Sponsorship is of central importance in marketing due to its potential to influence critical outcomes such as brand awareness, attitudes, and purchase behaviour. Sponsorship communications tend to rely heavily on minimal stimuli such as brand names or logos, and consumers typically process such messages at an unconscious level. Despite the pervasiveness of minimal sponsorship messages, extant sponsorship literature has not directly considered the efficacy of such communications. Moreover, sponsorship research has focused almost exclusively on measuring explicit memory, considering cognitive outcomes such as recall or recognition of sponsor-event pairings. It is argued in this thesis, however, that consumer awareness of a company's event sponsorship is not particularly meaningful if it does not result in affective or behavioural outcomes.
Stemming from these shortcomings in extant sponsorship literature and research, the broad aim of this thesis is to develop a deeper understanding of the factors impacting on sponsorship efficacy. More specifically, this thesis conceptualises sponsorship effectiveness in terms of consumers' explicit and implicit memory for sponsors resulting from incidental exposure to minimal sponsorship communications. Several steps are taken to address the broad aim. Firstly, this thesis draws upon three streams of literature, synthesising relevant theory and research from cognitive psychology, sponsorship, and advertising. Next, theories from cognitive psychology are adapted to a sponsorship context to advance a framework of sponsorship effectiveness that is both theoretically grounded and practically meaningful. This conceptual framework and its underlying research hypotheses explain cognitive and affective sponsorship outcomes in terms of incidental exposure and the type of sponsorship message as well as considering brand familiarity and its moderating effects for explicit and implicit memory for sponsors. This framework has two fundamental premises: firstly, that sponsorship efficacy can be achieved even under conditions of incidental exposure to sponsorship communications, and secondly, that incidental exposure can result in not only explicit memory but also implicit memory for sponsors.
The empirical component of the thesis tests the conceptual framework and underlying research hypotheses through two three-way factorial experiments. Data were collected from 78 consumers in total (42 for Experiment 1 and 36 for Experiment 2), and univariate and multivariate analysis of variance were subsequently employed to analyse the experimental data. The results of these analyses provide support for four of the six research hypotheses, and are consistent with the two core premises underpinning the conceptual framework.
This study contributes to and extends current marketing theory on a number of levels by bridging a significant gap in extant sponsorship literature. Moreover, the key findings also offer several substantive implications for marketing practitioners by providing a more practical and comprehensive measure of sponsorship efficacy, and a more thorough understanding of the factors impacting on sponsorship effectiveness, thereby informing marketing decision making.