Fans see teams, sponsors separately.
Long-term naming rights agreements with sports arenas and stadiums present little downside for large organizations because customers can differentiate between teams and the sponsors. Research by Brian L. Bourdeau, associate professor in marketing at Harbert, found that naming rights simply added exposure for the organization and added revenue for the team or stadium ownership.
Bourdeau’s co-authored paper, “Measuring the Effectiveness of Facility Naming Rights Sponsorship,” polled hundreds of baseball fans at two major league stadiums in 2016 and found that an organization’s sponsorship/affiliation with a sports franchise does not overshadow the experience the firm delivers to its customers. The paper was published in the Journal of Business Research.
“As long as the sponsor brand is providing quality, satisfaction and value, they’re basically doing fine,” said Bourdeau, who collaborated with David Martin, associate professor in Auburn’s College of Human Sciences. “The main implication is that there’s not a lot of inherent risk for sponsors since the customers of the product differentiate between the teams and the sponsor.
“The customer’s perception of the team’s financial status has an impact on their attitudes toward the sponsor. The customers look at it as, ‘OK, we’re getting this money in here for the naming rights and that’s helping the team’s financial status.’’’
Fans were asked about game day service quality, service quality valence, perception of team’s financial status, previous experience with the sponsor, brand awareness and image, brand identity, behavioral intentions and perceived fit.
“All of those positively influence the attitude towards the sponsor, and the attitude in turn increased brand awareness, image, and intentions to purchase,” Bourdeau said. “Then the customers proceed to stick to that brand. This should put potential sponsors more at ease going into one of these agreements.”
Bourdeau said the average naming rights agreement among Major League Baseball venues is “about 13 and a half years” with sponsors spending nearly $900 million on naming rights in 2017.