Timing of Sponsorship: A Test of Temporal Distance and Construal Level Effects

Tobias Schaefers, Joe Cobbs, Mark D. Groza

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Abstract

Corporate sponsorship has become an integral component of the marketing communication mix for companies across the globe. In addition to communicating through sponsorship, sponsors and sponsored entities also communicate about a sponsorship. This form of “sponsorship-linked marketing” is frequently employed when announcing the initiation of a sponsorship via advertising channels and press releases. In this context, marketers are challenged in terms how best to communicate the complex relationship created via corporate sponsorships. However, research on the influence of sponsorship announcements has uncovered mixed results and suffers from two shortcomings. First, previous studies have only considered the announcement of sponsorships at a generic level, while ignoring the potential for variation in how a sponsorship is publicly announced (i.e., the composition of announcements). Second, scholars have emphasized investors’ reaction to announcements while overlooking any potential effects on consumers, who are a more likely target for sponsorship communication. In the present study, we therefore investigate how different types of sponsorship announcements influence consumers’ perceptions of the sponsoring firm. Specifically, based on Construal Level Theory (CLT), we conducted two experiments to investigate how the concreteness of the information contained in an announcement as well as the timing of the announcement influence consumers’ responses to the sponsorship. According to CLT, consumers judge information with different levels of abstraction. The theory generally implies a more concrete (i.e., detailed) interpretation of communication about events close—in time, socially, or geographically—to the consumer; whereas, individuals are apt to interpret communication about events distant to oneself in abstraction. Based on this theoretical foundation, we derive three hypotheses about the effects of different levels of information construal in communication about sponsorships. We anticipate that an announcement containing more concrete details about a sponsorship (i.e., low levels of construal) will result in more positive outcomes for the sponsoring brand (H1) when compared to an announcement composed in greater abstraction (i.e., high levels of construal). Additionally considering consumers’ mental information processing, we hypothesize that for a temporally distant event, concrete information will require more information processing to resolve the disparity between individuals’ expected level of construal and the construal level of the provided information, thereby leading to more favorable evaluations of the sponsoring brand than abstract information (H2). On the other hand, for temporally near events, CLT suggests consumers are already predisposed to a concrete mindset. We therefore assume the level of abstractness of the information provided about events close in time to have no effect on the evaluation of the sponsoring brand (H3). To test the proposed hypotheses, we conducted two separate experiments as online surveys. In the first experiment, we manipulated the construal level of the sponsorship announcement (abstract/concrete) between subjects without any mention or manipulation of the temporal distance to the event. In the second (2 x 2) experiment, we manipulated the temporal distance (near/far) to the sponsored event in addition to the construal level of information content (abstract/concrete). Collectively, the results of the two studies suggest that consumers prefer sponsorship announcements that contain concrete (versus abstract) information, thereby supporting H1. Results of our second study revealed that in support of H2, respondents who were faced with a concrete sponsorship announcement for a distant event evaluated the sponsoring brand more positive than those who were faced with an abstract announcement for a distant event. Hypothesis 3 was also generally supported by the study results; for temporally near events, we find no significant differences between abstract and concrete sponsorship announcements in attitude toward the sponsoring brand, trust, and purchase intention. Willingness to recommend the sponsoring brand, however, was significantly lower among respondents faced with concrete information about a temporally near event than among those who read an abstract announcement. Possible explanations for this intriguing result are discussed in the paper. Overall, the results of both experiments highlight the importance of recognizing CLT in sponsorship-linked communications. On a theoretical level, CLT was found to adequately explain aspects of consumers’ reactions to sponsorship announcements. In general, presenting content at a low construal level (i.e., concrete) is preferable to more abstract information. At the same time, however, the temporal distance to the event at the time of the announcement should be considered, especially when concrete information is not feasible to provide publicly for reasons of confidentiality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdeas in Marketing: Finding the New and Polishing the Old : Proceedings of the 2013 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference
EditorsKrzystof Kubacki
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer
Publication date2015
Pages468
ISBN (Print)9783319109503
ISBN (Electronic)9783319109510
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event2013 AMS Annual Conference - Portola Plaza Hotel at Monterey Bay, Monterey, CA, United States
Duration: 15 May 201318 May 2013
Conference number: 41
http://ams-web.org/displayconvention.cfm?conventionnbr=11208

Conference

Conference2013 AMS Annual Conference
Number41
LocationPortola Plaza Hotel at Monterey Bay
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityMonterey, CA
Period15/05/201318/05/2013
Internet address
SeriesDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN2363-6165

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