#PaidPartnerships: The Drivers of Consumer Perceived Brand Authenticity of Social Media Influencers and the Role of a Sponsorship Disclosure

Caroline Sofia Fich Andersen & Cecilie Juul Jørgensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


As a response to the uncertain and artificial times, we live in today, the search for authenticity is steadily growing. Marketers now face the challenge of developing authentic brands that are able to accommodate the modern consumer’s demand for authenticity. Current literature suggests that influencer marketing is a prevailing tool to promote and achieve such brand authenticity, because social media influencers (SMIs) are dominantly considered as noncommercial. Despite the increasing relevance and utilization of influencer marketing, research into the transparency of the influencers’ relations with companies is still begging for further exploration. Additionally, increasing legislation within the area prescribes a necessity of clear disclosures of brand and influencer relationships, making it highly relevant to explore the practice of sponsorship disclosure. This thesis sets out to investigate the drivers of consumer perceived brand authenticity of SMIs and whether the use of a sponsorship disclosure is perceived as less authentic than genuine non-sponsored product advocacy. Moreover, the underlying study intends to develop conceptual frameworks of both the drivers of brand authenticity and the impact of sponsorship disclosures to fill the research gap. The overall purpose is to address the crossroads between brand authenticity, influencer marketing and sponsorship disclosure and further facilitate a greater understanding of the interrelationship among these theoretical constructs. Based on a comprehensive qualitative analysis, it is proposed that consumers’ authenticity attribution of SMIs are highly subjective processes, that are influenced by indexical, iconic and existential drivers, depended on and moderated by intentions, content formats and marketing skepticism. The findings further imply that a sponsorship disclosure enhances consumer perceived brand authenticity of SMIs when it is embedded in a natural way. Based on the results, this study outlines implications related to the practice of influencer marketing. It is recommended for marketers to carefully choose authentic SMIs to reap the benefits of leveraging influencers in marketing efforts. Furthermore, it is suggested that SMIs should employ a sponsorship disclosure to appear more authentic and accommodate legal requirements, yet natural embeddedness constitute an essential prerequisite of assimilating a positive effect of disclosing sponsorships. Finally, the development of a universal sponsorship disclosure is proposed as it enables an alignment of all interests, making this a cruciality for future research.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages261
SupervisorsStefan Markovic