Shirt Sponsorships and Brand Image Impact on Fan Loyalty

Abstract

Scholars have established that the success of professional football clubs is dependent on relationship marketing, a concept described as the process of establishing, maintaining, and enhancing relations with consumers (fans) and other commercial stakeholders for profits. Sponsorships, especially shirt sponsorship contracts, are one of the leading and most significant contributors to the revenue collected in the football industry. In the English Premier League (EPL), in the UK, shirts sponsors have been established to account for more than 30% of the revenues collected. Fans loyalty is mostly demonstrated by consumer involvement and behaviour, which can be described as the level in which fans are engaged in the different sporting activities and consumption of clubs’ merchandise. Brand image is also closely associated with sponsors, an association that significantly influences the overall revenues generated by football clubs. Sponsorships are vital elements in the UK football industry, a fundamental marketing strategy that primarily contributes to the professional football clubs’ revenues and success. The study adopts a thematic analysis research design, where both inductive and deductive approaches will be employed to explore and interpret existing findings and conclusions on the effects of shirts sponsorship. Through a developed conceptual framework and proposed themes, the study deduced that shirts sponsorship impacts consumers’ attachment, increases involvement, positive attitude, purchase intention, and fans loyalty. The brand association has been established to lead to positively impact consumers’ attitude and their purchase intention.

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background Information

Football is among the most enjoyed and popular sports around the globe, with an average fanbase of more than 3.5 billion fans (Dawson, 2016). Surveys have also indicated that over 260 million people practice football around the world (Pledge Sports, 2017). As such, football is one of the most popular and significant sports industries worldwide, specifically in European countries (Ozanian, 2016). An annual review conducted by Deloitte in 2017 indicated that the ’big five’ football leagues are European leagues, including England, Spain, Germany, France, and Italy. These leagues have also been established to have generated consolidated revenue of more than €1.4 billion during the 2015/16 season alone (Barnard, Ross, Savage, & Winn, 2017). In the same context, England’s football market has made billions in revenues, where all the professional football clubs have significantly and directly contributed to the overall success of the sports entity in the UK. Nonetheless, scholars have established that the success of football clubs is dependent on relationship marketing, a concept described as the process of establishing, maintaining, and enhancing relations with consumers (fans) and other commercial stakeholders for profits (Ozanian, 2016). Accordingly, it can be comprehended that the success of football clubs is strongly dependent on fans’ attitudes and behaviour towards football institutions.

Sponsorships, especially shirt sponsorship contracts, are one of the leading and most significant contributors to the revenue collected in the football industry – these are fundamentally accompanied by media rights (Barnard et al., 2017). Bühler and Nufer (2010) conferred that shirt sponsorship plays a fundamental role in all professional football industry, primarily because they contribute a significant share of these sports teams’ overall revenue. For instance, in the English Premier League (EPL), in the UK, shirts sponsors have been established to account for more than 30% of the revenues collected (Barnard, Ross, Savage, & Winn, 2017). An excellent example is the shirt sponsorship received by Manchester United from Chevrolet. The sponsors paid a total amount of $80 million every year (Amorim & Almeida, 2015). With the same understanding, fans, who also double up as the consumers, also play an essential role in the contribution to the overall revenue collected in football clubs. The comprehension is that the fans are the consumers of the clubs’ merchandise, determine television viewership and attendance (Banerjee, 2017). Barnard et al. (2017) further pointed out that European league fans’ loyalty and consumption behaviour accounts and significantly contribute to the football clubs’ overall revenues. For example, Barnard, Ross, Savage, and Winn (2017) established that English Premier League fans contribute to more than 17% of football clubs’ revenues. The same is experienced in other European leagues such as German Bundesliga, where fans loyalty and consumption behaviours account for more than 19% of the revenue collected.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

With the many resources and impressive size of the football industry market, it is undoubtedly that the shirt sponsorship and brand image influences consumers’ behaviour and fans’ loyalty. However, the topic has not yet been explored within the business and marketing field—specifically, the relationship and impact of shirt sponsorship on fans, clubs, and the entire football industry. Fans are the most essential and primary consumers of the football industry; as such, it is of significance for football clubs to establish and maintain a durable relationship with its fans (Decrop & Derbaix, 2010, p. 588). Fans loyalty is mostly demonstrated by the consumer involvement and behaviour, which can be described as the level in which fans are engaged in the different sporting activities and consumption of clubs’ merchandise – through purchasing and advertisements (Kinley, Josiam, & Lockett, 2010). The understanding is that the higher the degree of fans loyalty, the higher the level of attachment and involvement – shirt sponsorships enables fans to demonstrate their loyal as they purchase clubs’ merchandise (Kinley, Josiam, & Lockett, 2010).

