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How to manage fan resistance to a new sponsor


Have you ever heard of 3Com Park or Monster Park in San Francisco? No? Despite attempts to name the 49ers stadium after a brand, the team ended up going back to Candlestick Park after San Francisco residents voted largely in favour of bringing back the original name. Fans around the world often react negatively to branded name changes by protesting, boycotting or refusing to acknowledge the new name.

Though title sponsorships attract sponsors that see them as a powerful tool to increase brand awareness and improve their image through association with the property, there are a number of downsides to the deal. Fan resistance can have a negative impact on attitudes towards the sponsor and on word-of-mouth. Fans who identify deeply with the property and the region where their team resides react more strongly to name changes. When a property is steeped in tradition and heritage, a title sponsor can pose a serious threat to its identity.

These negative effects can be minimized if the sponsor is seen as having a relevant connection to the property and if it’s bringing added value to the team. By becoming a title sponsor, the brand is also entering into a community of fans that are an inherent part of the property. It’s important to make a meaningful contribution to that community, or fans will perceive the brand as being an outsider.

In short, if a sponsor wants to invest in a title sponsorship, it’s best to choose a property that:

  • Has a relevant connection with the sponsor
  • Needs and will benefit from the sponsor’s support
  • Is young or completely new without an established heritage

So what about Candlestick Park?

The 49ers needed a new stadium that would better suit its needs. A brand new stadium was built, and the clothing brand Levi Strauss & Co., itself a San Francisco-based company, signed on. The mythical Candlestick Park—which had maintained its identity despite various attempts to change its name—suddenly lost its raison d’être and was slated for demolition. But not before a vibrant homage took place during a celebration that featured legends of the game like former quarterback Joe Montana and singer Paul McCartney.

Original article: Fans’ resistance to naming right sponsorships: Why stadium names remain the same for fans, by David M. Woisetschläger, Vanessa J. Haselhoff and Christof Backhaus, 2013


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