across countries (Gwinner 2005) and, therefore, their standpoints on what team identification should be can also be diverse across countries (cf. Dalakas & Kropp 2002). The notion of congruence between entities embodies a collection of culturally relevant beliefs and values (Merz et al. 2008), and perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team is therefore closely related to country/cultural

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contexts as well. Moreover, the fundamental bases of trustworthiness and believability may vary in different parts of the globe (Jarvenpaa et al. 1999), and thus the impact of the sponsor’s credibility upon sports sponsorship can be a function of nationality. Based on these contentions, this research therefore asserts that the structural relationships in the current context will be moderated by ‘country’, and the following hypothesis is formulated. H4: The structural relationships among team identification, perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team, the sponsor’s credibility, and the sponsor’s brand equity in the current context vary across countries.

Research methodology Scale measurements and questionnaire design The research predictors – that is, team identification and perceived congruence between the sponsor and the sponsored sports team – were measured using Mael and Ashforth’s (1992) six-item scale, and Speed and Thompson’s (2000) five-item scale, respectively. The research mediator, i.e. the sponsor’s credibility, was measured using Rifon et al.’s (2004) threeitem scale, while Yoo and Donthu’s (2001) four-item scale, a frequently used scale of overall brand equity (see, for example, Delgado-Ballester & Munuera-Aleman 2005; Delgado-Ballester & Hernandez-Espallardo 2008; Ruiz et al. 2008), was applied to measure the overall brand equity of the sponsor, i.e. the outcome variable. All research scales used seven-point Likert scales and are listed in the Appendix. As the scales were originally in English and the data were collected in largely non-English-speaking countries, the questionnaire was translated into local languages using a back-translation procedure (Reynolds et al. 1993). Bilinguals translated the questionnaire into the target languages (i.e. Mandarin in Taiwan and Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia), and the translated versions were then back-translated into the source language (i.e. English) by other translators. The original and back-translated versions were compared until no differences existed. A refinement of the questionnaire then proceeded with the involvement of two academics and one fan. The questionnaire was modified according to their comments and suggestions.

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Data collection As mentioned, data were collected in two Asian economies/countries, i.e. Confucian-rooted Taiwan (cf. Chang & Ding 1995) and the largest Islamic country – Indonesia (Noland 2005). The criteria for selecting specific sports teams in these two economies/countries were: (a) the teams had to play the most popular local team sport; (b) the teams needed to be engaged in visible local sports sponsorship activities with at least one major sponsor which had had a sponsorship relationship with the teams for at least one year; and (c) the teams had to have local fan clubs in order to ensure access to potential survey participants who possessed adequate related backgrounds. In Taiwan, the Sinon Bulls (a baseball team based in central Taiwan) and its major sponsor Acer (a computer manufacturer) were chosen. In Indonesia, PSIM (a soccer team based in Yogyakarta) and its major sponsor Djarum (a tobacco producer) were selected. Both fan clubs, which had more than 2000 registered fans to ensure the supply of adequate potential participants, were willing to cooperate in delivering questionnaires to their members (i.e. fans); 549 and 400 questionnaires were sent to respondents, respectively; 242 questionnaires from Taiwan and 232 from Indonesia were received. Response rates of 44.1% and 58.0% were produced in Taiwan and Indonesia, respectively.

Data analysis Sample description The profile of the participants from the two data sets is presented in Table  1. In Taiwan, the female proportion was slightly higher than the male proportion, while most participants were aged between 16 and 30 years old, had an income of less than US$330 per month, and had earned a college/university degree. The sample in Indonesia showed that males were the dominant participants, each proportion in different age distributions seemed equal, and most participants had an income of less than US$100 per month and a senior high school diploma. The profiles of the two samples were further compared for the introduction of control variables in the proposed model. This was because equal distribution of demographic variables of participants in different samples collected from different locations is important for cross-country comparison (van Herk et al. 2005). Following Agarwal et al.’s (2010) procedure, a K-S non-parametric test was conducted. Three out of the four profile variables were significantly different between the two samples,

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The determinants of the sports team sponsor’s brand equity

Table 1 Sample demographic characteristics (Taiwan/Indonesia)

Gender Male Female Total Age ≤15 16–20 21–25 26–30 31–35 36–40 ≥40 Total

Freq.