Brand image is also closely associated with sponsors, an association that significantly influences the overall revenues generated by football clubs. Sports sponsorship a relationship described to be a business-to-business (B2B) affiliation between sports entities and corporate sponsors. Bühler and Nufer (2010) further discussed that that one of the world’s leading sponsorships around the globe is the English premier league by Barclays – one of the biggest banks in the UK. Such sponsorships in football are much more than just sponsorship deals and contracts, and they represent the brand images. Sponsorships are vital elements in the UK football industry, a fundamental marketing strategy that primarily contributes to the professional football clubs’ revenues and success (Groot & Ferwerda, 2015). In terms of brand image, shirts sponsorship is presented in different methods, with the most popular forms being uniforms, training gears, and branding of sports facilities such as stadiums. The main objective of shirt sponsorships and brand image is to influence consumers’ behaviours towards purchasing clubs’ merchandise and fans’ loyalty to their clubs. Accordingly, this research projects is focused on exploring the impact of shirts sponsorships and brand images on consumer behaviour and fans’ loyalty within the UK football industry. More specifically, the project seeks to investigate the correlation between football clubs, their fans and sponsors, with emphasis on the effect of brand and shirt sponsorships.

1.3 Objectives of the Research

From the introductory discussion presented above, this research projects seeks to investigate and explore the following objectives:

  1. To establish how consumers’ behaviour and fan loyalty is impacted by shirt sponsorship
  2. To determine how brand image and shirt sponsorships influence the overall success of football clubs

1.3.1 Research Question

  1. To what extend do shirt sponsorships impact consumer behaviour and fan loyalty?
  2. To what extend does brand image impact consumer behaviour and fan loyalty?

1.4 Scope and Limitation of the Study

1.4.1 Scope of the Study

The research paper will consist of six chapters, where the first chapter, the introduction, presents the proposed research questions as well as the justification of the chosen topic. Chapter two, the literature review, will discuss previous research work on the subject matters as well as a more in-depth understanding of the main concepts, football clubs, shirt sponsorships, consumer behaviour, and fans loyalty). The chapter will also highlight on the existing research gaps while giving a contextual explanation and understanding of the study subject. Chapter three, methodology, will focus on outlining the research methods used for the investigation. The section will provide a detailed plan of research study, and procedures, along with the analysis approach – thematic analysis of existing evidence on the subject matter. Chapter four, results, will present the established findings and descriptive findings. The last and final section will be the discussion and conclusion sections, where key research findings will be discussed about the established research questions, implications, and contributions.

1.4.2 Limitations of the Study

From the introductory discussions, it can be observed that there is a deficiency of up-to-date literature about the effect of shirt sponsorship on football clubs’ success, consumer behaviour, and fans’ loyalty. Few literatures is discussing how sponsors’ relationships with football clubs impact consumers’ behaviour and attitude towards brands of football clubs. The existing studies only focus on the relationship between sports clubs and fans or the connection linking sponsors to fanbases. Nonetheless, no studies have investigated how consumers evaluate shirts sponsorship for brand loyalty. Therefore, this research study will address the existing literature gap while providing a basis for future research on shirt sponsorships and consumer perception and involvement in football clubs.

CHAPTER TWO

2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Introduction

The football industry is undeniably one of the most influential sports across the globe; nonetheless, fans have also been established to play an important and vital role in the success of the professional football clubs (Dawson, 2016). Fans play a significant role in the generation of revenues and the creation of value. Ozanian (2016) also pointed out that the football industry generated impressive amounts of income, thanks to clubs’ sponsorship deals and fans’ loyalty. Over the recent past, the football industry has slowly become an interesting academic research subject. Many studies have explored the social-cultural importance of sports, fans’ loyalty, attitude, and consumption behaviors, as well as the economic impact of sports (Groot & Ferwerda, 2015). This section seeks to deliberate on the connection between shirt sponsorship in football clubs in the UK as well as how shirt sponsorships influence fans’ consumption behaviour and loyalty.

2.2 Shirt Sponsorship in Football

Previous studies have also pointed out that sponsorship contracts have played a vital role in the growth of the UK sports industry (Klidas, van Assen & Oldenhof, 2015). Sponsorship contracts, for example, kits sponsorships, have enabled some football clubs to generate billions form the contracts. An excellent example is the Chevrolet shirt sponsorship to Manchester United that paid a whooping USD$80 million every year (Amorim & Almeida, 2015). Such impressive amounts demonstrate how support deals significantly contribute to the success of football clubs in the European leagues. As such, it can be observed that sponsorship contracts play a crucial role in the success of football clubs as well as their expansion and growth. Klidas, van Assen and Oldenhof (2015) further noted that the English football club’s success relies on their fans and sponsors relationships, whose main goals are often to realize robust relationships and success.

Shirt sponsorship is one of the vital marketing tools adopted in many different projects; for instance, businesses use a shirt sponsorship approach to market their organizations and projects (Coelho, Amorim & Almeida, 2019). In the EPL, shirt sponsorship is considered to be a crucial contributor to the success of football clubs; the same rationale explains why shirt sponsorships are common and extremely popular in sports activities. Lilja and Isacsson (2017) further discussed that shirt sponsorships are a useful tool through which organizations can realize a positive consumer attitude towards brand equity and a brand image along with the ultimate purchase intentions. The authors further noted that sponsorship deals are based on businesses-to-business agreements between sponsors and sports entities. In the relationships, both parties gain, where football clubs gain monetary resources and earn loyal fans, and ultimately improved team quality. Lilja and Isacsson (2017) concluded that, in general, sponsorship enhances brand image and brand equity, thus leading to increased sales and paybacks.

