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FYAP Research Project. Figure 1 Proposed model and hypotheses. Table I Loadings, path coefficients, and residual variances. Research Hypotheses H1. A consumer’s relationship quality with a sport team is positively related to their attitude toward a sponsor of the team.

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Fyap research project
FYAP Research Project

Figure 1 Proposed model and hypotheses

Table I Loadings, path coefficients, and residual variances

Research Hypotheses

  • H1. A consumer’s relationship quality with a sport team is positively related to their attitude toward a sponsor of the team.

  • H2. A consumer’s relationship quality with a sport team is positively related to their intention to purchase a sponsor’s products.

  • A consumer’s relationship quality with a sport team is positively related to their perception of a corporate sponsor’s sincerity.

  • H4. A consumer’s perception of a corporate sponsor’s sincerity is positively related to their attitude toward the sponsor

  • H5. A consumer’s perception of a corporate sponsor’s sincerity is positively related to intention to purchase a sponsor’s products.

  • H6. Attitude toward the sponsor is positively related to future purchase intention.

    A summary of the results

    The primary purpose of this study was to better understand the role of relationship quality on sponsorship effectiveness. We developed and empirically tested a model that specified direct and indirect relationships among the sport property-consumer relationship quality, sincerity, and consumer’s attitude toward sponsor, and behavioral intention. The results of this study suggest that consumers who perceive higher level of relationship quality with the sport property are more likely to believe that the sponsor’s motives are sincere, and consequently they will develop a positive attitude and greater purchase intention.

    Significant findings

    The significant contributions of this study are two-fold. One significant contribution lies in establishing the importance of relationship quality for a successful sponsorship. Next, this study provides a theoretical explanation about how business-to-consumer relationship quality influences the expected outcomes associated with a business-to-business relationship. Although this study has made several advancements in the knowledge of relationship quality and sponsorship effectiveness, much more work needs to be done. Our model and findings demand further evaluation, replication, extension, application, and development.

    In order to develop and maintain healthy business-to-business relationships, it is essential that exchange partners provide tangible and intangible benefits in return for partner investments (Eyuboglu and Buja, 1993; Palmatier, 2008). It is easy to see how the sponsored property benefits from a sponsor-sponsee relationship. Sport properties receive financial, media, and in-kind resources from sponsor. However, the benefits of sponsor from sponsorship relationship are often not easily assessed. A critical issue for mutually beneficial sponsorship might be using sponsorship effectiveness as a marketing communication tool for sponsors. Findings from this study provide a conceptual basis for both sponsors and sport teams to better understand how sponsorship works as well as how to effectively achieve marketing communication objectives through sponsorship.

  • Despite massive spending in sponsorship activity, sponsorship objectives in terms of marketing communication are often not fully realized. A common assumption is that consumer’s judgment on the sponsors’ motives for the sponsorship activity is homogeneously positive (Rifon et al., 2004). The findings from this study indicate that the assumption does not hold. The sport consumers varied in attributing the motives of sponsors and this attribution was positively biased by the sport consumers’ level of relationship quality with the sponsored team. The firms want to justify the considerable sponsorship spending by maximizing communication effectiveness. In economic environments where spending by organizations on sponsorship activity is at best curtailed and at worst stopped, it is imperative to provide empirical evidence of the effectiveness of sponsorship spending. The findings from this study suggest that firms should partner with sport teams that maintain good relationships with their fans, relationships that are characterized by trust, commitment, self-connection, and reciprocity. In order to maximize sponsorship effectiveness, the findings also suggest that a sponsor strive to be seen as genuinely concerned about the sport, team, and fans.

Future Research

As for the research limitations, a cross-sectional research design was implemented to test the hypothesized model using structural equation modeling. Although the direction of influences between constructs were justified based on the theoretical works on the model’s constructs in the current study, a longitudinal investigation combined with experimental design can provide more convincing evidence about the direction of influence between factors to support causal relations in the hypothesized model. Second, self-reported measures were used to measure the constructs of research interest, which reflects widespread use of the approach in extant literature examining the Relationship Quality, Sincerity, Attitude, and Intention. However, self-reported measures might introduce response biases including extreme and central tendency, acquiescence, social desirability, and negative affectivity. Although no statistical evidence of these biases were found and all the measures used in this study showed good psychometric properties, potential problems of these biases should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results.

Third, this study is confined to a specific group of people (i.e., college students),sport (i.e., college baseball), and country (i.e., the United States); this limits the ability of researchers to generalize the results from this study. These limitations also bring forth some fruitful and interesting potential avenues for future research. First, it would be worthwhile to identify unique characteristics of different sports that might alter the nature of relationship among relationship quality, sincerity, attitude toward sponsor, and purchase intention. For example, sincerity may not play as important role in explaining attitude toward sponsor and purchase intention in sponsorship of field hockey. Sincerity of the sponsorship for field hockey is less likely to be suspected by consumers because field hockey is not typically considered to have a large and strong enough fan base that the corporate sponsors want to take advantage for marketing purposes. That is, the perceived level of sponsor’s sincerity might only slightly vary among consumers and therefore the sincerity would not be an influential construct to account for the variation on attitude toward sponsor and purchase intention in field hockey, but this remains an empirical questions. Second, it would be interesting to investigate potential differences in the findings of the currents study across different countries. For example, in Korea, the linkages between relationship quality and other constructs might be even stronger because the level of collectivism is higher in Korea than in the U. S. and therefore the sense of social belonging to groups and teams is perhaps more instrumental in the process of consumers’ attitude and behavior formation. Only additional research though can confirm or disconfirm this assumption. Accordingly, replicating this study with a broader and wider sampling frame in various contexts could help build more robust models about the influence of relationship quality on sponsorship effectiveness.


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yu Kyoum Kim, Ph. D., Sport and Recreation Management, the Florida State University, Tully Gym 1034

Tallahassee, FL  32306. Electronic correspondence can be forwarded to yukim@coe.fsu.edu. Phone (850) 644 – 7174. FAX: 850-644-0975