Sponsorship and Advertising are Indeed Different

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Insights about Sponsorship Articulation Repetition Effectiveness

Science of Sponsorship Series

Authors: François Carrillat and Alain d’Astous

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That sponsorship and advertising effectiveness are driven by vastly different principles is widely accepted. However, observing activation campaigns suggests that many sponsors believe that audiences are immune to growing tired of the same articulation message being repeated over and over again. Take William Hill, the online sports-betting sponsor of the 2016 Australian Open. Its only articulation message on television is interspersed multiple times throughout each match every day of the tournament. In a recent large scale study conducted on an American panel, we set out to investigate whether this repetition strategy could undermine the very feature that differentiates sponsorship from advertising: sponsors are perceived as displaying goodwill when they support an event, but not when they are seen as exploiting it.

About 600 participants were assigned to different experimental conditions, in which sponsors were either congruent or incongruent with events (Adidas or MTV), and they were either exclusive (the no clutter case) or non-exclusive with four other sponsors from the same category visible on players’ jerseys (the clutter case). At each wave, respondents’ attitudes toward the sponsorship of the event was measured, as well as their intentions to purchase sponsors’ products, and their perceptions of sponsors (over)exploiting events to their own advantage.

The results showed that starting the articulation of the sponsorship three weeks out had positive effects in the short-run only when the context was not conducive to perceptions that sponsors are taking advantage of the event. Amid clutter, incongruent sponsors saw attitude and purchase intentions to be initially improved by an articulation message although, over time, no additional benefits were gleaned from repeating the articulation message. On the other hand, in a similar cluttered context, a sports brand sponsoring a golf tournament (congruent case) saw no benefits either in the short- or long-run from repeating its articulation message

In the case of a non-cluttered sponsorship environment however, articulation repetitions did not have any positive impact in the short-run and, in fact over time, consumers grew weary of the sponsorship. This was demonstrated by their increased perception of event overexploitation, and drops in the favourability of their attitude toward the sponsorship as well as in their intentions to purchase sponsors’ products. These detrimental effects were even more pronounced for sports brands than music channel brands due to congruent sponsors having a harder time legitimizing competitive behaviours, such as articulation repetitions, than incongruent ones.

The overall take away is that sponsorship effectiveness hinges on maintaining the audience’s perception of sponsors’ goodwill: one of the defining features of sponsorship as compared to advertising. Unlike advertisers, sponsors enjoy a priori favourable perceptions; capital that they should be careful not to dilapidate for short-term gains. If audiences are more forgiving with sponsors who repeat their articulation message when drown in clutter, repetition is no longer seen as a legitimate strategy without sponsorship clutter. This is even more true when sponsors are congruent with events. Ultimately, even if articulation repetition may strengthen the sponsor-event link, it may also lead audiences to believe that sponsors are taking advantage of events.

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