With the same understanding, Lilja and Isacsson (2017) further discussed that professional clubs’ sponsors are objected to pursue marketing goals, which are aimed at increasing the overall sales of sponsors products through increased purchase intention from loyal fans – leading to positive consumer awareness and attitude towards a specific brand. Additionally, Balcazar (2018) also pointed out that the primary objective of shirt sponsorships is to orientate a positive attitude and consumer behaviour towards sponsors’ products. The rationale is made on the comprehension that successful football clubs are associated with increased fanatism towards a team (Koronios, et al, 2016). Wakefield and Bennett (2010) further suggested that shirt sponsorships associated with higher-performing clubs tend to result in increased positive consumer behaviour among fans, increased loyal fans, and a positive attitude towards sports club sponsors. The authors also pointed out that the opposite effect is experienced with underperforming teams, where fans tend to create distance between less successful teams and themselves (Wakefield & Bennett, 2010).

Accordingly, with the monetary resources provided by sponsors, shirt sponsorships, and branding create positive fan-brand connections and loyalty based on a feeling of indebtedness and reciprocity from the fans (Al-Nsour, 2020). However, McAlister et al. (2012) also noted that despite the monetary resources provided, success is dependent on the outcome related to the overall stock prices and product sales. It is on the same basis that consumers’ attitudes and behavioural issues are measured towards brand awareness, brand recognition, sponsors’ image, and purchase intentions. From the same point of view, Alonso and O’Shea (2013) deliberated that shirt sponsorships mostly result in positive outcomes concerning team performances, football clubs’ success, and overall fans’ attachment and involvement to team activities. Furthermore, the authors pointed out that fans’ purchase intention and attitude towards sponsors’ products are significantly improved when a football club’s performance improves and is perceived to be a winning team – this also results in increased sponsors’ image, brand recognition, and awareness. Crompton (2015), however, warned that the opposite outcomes could be experiences with teams that are associated with underperformance, losing teams. Brands that are sponsoring low performing teams tend to be associated with inferiority and failure, which directly affects sponsors’ and brand image and thus overall purchase intension and sales.

2.3 Shirts Sponsorship and Fans Attitude

Previous studies established that shirt sponsorships result in an overall positive effect on consumers’ attitudes towards their teams, sponsors, and sponsors’ products (Kim & Jung, 2011). Wang et al. (2012) also pointed out that consumers’ attitudes towards a sporting club and sponsors’ image and product are created by cognitive aspects such as values and expectancy; that eventually turns into motivation and fan loyalty. Over time, desires lead to positive consumer behaviour, such as increased brand awareness and purchase intention (Wang et al., 2012). On the whole, shirt sponsorships are associated with positive consumer attitudes towards the sponsors and their products. Therefore, it can be established that shirts sponsorships encourage fans to increased their attachments and involvement, seeking more information about sponsors and their products and thus the development of purchase intention (Wang et al., 2012). Parker and Fink (2010) agree with the finding that increased fanatism towards a football team is associated with a positive consumer attitude towards the sponsors and their products. With the same conclusions, several studies have also supported the findings indicating that there is a positive connection between shirt sponsorship and a positive attitude towards sponsors, increased purchase intention, and brand image (Martinez & Janney, 2015; Gillooly, Medway, Warnaby & Grimes, 2020).

From a different perspective, football club fans are susceptible to development ‘self-concepts’ where increased purchase intention and sales of sponsors products are perceived to have some symbolic indebtedness meaning (Silva & Veríssimo, 2020). Furthermore, fans attitude towards a football club significantly influences their purchase intention on clubs’ merchandise and sponsors products (Angell et al., 2016). In support of the findings, Wang et al. (2012) also indicated that fans’ willingness to support a winning team and sponsors is mirrored through consumer attitude, measured through purchase intention. Accordingly, endorsing winning team is a valuable marketing strategy adopted by companies to influence a positive consumer relationship towards their brands, primarily because increased fan attachment and involved often implied high purchase intention and increase sales (Cheong, Pyun, & Leng, 2019). Therefore, it can be understood that increased fan attachment and involvement are positively associated with increased purchase intention, increased brand awareness as well as a positive perception towards sponsors.

Nonetheless, Amorim and Almeida (2015) stated that the opposite effects and outcomes could also be experiences, especially when rival companies sponsor rival clubs. The authors further explained that considering rivalry, one of the possible consequences of shirt sponsorships is negative impacts on consumers’ attitude and behaviour; decreased purchase intention from rival club supporters (Amorim & Almeida, 2015). Cheong, Pyun, and Leng (2019), further discussed that, in most cases, sports fans are usually aware of rival teams sponsors and their products. This increased awareness further suggests that fans from rival teams will often dislike and avoid products of companies sponsoring their rival teams. In the same context, previous studies have also explored the possibility of rival teals having the same sponsors. Bee and Dalakas (2015) established that it is complicated, confusing, and somewhat impossible for one company to sponsor opposing teams. Nonetheless, it would result in a negative attitude from fans. From another point of view, joint sponsorship of rival teams would not overlook the issue of brand preferences and thus would lack approval from fans.

