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Sports sponsorship includes paying fees or providing in-kind supports to the teams and players and the acquisition of the right by the sponsor to link itself with the team or event for commercial reasons. Advertising involves publicizing a given product or service on television, newspapers, magazines, posters, logos, billboards, and sportswear with the aim of boosting sales. Advertising mostly involves a more complex message that demands greater cognitive processing on the part of consumers compared to sponsorship, which is “more passive in nature and indirectly influences consumers through goodwill and image transfer from sponsored entity to sponsoring brand” (Levin et al. 194).
Corporate sponsorship and advertising are recognized as marketing tactics and effective forms of business communication and therefore profitable commercial investments. By associating with sports programs, “corporate sponsors expect increased publicity, image promotion by being linked to success and glamour, and sales opportunities through increased awareness and consumer loyalty among target customers” (Sarah et al. 419). The sports property expects financial benefits in turn as sportsmen get free clothing and kit, a fee for wearing sponsor’s clothing, and using their equipment. Hence, corporate sponsors and sports teams have a mutual interest in maximizing sponsorship value in terms of positive attitudes and purchase behavior of consumers. The marketing and advertising research shows that “well-planned sponsorship effectively influences consumer recall or awareness, the image of sponsors and their products and attitudes toward the sponsors” (Sarah et al. 419).
A considerable amount of study has been done to survey the effects of product sponsorship and advertising on spectators and sportsmen, especially the association of alcohol and cigarette sponsorship of sports and consumption and attitudes towards the sponsoring brands. Corporate bodies engaged in sports sponsorship and advertising are from different industries and intend to make known and boost sales of many products ranging from cars, alcohol, cigarette, bank and insurance services, etc. Here, I emphasize the effect of alcohol companies’ engagement in sports and people’s perception of alcohol. It is well recognized that attitudes towards alcohol use are strongly shaped by social and cultural conventions, and more directly by the particular circumstances in which alcohol consumption occurs. Alcohol, and the promotion and advertising of alcohol, has been linked to sporting activities for many years, and in most countries such that “ it would be unusual to view a sporting event without seeing a commercial for an alcohol brand” (Jones, Lyn, and Mellissa 2). Sponsorship of sporting activities by the alcohol firms is a common practice worldwide, and there is much debate about whether connecting alcohol with sport defeats the essence of the advertising rules of practice. Indeed, such an association is deemed inappropriate because of the likely effect on underage consumers and the contradiction between alcohol use and the physical demands of sports involvement.
Alcohol abuse and related cases are escalating and have resulted in fatalities, serious health concerns, sexual offensives, and adverse impacts on college enrollments and study. The vulnerability of people, especially young people, to alcohol advertising has been emphasized by a World Health Organization policy that “identifies as important issues the content of alcohol marketing and the amount of exposure of young people to that marketing” (Bestman et al. 10). There is sufficient evidence to show that people’s brand choice and total consumption of alcohol are influenced by sponsors, the media, and social media. Analysis of broadcast content of advertising episodes to “market alcohol beverages, gambling products, and junk foods reveals the tendency to embed product marketing within the match play, within commentary and special replays” a sign of increased use of sport as a vehicle for promoting a range of risky consumer products (Bestman et al. 11). Vital moral and health policy questions arise about the extent and effect of saturation advertising and the transparency of embedded marketing tactics and how these strategies may encourage product consumption (Lindsay et al. 42).