%

104/219 138/13 242/232

43.0/5.6 57.0/94.4 100.0/100.0

1/19 68/41 122/40 41/46 6/31 3/39 1/16 242/232

0.4/8.2 28.1/17.7 50.4/17.2 17.0/19.8 2.5/13.4 1.2/16.8 0.4/6.9 100.0/100.0

Income ≤US$330/≤US$100 US$330–660/US$100–155 US$660–990/US$155–206 US$990–1320/US$206–360 ≥US$1320/≥US$360 Total Education Elementary school Junior high school Senior high school Junior college/university Master’s and above Total

Freq.

%

147/148 17/32 41/28 25/15 12/9 242/232

60.8/63.8 7.0/13.8 16.9/12.0 10.3/6.5 5.0/3.9 100.0/100.0

0/13 2/43 21/141 187/33 32/2 242/232

0.0/5.6 0.8/18.5 8.7/60.8 77.3/14.2 13.2/0.9 100.0/100.0

which included gender, age and education (gender: K-S(Z) = 5.60,. p = 0.000; age: K-S(Z) = 3.99, p = 0.000; income: K-S(Z) = 1.09, p = 0.204; education: K-S(Z) = 8.21, p = 0.000). According to van Herk et al.’s (2005) suggestion, these three variables were then introduced as control variables in the multi-group comparison of the proposed structural model.

Data accuracy analysis The scale mean scores are presented in Table 2. Individual scale items and test summaries related to research scale accuracy (i.e. reliability and validity) are discussed below.

Reliability test Scale reliability was tested using an item-to-total value of 0.3, a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of 0.7, a composite reliability (C.R.) index of 0.7 and an Average Variance Explained (AVE) value of 0.5. The results of both Taiwanese and Indonesian data sets are shown in Table 2. As can be observed, all item-to-total and Cronbach’s alpha values were above the thresholds; all the C.R. estimates exceeded the criterion values; all the AVE estimates were greater or close to 0.5. Thus, the results provided evidence for marginal to acceptable scale reliability.

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Table 2  Accuracy analysis statistics (Taiwan/Indonesia)

Research constructs Item 1 Item 2 Item 3 TI Item 4 Item 5 Item 6 Item 1 Item 2 PC Item 3 Item 4 Item 5 Item 1 SC Item 2 Item 3 Item 1 Item 2 BE Item 3 Item 4

Cronbach’s test ItemMean value* total α value 0.45/0.68 0.45/0.65 0.50/0.75 5.29/6.07 0.78/0.84 0.67/0.56 0.70/0.55 0.44/0.55 0.64/0.58 0.75/0.70 4.61/4.67 0.68/0.53 0.83/0.81 0.58/0.70 d --0.73/0.71 0.73/0.71 0.85/0.83 5.76/6.11 d --0.84/0.68 0.89/0.83 4.76/5.27 0.94/0.91 0.85/0.85 0.82/0.82

C.R.

AVE

0.83/0.85 0.46/0.48

0.83/0.81 0.56/0.52

0.86/0.83 0.77/0.72

0.93/0.94 0.78/0.72

Factor loading 0.48C/0.77C 0.49C/0.71C 0.55C/0.85C 0.83C/0.63C 0.86C/0.58C 0.46C/0.58C 0.76C/0.66C 0.83C/0.80C 0.74C/0.59C 0.66C/0.82C d --0.75C/0.88C 0.98C/0.81C d --0.88C/0.70C 0.94C/0.87C 0.87C/0.93C 0.86C/0.88C

Highest S.V.

0.14/0.14

0.34/0.12

0.19/0.14

0.34/0.13

TI = Team Identification; PC = Perceived Congruence; SC = Sponsor Credibility; BE = Brand Equity; C.R. =  Composite Reliability; AVE = Average Variance Extracted; S.V. = Shared Variance * Scores: 1 = Strongly disagree; 4 = Neutral; 7 = Strongly agree a Significance level

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