2.4 Shirts Sponsorship and Fans Loyalty

Fandom and fan loyalty are undeniably correlated to each other, and one cannot endure without the other; to become a fan, one has to be loyal. As such, as indicated by Tsiotsou (2013), fans’ loyalty within the sports context is demonstrated through the development of a strong emotional attachment and involvements; and all attributes associated with the sports team. Besides, similar conclusions have been established, indicating that increased fan involvement is essential in the criterion for the segmentation of football fans. Kunkel et al. (2019) further indicated that fans’ loyalty is influenced by some sense of irrationality concerning their consumption behaviour of sponsors’ products or club merchandise. In the same context, when it comes to purchasing decisions, loyal football fans tend to lack the ability to make rational and real choices. Loyal fans only consume products associated with their teams and are not likely to purchase alternative products related to rival clubs. Furthermore, in business, loyalty is often perceived to be a critical factor in companies’ success (Dreisbach et al., 2018). Accordingly, it can be understood that the high level of fans loyalty observed in the football industry is one of the key reasons why these football clubs succeed.

In the same context, fans’ loyalty is a concept that influences both consumers’ attitudes and consumption behaviours. For example, Walsh, Green, and Cottingham (2017) stated that consumer behaviour is significantly shaped by loyalty, which leads to repeat purchases, frequency in buying, among other repetitive behaviours. Fans loyalty is also associated with increased attachment and involvement in sports teams’ activities, an aspect which is also an essential sports team’s success (Eddy, 2014). The understanding is that increased attachment relates to the psychological connections that fans have to them towards their teams in anticipation of teams’ success (Angell et al., 2016: Weissman, 2014). Koronios et al. (2016) further explained that teams’ attachment influences fan increased involvement, attitude, and behaviours, which ultimately leads to a positive effect on the club and sponsors. With similar conclusions, Fayrene and Lee (2011) established that increased fandom, demonstrated through increased fans involvement, indicated a positive relationship between sponsors and football clubs. It is with the same understanding that fans become emotionally attached, thus increased attendance to sports events and the purchase of teams’ merchandise and sponsors products (Koronios et al., 2016).

2.5 Literature Gap

Previous literature has focused on examining the influence of sponsorship on fans’ attitudes and consumption behaviour. Although fans play a crucial role in the success of football clubs, sponsors have been determined to also play a significant role, especially in providing monetary resources. The success of football clubs and sports sponsorship contracts largely depends on fans’ loyalty, involvement, and attachment to their preferred teams, as well as their attitude towards sponsors’ products.  From the literature discussion, it has been observed that previous scholarly studies on the subject matter have primarily concentrated on the relationship between fans, their teams, and sponsors. Nonetheless, little prior studies are deliberating on fans’ experience towards both football clubs and sponsors. Limited prior studies are delving into the correlation between fans’ attitude and consumption behaviour with regards to sponsors and brand image. There is little knowledge focusing on the effects of football club sponsorships on fans’ loyalty and consumption behaviour towards the sale of sponsors’ products.

CHAPTER THREE

3.0 METHODOLOGY

3.1 Research Methods

The research study will use secondary data to conduct a qualitative analysis of the impact of shirt sponsorship and brand image on consumer behaviour and fan loyalty. Primarily, the study seeks to utilize secondary qualitative data, review of previous sources on the subject matter. The analysis of the literature of secondary sources is reliable sources where rich data about the subject matter can be retrieved with little work under a short period. Furthermore, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, secondary sources are the only available data through which the effect of sports sponsorship on fans’ loyalty and consumer behaviour can be examined. Therefore, to understand the impact of shirt sponsorship on consumer purchase intention and fan loyalty, the study will conduct a literature review research design to analyse and interpret existing evidence with regards to the stated research objectives and research questions. Through the analysis, both inductive and deductive approaches will be employed, mainly because the study aims to comprehend how shirt sponsorship in football clubs’ influences fans loyalty and consumption behaviour.

3.2 Research Design

The study will adopt a thematic analysis research design, where both inductive and deductive approaches will be employed to explore and interpret existing findings and conclusions on the subject matter. The understanding is that previous research work has mainly focused on the relationship between fans and sports sponsorship or the antecedents of fans loyalty; however, little studies have conducted comprehensive frameworks to understand how consumer attitude is influenced by shirt sponsorship. Accordingly, a review of previous literature, along with a detailed framework, will be utilized to develop themes and propositions to determine the impact of shirt sponsorship on consumers’ attitudes, purchase intention, and fan loyalty. To develop a conceptual understanding of the subject matter, a comprehensive search of peer-reviewed articles and journals will be conducted on online databases, libraries, and search engines. The study seeks to identify constructs of previous research studies aimed at comprehending the effect of shirt sponsorship (sponsorship) on consumer behaviour and fans loyalty concerning team brand experience correlated to consumers’ attitudes derived from the team and sponsor-related stimuli.

3.3 Research Procedure

The literature search will drown on a thorough review of related literature to football clubs’ sponsorships, team brands, and fans’ loyalty. The literature search will be done on electronic databases; JSTOR, EBSCO Host, Google Scholar, and ProQuest. The identification criteria will entail the analysis of articles and journals’ titles through the consideration of key terms related to sports sponsorship, football club sponsorship, shirt sponsorship, fans loyalty and fans attitude towards sports sponsorship, brand image, brand association, and loyalty. Cross-referencing of bibliographies will also be used to identify prior studies. In the search, more than 500 articles and journals were identified; however, only about 12 peer-review journals were selected for the study; where only recent studies from the past decade were included.

