Olympic sponsors may not get their money's worth

Wednesday, 26 February 2003

Olympic Games sponsors risk receiving a poor return for their multi-million dollar investments, a University of Adelaide researcher has warned.

Professor Pascale Quester, from the University of Adelaide's School of Commerce, has researched consumers' attitudes and purchase intentions towards sponsors of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

She found that becoming an official sponsor did not guarantee consumers would correctly associate companies with the Games, and that rival companies may benefit as much as the official sponsors.

"My research showed companies must think very carefully before they engage into this level of sponsorship, and in particular they should focus on two areas: media exposure and what I call 'relatedness'," she says.

"Media exposure means how much presence in the media consumers perceive the sponsor to have around the time of the Olympics, mainly through advertising but also with broadcast sponsorship of the event itself. Media exposure is positively associated with attitudes and purchase intentions but this is not exclusive to sponsors.

"'Relatedness', on the other hand, refers to the company and/or its product having a logical connection with the Olympic Games in consumers' minds: for example, athletic shoes or ski equipment as opposed to an airline carrier or a bank associating itself with the Salt Lake Winter Games."

The trouble for the official sponsors is that companies marketing similar products who don't pay the large amounts of money required to be an official sponsor can still seek exposure around the event - this is sometimes called "ambush marketing" and is actively monitored and discouraged by sponsors and the relevant Olympic Organising committee as well as the IOC.

"However, and perhaps less expectedly, consumers also infer sponsors' role from the 'relatedness' factor, something from which no sponsor can really protect itself. This will invariably benefit the market leaders more in any given product category. This is a dire warning for challenger brands hoping to get ahead through sponsorship: not only will their efforts be unnoticed, but the risk is that their sponsorship-related advertising budget will end up supporting their bigger competitor!" Professor Quester says.

"If you're a company which isn't the market leader, then you have to be prepared to spend much more in leverage promotion to gain as much exposure as possible - but even then, more consumers may believe that the actual market leader is the official sponsor."


Contact Details

Professor Pascale Quester
Email: pascale.quester@adelaide.edu.au
Executive Dean
Faculty of the Professions
The University of Adelaide
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