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International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship publishes peer reviewed research, case studies, comment and interviews from academics and industry experts. Published quarterly, it is the only sports journal to have met the rigorous standards required for a listing by both PsycINFO and SSCI.
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Latest issue   Volume 16   Number 4   July 2015

Endorsement by ‘looks’:measuring gender bias

We were approached by a journalist recently, asking about sponsorship of women’s sport. In particular they wanted to know what proportion of sponsorship spend went to women’s sport and which brands were most active.

IMR has a major international sponsorship database recording thousands of deals, so it was a relatively easy question to answer, notwithstanding the fact that some rights holders, such as the IOC, cover both men’s and women’s sports with no specified sponsorship receipts according to gender.

Basically, however, women’s sport overall receives a tiny fraction of the sponsorship allocated to men’s sport. So the next question is why? Is this simply because women’s sport has a much lower profile, or is it also because sponsoring companies are not funding women’s sport in proportion to its popularity? Finally, which brands show a positive appreciation of women’s sport and what should sponsors in general be doing?

Certainly there is no doubt that men’s sport has a hugely higher profile than women’s sport. In the world’s major sports such as soccer, NFL, basketball, baseball, golf, rugby and cricket, it is the men’s code that has mass exposure and indeed in many cases there are no professional leagues for women. Historically and culturally the reasons for this cannot be linked to sponsorship – it was the case before sponsorship became a serious marketing tool and sponsors have only a limited role in developing the popularity of any sport. Media coverage is far more important in this respect.

However, the UK organisation Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) found that women’s sport (in the UK) received 7% of media coverage of sport but only 0.4% of sponsorship. Globally this is consistent with IMR findings.

A look at individual athlete earnings is perhaps also instructive. On Forbes’ list of best paid athletes (which includes salaries) only two women (Maria Sharapova at position 26 and Serena Williams, position 47) make it into the top 100.

In terms of endorsement earnings, Maria Sharapova eclipses Williams by $23m to $13m despite Williams having had approximately twice the success career-wise as her rival. The question of why this is the case is complicated as there could also be an element of racial bias against Williams, although in sport’s elite at least, this doesn’t seem to be a major issue. The likes of Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Usain Bolt are among the very highest endorsement earners.

What has always been clear, however, is that female athletes conforming to western stereotypes of what is ‘good looking’ have proportionally had significantly higher endorsement earnings than men. That’s why Anna Kournikova, despite not being the top player in her era, was able to secure much bigger deals than her more successful rivals. In men’s sport, it would be naïve to say that looks don’t count – hence David Beckham’s commercial success, which was way out of proportion to his ability; but on the whole, endorsement earnings are fairly closely linked to sporting success. Golfer Phil Mickelson, for example, ranks third in global endorsement earnings despite not being used by sponsors as a fashion icon.

It is interesting to look at who does sponsor women’s sport and why. One of the biggest rights holders in women’s sport is the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Its primary ponsors are SAP, Xerox, Dubai Duty Free and sports supplement brand Usana. It could be argued that SAP and Xerox are very progressive sponsors who acknowledge that women have a growing role in business decision making. Does, however, the backing of Dubai Duty Free (shopping) and Usana, which makes dietary supplements, revert to stereotypes about women?

Certainly Usana could point to the fact that it also has rights in men’s tennis, although not of the equivalent profile. Likewise, Dubai Duty Free has numerous rights in men’s sports. The WTA might justify its choice of partners based on the fact that it needs to maintain revenues to sustain the growth of women’s tennis – but does this mean that it should carefully consider those companies? Is it the job of the WTA to promote a positive image of women as well as women’s tennis?

The same question applies to sponsors. Being private companies, sponsors are accountable to their shareholders and their primary role is to maximise a return to those shareholders. As such, they could argue that it is not their responsibility to promote a more positive image of women in general and women in sport in particular – this is an issue for society at large. To an extent, that argument holds water but with a major caveat. Sponsors are part of society at large; indeed, they are a relatively powerful force in society in that they communicate – often on a mass scale. They have a choice as to who they sponsor and how they activate their sponsorships.

From a commercial point of view sponsors should also perhaps consider that in general a large proportion of their market and employees are likely to be women. In the long term, those companies that take a more progressive attitude to issues in society tend to be remembered for their forward thinking. This enhances the brand – and sponsorship is often primarily used for just for that.

Paper 1
Visual analytics of Twitter conversations about corporate sponsors of FC Barcelona and Juventus at the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final
Ricard W. Jensen, Montclair State University, USA
Yam B. Limbu, Montclair State University, USA
Yasha Spong, zample, USA
Until now, little research has been conducted to analyse Twitter conversations about the corporate sponsors of football clubs. The conventional and most widely used method has been to use content analysis to assess the sentiment of the tweets that were sent. However, this approach may be inadequate because sports fans may be unlikely to mention a corporate sponsor in the text they tweet. This study demonstrates the use of visual analytics to assess conversations about corporate sponsors by examining the images people tweet.
Paper 2
Is violence used to promote Mixed Martial Arts?
T. Christopher Greenwell, University of Louisville
Dustin Thorn, Coastal Carolina University, USA
Jason Simmons, University of Cincinnati, USA
This study examines how Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events are marketed in order to understand the role of violence in promoting events. Researchers examined 134 pieces of promotional artwork and 57 promotional news releases by MMA organisations across North America, Asia and Europe and found that 18 (13.4%) pieces of promotional artwork used violent text or imagery. Violent text was found in 12 (21%) of the 57 news releases. Violence was typically limited to smaller or European organisations. Results illustrate an evolution of the sport, suggesting violence may no longer be necessary to promote events.
Paper 3
Intangible and tangible value: brand equity benefits associated with collegiate athletics
Carl S. Bozman, Gonzaga University, USA
Daniel Friesner, North Dakota State University, USA
Matthew Q. Mcpherson, Gonzaga University, USA
This paper presents a simple methodological framework to characterise the tangible and intangible benefits of a university athletics department. The methodology is applied to the athletics department at Gonzaga University (GU) in Spokane, Washington USA. The brand equity associated with this department is estimated at approximately US$5.8 million in 2006. Of this, between $617,000 and $2.71 million is ascribed to a specific type of tangible brand equity (with the most plausible estimate being $926,000); namely, the impact of GU athletics events on the economic vitality of the local community. The remainder is attributed to (unobserved) intangible brand equity benefits.
Paper 4
Assessing the relationships between image congruence, tourist satisfaction and intention to revisit in marathon tourism: the Shanghai International Marathon
Haiyan Huang, Shanghai University of Sport, China
Luke Lunhua Mao, University of New Mexico, USA
Junqi Wang, University of Georgia, USA
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between image congruence, tourist satisfaction and intention to revisit in marathon tourism. The results show that both affective image congruence (AIC) and cognitive image congruence (CIC) have a positive influence on tourist satisfaction and intention to revisit in the context of marathon tourism. The results also reveal that demographic and behavioural characteristics have a significant impact on revisiting intentions; and past experience of marathon tourism controls the relationship between image congruence and tourist satisfaction.
Paper 5
Segmenting the spectators of national team sports: the case of a pre-competition match
Christopher Hautbois, University of Paris-Sud, France
Patrick Bouchet, University of Burgundy, France
It has become common for academics and sports marketing professionals to study and explain the heterogeneity and complexity of sports spectators’ behaviours and attitudes, with numerous works addressing this topic But these surveys are more about fans of professional sports clubs (soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc) who attend regular season games in their favourite teams’ home stadium or arena. To our knowledge, very few studies have been conducted into spectators of national teams. It is these spectators who are of the focus of this paper.
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