 

3.3.1 PRISMA Chart

Figure 1: PRISMA Chart (Source: Own)

3.3.2 Conceptual Framework

The figure below depicts the developed framework demonstrated that the relationship between sponsorship and team brand fans experiences. The figure further elaborates on the linkages between team success, fans’ behaviours, and influence on fans’ loyalty – shirts sponsorship impact on consumers’ attitude and response to sponsors’ products.

 

3.4 Data Analysis Procedure

In relation to the developed conceptual framework, the study will utilize the designed themes and propositions to explore and explain the interaction between football clubs, sponsors, and fans’ involvement. The inductive and deductive analysis aims to provide ap comprehensive comprehension of the impact of shirts sponsorship (sponsorship) on fans’ attitudes towards sponsors’ products and loyalty towards their preferred teams.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

4.0 FINDINGS AND RESULTS

4.1 Theme: Sponsorship Brand Experience

4.1.2 Fans Attitude towards Sponsoring Brand

Organizations make strategic marketing investments through sports sponsorship; such trends have become standard across the sporting world. Companies brand and display their logos, colours, and slogans in websites, club facilities, and in related sporting venues. Biscaia et al. (2014) refers to marketing as planning and enacting marketing tasks to build and communicate an enterprise to a sponsor, which means that the partners engaged in a sports sponsorship deal gain mutual benefits. Sports entity profits from monetary resources, while the sponsors’ benefits are associated with increased sales of clubs merchandised and sponsors products (Da Silva et al., 2017).

Studies suggest that a fan is more likely to purchase from a business that supports the team they support; nevertheless, loyalty and purchasing behaviour among fans is a complicated relationship, purchasing will have started before a purchase is made (Da Silva et al., 2017; Stevens & Rosenberger, 2012). For instance, past brand and sponsorship experience affects the current partnership brand experience. In this literature, the definition of sponsorship used is based on Kent et al., (2018) context. Therefore, Sponsorship brand experience can be referred to as the consumers’ behavioural reactions triggered by a brand-related sponsor – incentives that form part of the logo, promotional activities, communication, and hospitality setting, which means, describing each element of the brand sponsorship experience and associations that will influence purchase by fans.

4.1.2 Sponsorship Awareness

The promotion of a brand to raise awareness among consumers can be achieved under specific environments in which consumers increasingly recognise certain brands as associated with successful teams (Ngan et al., 2011). In the same context, Moyer et al. (2015) discussed that consumers’ ability to remember certain brands without mentioning product categories is perceived to be brans recall, an aspect termed to be clients’ ability to identify sponsors products by associating the product with shirt sponsorship of a sports team. Therefore, brand awareness within professional sports is supporters familiarizing with the sponsor by recognizing and recalling the partner’s products.

Chen et al. (2013) point out that product-sport relationship in sports can be solidified by a consistent display of sponsors’ names and products in sporting events; correspondingly, Stevens and Rosenberger (2012) added that fans who are more involved in sports team activities have more knowledge of club matters, such as sponsorship information. Moreover, sponsorship awareness among club supporters is higher among those fans who attend sporting events consistently (Biscaia et al., 2014). Nonetheless, fans are subjected to chaotic sports arenas full of various sponsors. Hence, a supporter’s ability to identify an enterprise brand can be distorted, implying that fans’ loyalty and positive attitude towards sponsors enhance market status along with increased sponsor awareness among supporters of a football club.

Ngan et al. (2011) had the view that creating brand awareness is the first step that can influence a supporter’s interest in the sponsors’ products or services and consequently trigger the urge to make actual purchases. Also, Da Silva et al. (2017) noted that promoting partnership awareness contributes indirectly to fans’ intentions to make purchases – by creating a positive attitude towards the sponsor. Therefore, sponsorship awareness is an essential antecedent to supposed sponsor image and attitude towards the investor. Similarly, Stevens and Rosenberger (2012) pointed out that sponsor awareness among fans exists before a person can scrutinize sponsorship fit between the sponsor and the team. Hence, no formidable relationship can be made between perception and the resulting outcomes of a sponsorship event. Though it is essential to create awareness before the partnership deal, the knowledge does not automatically establish a more significant positive attitude geared to the sponsor (Roy et al., 2018).

The concept behind sponsor-team fit or match has been studied before Biscaia et al., (2017), and when looked from a broad scope, the term “fit” in this context, can be defined as a strategic match between organizations and sponsored party in business or common interest. Sponsorship fit can emanate from various factors, such as a portfolio of the brand relationship between the clients and their associates. Likewise, Roy et al. (2018), established that the marketing association between sports entities and marketers is often operationalized, and sponsorship fit can be deduced to be a common concern from both stakeholders. Thought supporters might possess a sizable collection of distinctive brand assumptions from other encounters (beyond the team), the suggested model recognizes the significance of the group through the sponsorship-team fit is not directly linked to the brand. However, studies have shown that sponsor-team fit has a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes towards the sponsor and their intention to use the products or services (Biscaia et al., 2017). Notwithstanding, perceived goodwill by fans exist as a superseding variable in the partnership agreement, and clients’ attitudes held regarding the sponsor; besides, assumptions concerning the consumer relations, motives play a significant role in influencing purchases.

