Building an authentic brand through charity sport event sponsorship

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Filo, Kevin R

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Reid, Sacha

Cameron, Robyn-Ann

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Organisations are required to develop a unique brand as well as meaningful and emotional relationships with their consumers to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. An increasing number of organisations sponsor charity sport events to assist in achieving these objectives. Charity sport event (CSE) managers and representatives of the sponsor would benefit from the development of an authentic sponsorship program as consumers may form negative attitudes towards corporate partners who partner with an event for overly commercial reasons. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is twofold. First, this research examined how CSE managers and sponsors can create sponsorship programs that promote the sponsor’s brand in an authentic manner. Secondly, this research investigated how CSE sponsorship programs facilitate the development of meaningful and emotional relationships between CSE participants and sponsors. Three research questions were advanced. The research questions were addressed through an explanatory sequential mixed method research design consisting of three studies. The MS Moonlight Walk is an annual CSE that supports people living with MS and represents the research context of this thesis. The research adopted organisational identification theory and service-dominant logic (S-D logic) as theoretical frameworks. According to organisational identification theory, consumers identify and form emotional relationships with brands, which they perceive as meaningful and distinct. Consequently, Study 1 and Study 2 were guided by organisational identification theory. Study 1 examined how sponsoring a CSE can assist the sponsor to develop meaningful and emotional relationships with event participants. Data were collected from MS Moonlight Walk 2018 participants through pre- and post-event questionnaires. The ii results indicated that event participants were unable to answer the questions included in the questionnaire prior to and after the event due to a lack of knowledge of the event sponsor, Harbour ISP. The low level of sponsorship awareness could be attributed to the low eventsponsor fit and event participants’ limited exposure to Harbour ISP. The findings of Study 1 suggested that sponsoring the MS Moonlight Walk 2018 did not assist Harbour ISP in developing meaningful and emotional relationships with the event participants. Study 2 investigated how sponsoring a CSE affects participants’ emotional response towards an event sponsor. Building on the suggestions that CSE participants may not be aware of their emotions towards event sponsors, electroencephalography (EEG) data from MS Moonlight Walk 2018 participants were obtained. Findings suggested that MS Moonlight Walk participants had a more neutral than positive emotional response towards Harbour ISP after the event. The results of Study 2 are consistent with the findings of Study 1 and indicate that participants did not develop any association with the brand. Study 3 examined how event participants, event managers, and representatives from event sponsors perceive the sponsor’s contribution to the value creation process of a CSE. S-D logic served as the theoretical framework. S-D logic suggests that an event represents a value creation space where different stakeholders collaborate to create meaningful event experiences. This research conceptualised the collaboration of CSE participants, managers, and sponsors as a value creation process. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with MS Moonlight Walk 2018 participants, the event manager, and representatives from Harbour ISP. Five themes described how the three stakeholder groups perceive the sponsor’s contribution to the value creation process of the event: providing operational support, raising CSE awareness, cultivating a fundraising network, engaging authentically, and celebrating constituents. Collectively, the findings across all three studies suggested that Harbour ISP did not form meaningful and emotional relationships with event participants which might be a result of the way the sponsorship was implemented. This research contributed to S-D logic by applying this theoretical framework in a participatory CSE. Conceptualising the value creation process of a CSE as the exchange of skills and knowledge between the CSE participants, managers, and sponsors provides a better understanding of how practitioners can create authentic CSE sponsorship programs. Building on the findings of the present research, a number of recommendations for CSE managers and sponsors are made. For example, practitioners are encouraged to share the sponsor’s motivations to support the particular CSE in the form of a story to promote the corporate partner in an authentic manner. Also, event sponsors can implement strategies which encourage their employees to volunteer to help deliver the CSE effectively. Future research may replicate the current research in a different CSE context and employ different methods to expand the findings obtained from this research.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dept Tourism, Sport & Hot Mgmt

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Charity sport event

sponsorship programs

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