Fans get involved in sports because of delight, escape, entertainment, economics, beauty, group affiliation, family needs, and self-esteem reasons. Some fans find a sense of belonging and acceptance in sports, especially where there is a breakdown of traditional institutions of marriage and religion. People love engaging most with anything that “touches them on a deeply emotional or personal level, including their favorite sports team, athlete or fellow fans” (Levin et al. 196). The corporate sponsors find loopholes in this and use sports celebrities and teams’ bond with their fans to market their brands. Some companies employ celebrities to endorse their products and brands with the overall outcome of boosting sales with every success linked to the celebrity. Sports personalities such as Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Venus William with a large number of fandom and admirers globally have featured in adverts of many products and services. There hardly remains any environment that exists for fans to participate in the enjoyment of sports that is free of the pressures and associations of sponsorships and ads, particularly of alcohol brands. Turnout at sporting clubs is linked to excessive levels of drinking and the players and fans engage in post-match celebrations involving drinking. Alcohol sponsorships make alcohol easily accessible to players and fans, and there is usually a general belief that hard work entitles one to drink. Sportsmen are the most vulnerable since the media give them a lot of attention, are direct receivers of sports sponsorships, and are held as community role models.
Sports sponsorship and advertising are among the key factors that influence the decision by kids and even adults to develop a liking for particular sports, which they end up being participants or fans. Similarly, research is done to investigate the degree by which children indirectly remembered shirt sponsors with their correct sporting teams, whether children associated some sporting codes more than others and whether the age of children influenced the correct recall of sponsoring brands and teams, showed that the children were able to identify correct shirt sponsors (Ko, and Kim 186). It also showed that they could associate alcohol and gambling brands with more popular sports, with their ability to recall growing as the age of the child increases (Bestman et al. 15). These findings imply that the promotion of unhealthy products during sporting matches is contributing to enlarged awareness amongst children of unhealthy commodity brands. Television advertising during sporting events could be informative, but also irritating, distracting, and intrusive. Advertising is mostly criticized for being intrusive on cognitive processes that contribute to irritation and avoidance. The extent of irritation is determined by factors such as the consumers’ demographics, an advertising medium, the type of the product, ad content, and execution. Fan identification which is “ a person’s sense of connectedness to a team, an event or a sport predicts several cognitive, affective and behavioral responses” (Levin et al. 198). These responses include improved memory and recognition of the sponsor’s marketing incentives, boosts favorable attitudes towards the sponsor’s brand, and increases the willingness to buy the product.
In summary, alcohol sponsorship of sport and advertising of alcoholic brands during sports events do affect the way both the players and fans think. There is a need for further research and policy review to explore the role of sports-based marketing strategies on normalizing and encouraging the consumption of industry brands, especially the so-called ‘unhealthy commodity products’ by the youth. Therefore, It is imperative to consider alternative approaches to encourage and propel the sporting fraternity to shift their sporting affiliations.
Bestman, Amy, Samantha Thomas, Melanie Randle, and Stuart M. Thomas. “Children’s Implicit Recall of Junk Foods, Alcohol and Gambling Sponsorship in Australian Sport.” BMC Public Health 15 (2015): 10-22. Print.
Jones, Sandra C, Lyn Phillipson, and Mellissa Lynch. “Alcohol and Sport: Can we have one without the other?” University of Wollongong Research Online 3 (2006): 1-12. Print.
Ko, Yong Jae and Ku Kyoum Kim. “Determinants of Consumers’ Attitudes Toward a Sport Sponsorship: A tale from College Athletics.” Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing 26 (2014): 185-207. Print.
Levin, Aron, Joe Cobbs, Fred Beasly, and Chris Manolis. “Ad Nauseam? Sports Fans’ Acceptance of Commercial Messages During Televised Sporting Events.” Sport Marketing Quarterly 22 (2013): 193-202. Print.
Lindsay, Sophie, Samantha Thomas, Sophie Lewis, Kate Westberg, Rob Moodie, and Sandra Jones. “Eat, Drink and Gamble: Marketing Messages about ‘Risky’ Products in an Australian Major Sporting Series.” BMC Public Health 13.719 (2013): 1-7. Print.
Sarah, Jane, Michael Ireland, Frank Alpert, and John Mangan. “The Impact of Alcohol Sponsorship in Sport upon University Sportspeople.” Journal of Sport Management 28 (2014): 418-432. Print.