4.2 Theme 2: Fans Perception on Sponsors and Team

4.2.1 Exclusivity/Ubiquity of the Sponsor

The use of single corporations to sponsor and promote a sporting entity is becoming outdated as teams embrace multiple enterprises as partners. For instance, according to Chen et al. (2013), it was discussed that the success achieved by Real Madrid FC in the 2013/2014 soccer season, attracted thirteen willing sponsors. Presently, corporates have shifted their attention towards engaging in sports sponsorships contracts simultaneously (ubiquity), while sponsored sports teams/entities have access to their sponsor’s portfolio (Ngan et al., 2011). Although a brand may have countless reasons to engage in a variety of sports deals, it may be exposed to various risks that may include a rival opponent rallying its supporters against embracing the company’s products or services. Moreover, sponsors with many deals may be labelled as opportunistic by fans, consequently creating a poor perception of the corporation when compared to on that supports one favourite team (Biscaia et al., 2017). With the same understanding, promoters with multiple sponsorships are perceived to be less committed to the team and, as a result, lowering credibility issues and negative fuel attitudes among the club supporters.

4.2.2 Effect of Exclusivity/Ubiquity on Fans Attitude and Perceived Goodwill

The supporters’ perception of the sponsors’ motives and philanthropy in the investment agreement defines perceived goodwill. A study by Seok et al. (2012) suggested that customers’ discernment towards sponsor goodwill determines the perceived attitude towards the promoter. Thus, consumers will most likely have a formidable perception of a sponsor’s motives if the relationship fit is suitable. However, brand loyalty plays an influential role in attitudes held against a sponsor. Therefore, a positive or negative attitude towards a brand is influenced by perceived goodwill as well as attitudinal loyalty to the brand. Kent et al. (2018) thus discussed that such attitudes are created among consumers, fans via increased involvement, through direct association and experience with brands (psychological tendency) (Kent et al., 2018). The ideology of Psychological tendency is biased in that it stations clients to evaluate sponsors either positively or negatively. Thus, the overall attitude towards a brand represents a customer’s evaluation of the event sponsor.

Additionally, supporting a brand through developing positive attitudes towards the sponsor raises the effectiveness of the agreement; this is because healthy attitudes have a substantial effect on clients’ behaviour. Besides, customers tend to acquire constructive opinions for the promoter when a feeling of value is planted in their beliefs (Oliveira, 2019). For instance, if a supporter strongly believes that the sponsorship agreement is valuable to the club and reduces overall expenses that lead to lower ticket prices, then such beliefs will create a positive attitude towards the sponsor. Biscaia et al. (2017) carried out research involving two promoters of a professional sporting club. They realized that the fans’ attitudes held towards the investor enterprises were a firm indicator of intentions to purchase. Besides, Oliveira (2019) established a model criterion for comprehending sponsorship impacts, emphasizing that an optimistic attitude is crucial in determining fans’ actual purchases from the sponsors’ brands.

Therefore, the supporters’ attitudes towards a sponsor and brand profoundly influence the purchasing intentions and action for the product (Oliveira, 2019). Whereas intention to make a purchase cannot be equated or related to actual buying, it is a significant indicator that guides the consumer behaviour towards a brand acquisition. In the same context, Mauray and Mishra (2012) pointed out that increased purchase intention is a significant indicator that shirt sponsorship positively impacts consumers’ attitudes and fans’ loyalty. Consequently, the philosophy behind the idea of planned behaviour theory represents the basis for the proposition of behavioural intent of how far a consumer is willing to go in an attempt to practice particular behaviour. Similarly, Roy et al., (2018) noted that customers with firm behavioural intentions could be motivated to indulge in behaviour and consequently put in more efforts to achieve the objectives

4.3 Theme: Team Brand experience

Maurya and Mishra (2012) describe a brand as a feature that identifies goods or services from an enterprise as unique from other brands. Therefore, a brand may constitute different components, including the team sponsored. Thus, a brand can be described as internal behaviour and brand responses by consumers induced by product-related stimuli that form part of the brand identity and design. For example, the brand experiences from the Arsenal football club after they received the Emirates sponsorship, evolved to be on that surrounds increased involvement, interaction, emotions, beliefs, game experiences and relatable encounters with the team (Moyer et al., 2015).

4.3.1 Past Fan Behaviour

A fan’s history relating to sporting activities can be analysed from ticket purchases to the frequency of match attendance for a specific season or over a given duration; additionally, the fan’s actions concerning the club. Such activities include following the team’s social media handle accounts, engaging in club content on the internet, and the cumulative number of years the fan has been a member of the club (Zaharia et al., 2016). Regardless of the information acquired from the fan background study, not all previous behaviour is relevant for everyone. Some fans may not participate directly in every activity by the club, and they may consume the products via a media platform. In support of the established findings, Roy et al. (2018) discussed that consumer behaviour shirt sponsorship leads to positive consumer behaviour which translates to increased fans attachment and involvement. Importantly, comprehending the significant roles of the fans to team-related activities.

