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How do fans respond to sponsors leaving?


All good things come to an end, and partnerships between sponsors and properties are no exception. Financing sponsorships is becoming an increasingly costly endeavour, and when a contract comes up for renewal, there are times when a brand decides to walk away. The results of the above study suggest that even if pulling out of a sponsorship is negatively perceived by consumers, brand sponsors can mitigate that response by paying special attention to how they announce the news and when they decide to make it public.

From objectives not being met to loss of profits, the reasons for ending a partnership are myriad. However, according to the results of the same study, it’s best for a brand sponsor to clearly articulate its motives for pulling out without making reference to commercial concerns. That prevents any possible ambiguity when the media releases the story, and enables the sponsor to position itself as acting in the interests of the community. For example, when CA Technologies, a software corporation, ended its partnership with the World Golf Championships, the PGA publicly thanked the company for its involvement over the four previous years, during which time it not only supported the rich tradition of golf but also gave back to the community.

The consumer connection to the category can also reduce the negative perception towards the exiting sponsor. If a brand wants to leave on good terms, it’s best to avoid ending the partnership prematurely. Fans generally express a degree of gratitude towards a brand that leaves after several years, especially if other partners are associated with the property. The future of the event isn’t threatened, and consumer perception is less negative.

In short, if a brand wants to say goodbye to the fans of an event, it must take the following into consideration:

  • The duration of its involvement: it’s preferable to wait a few years before exiting an event to gain a certain level of recognition
  • The number of sponsors connected with the event (to avoid leaving the property without support)
  • Lastly, it’s important not to draw attention to the commercial reasons for ending a partnership, especially on the public stage

Original article: And now, goodbye: Consumer response to sponsor exit, by Julie A. Ruth and Yuliya Strizhakova, 2012


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