These roles are essential in cementing the links between the team and the partnership. Biscaia et al. (2014) suggest that when people are subjected to rewarding engagements, they become responsive to the stimuli. Sports clubs act as a vital sponsorship platform that enterprises utilize to communicate with real and potential customers. Therefore, fans and spectators of certain sports events are subjected continuously to promoters anytime they occur (Biscaia et al., 2014). Consequently, stadia thrill that fans experience influence supporters’ attentiveness towards the overall arena including, sponsors, additionally Biscaia et al., 2014 reported that many fans become aware and get accustomed to the team’s sponsors during home events. More so, partnership agreements awareness was influenced positively by the supporters’ loyalty behaviour.

Additionally, fans’ emotional and thrilling effects while in the sporting arena influence their level of attentiveness to sport surroundings, including the presence of sponsors branding. For instance, supporters relate and identify with their club’s sponsors from home games. Biscaia et al. (2014) reiterate that loyal behaviour portrayed by fans influence sponsorship awareness.

4.4 Theme: Supporters Past Behaviour Against Sponsors Awareness

Fans consumption behaviour for a team’s products can be a significant motivator for the advancement of brand association. Ngan et al. (2011) deliberated that brand image depends on the actual services or products provided to the fans, mirrored through customer and brand experience. For example, brand experience is directly linked to customers’ perceptions and attitudes. Therefore, these insights are used in formulating a conceptual framework that highly considers fans’ past experiences in developing brand relations (Zaharia et al., 2016). The justification behind this assumption is founded on the fact that supporters often involve their emotions to the game and the respective teams that they support. Therefore, past trends hold essential information that can be used to understand the fans of a team and consumer purchases about brand associations. Moyer et al. (2015) pointed out that previous records of attendance trends were directly linked to their supporters’ feelings towards the game and determined future loyalty. Thus, it is probable that spectators’ trends and history of the fans affect brand associations and the resulting team’s responses.

4.4.1 Past Behaviour on Brand Association and Loyalty

All cases of association between organizations and society are established on service delivery. Therefore, the entire relation of sponsorship and customer experience can be described as a service. Attendance associations are linked to the thoughts and feelings formed during an actual match day; these include many dimensions derived from the match attendance (Zaharia et al., 2016). Da Silva et al. (2017) further indicated that teams’ success, desire performance is crucial in all sports entities, mainly because they signify that all involved stakeholders are benefits, all parties’ interests are met. Additionally, support services such as interaction with frontline employees, other spectators, and arena entertainment activities significantly affect consumers.

Furthermore, Stevens & Rosenberger (2012) wrote that a fan’s loyalty and satisfaction in a brand is solidified as the desire to maintain an attitudinal relationship with a team; it constitutes fan’s support and commitment to both the team and brand. Notwithstanding, barriers may hinder the consumption of sponsors’ products. Although the intention is often considered a primary motivational factor for purchasing behaviour, constraints, and restrictions may arise and prevent product purchases (Zaharia et al., 2016). These obstacles may result at any point in the sponsorship contract, and constraints may affect sponsorship deals with huge factors.

Nonetheless, the sponsor views the impact of a finance deal on sales as the most desirable measure to comprehend sales and the partnership impact. All stakeholders in sponsorship agreements target to achieve several objectives, such as influencing fans and spectators to make purchases of sponsored products. Marketers leverage fans’ emotional appeal to build a relationship that links sponsors’ products, teams, and fans (Roy et al., 2018). The finding suggests that the lack of substantial variations between brands and potential barriers that sponsor may use to lure consumers into consuming their products. They maximize the benefits of the contract agreement and influence the vast support base of a club, from potential customers to actual buyers (Biscaia et al., 2014). Therefore, purchasing behaviour among the fans and represent the absolute pointer of the present structure, since it is widely recognized as the final objective for evaluating the impact of the sponsorship agreement.

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

5.0 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

5.1 Discussion

From the literature review, it has been established that there is a lack of previous research studies focusing on the fans’ experiences in relation to their preferred teams and associated sponsors. Nonetheless, the discussed sources in the results and findings sections, it has been demonstrated that, indeed, shirt sponsorships impact consumer behaviour and fan loyalty. Da Silva et al. (2017), (Stevens and Rosenberger (2012) and Kent et al., (2018), suggested that  Sponsorship brand experience can be referred to as the consumers’ behavioural reactions triggered by a brand-related sponsor – incentives that form part of the logo, promotional activities, communication, and hospitality setting, which means, describing each element of the brand sponsorship experience and associations that will influence purchase by fans. With the same conclusion, source from the literature review also made similar conclusions indicating that consumers’ attitudes towards a sporting club and sponsors’ image and product are created by cognitive aspects such as values and expectancy; that eventually turns into motivation and fan loyalty (Wang et al., 2012). The same findings were also established, discussing that there is a positive relationship between shirt sponsorship and a positive attitude towards sponsors, increased purchase intention, and brand image (Martinez & Janney, 2015; Gillooly, Medway, Warnaby & Grimes, 2020). As such, as depicted in the conceptual framework, fans’ past behaviour, the integration of shirt sponsorship, and how the sponsorship impacts their subsequent attitude, purchase intention, and increased loyalty.

In relation to the theme discussing the impact of shirt sponsorship on consumer experience, the literature review sources indicated that shirt sponsorships are associated with positive consumer attitudes towards the sponsors and their products. Amorim and Almeida (2015), Parker and Fink (2010), Angell et al. (2016) and Cheong, Pyun, and Leng (2019) all suggested that shirts sponsorships encourage fans to increased their attachments and involvement, seeking more information about sponsors and their products and thus the development of purchase intention. The results and findings section also arrived at the same findings, where it was discussed that supporting a brand through developing positive attitudes towards the sponsor raises the effectiveness of the agreement; this is because healthy attitudes have a substantial effect on clients’ behaviour (Oliveira, 2019; Roy et al., 2018; Biscaia et al., 2017; Maurya & Mishra, 2012; Chen et al., 2013). Therefore, the supporters’ attitudes towards a sponsor and brand profoundly influence the purchasing intentions and action for the product. From the discussions, it has been established that team brand (shirt sponsorship) plays a crucial role in increased consumer experience, which is demonstrated by increased purchase intention and actual purchases of sponsors products.

Understandably, increased consumer experience reflects the continuum response that is provoked by sponsorship awareness and thus increased sales by sponsorship brand. The discussion also highlights that fans’ loyalty towards a preferred football team is demonstrated through increased attachment and involvement, say through increased attendance and purchase of teams’ merchandise. This is a crucial source of revenue, considering that increased loyalty entails an increased number of sales irrespective of prices. As such, it can be comprehended that shirt sponsorship creates a dynamic association through which the football club and the sponsors benefit via increased fans loyalty. Nonetheless, sponsors and football clubs need to demonstrate the value of their association to increased perceived goodwill. The understanding is that football clubs should reinforce sponsors’ importance and legitimacy through success (winning team). Teams’ success significantly impacts fans’ actual behaviour and attitude towards the sponsors, and loyal fans would not like to associate themselves with a losing team. In other words, fans tend to demonstrate increased levels of attitudinal loyalty towards successful teams – through increased involvements and purchase of teams’ merchandise and sponsor products.

Moreover, the primary objective of shirt sponsorship is to create a conducive climate through which they can positively communicate a positive brand image to consumers, to stimulate immediate sales. For example, from the earlier example used, after sponsoring Manchester United, Chevrolet company was identified to be a prominent brand which consumers perceived to be more plausible in relation to the success realized by the team (Biscaia et al., 2014). As such, sponsors need to invest significantly in leveraging success on the sponsored teams. From the findings, it has also been established that shirt sponsorship, brand association, is directly correlated to increased fan loyalty. The comprehension is that the selected studies agree that shirt sponsorship directly impacts teams’ success, while sponsors can leverage their success via associated activities such as marketing and media communication efforts (Zaharia et al., 2016; (Stevens & Rosenberger, 2012; Seok et al., 2012; Moyer et al., 2015).

5.2 Conclusion

Sponsorships, especially shirt sponsorship contracts, are one of the leading and most significant contributors to the revenue collected in the football industry. In the English Premier League (EPL), in the UK, shirts sponsors have been established to account for more than 30% of the revenues collected. With the many resources and impressive size of the football industry market, it is undoubtedly that the shirt sponsorship and brand image influences consumers’ behaviour and fans’ loyalty with the objective to explore the effect of shirt sponsorship on consumer behaviour, brand image, and fans loyalty, the study established that fans, just like sponsors are significant contributors to the success of football clubs. Nonetheless, in relation to the impact of shirt sponsorship on fans’ attitude and consumption behaviour, the study established that shirt sponsorship influences fans attitude. Brand association to a successful football club enhances fans’ involvement and attachment, which is translated to increased purchase of teams’ merchandise and sponsors products. The brand image also influences fans’ level of attachment; primarily, it has been found that a positive brand image is associated with increased involvement and attachment to football clubs.

With regards to the effect of shirt sponsorship on consumers’ purchase intention, the study established that, in most scenarios, loyal fans present a strong likelihood for products provided by the sponsors of their favourite football club. The study also established that shirt sponsors are associated with increased purchase intention, irrespective of the associated prices, which means that the presence of shirt sponsors directly impacts consumers’ purchase intention positively. Sponsor awareness has been found to increased fan attachment as well as purchase intention and actual purchases of sponsors products. The comprehension is that, when a sponsor is associated with a preferred football club, irrespective of the type of business, the purchase intention of consumers (fans) is positively affected. Therefore, it can be deduced that shirt sponsorship is a useful marketing tool adopted by businesses to influence consumers purchase intention positively. The same effect has been determined to impact consumers’ attitudes towards a sponsor. The study has established that increased attachment is translated to a positive effect on attitude towards the sponsors and their products. On the whole, shirt sponsorship has been determined to lead to increased fans attachment and involvements, which further leads to a positive attitude toward the sponsors, which positively impacts consumers’ purchase intention and sales of sponsors products and teams’ merchandise.

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