Sponsorship image transfer theory in virtual brand communities

Date09 July 2018
Published date09 July 2018
AuthorManuel Alonso Dos Santos,Francisco Rejón Guardia,Ferran Calabuig Moreno
Sponsorship image transfer
theory in virtual
brand communities
Manuel Alonso Dos Santos
Department of Administration, Universidad Catolica de la Santisima Concepcion,
Concepcion, Chile
Francisco Rejón Guardia
Universidad de las Islas Baleares, Mallorca, Spain, and
Ferran Calabuig Moreno
Department of Physical Education and Sports,
Universitat de Valencia Facultat de Ciencies de lActivitat Fisica i lEsport,
Valencia, Spain
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to assess the influences and efficiency of a sports sponsorship in an
online brand community.
Design/methodology/approach The study was conducted through interviews with 609 social network
users of a Spanish first league soccer team. The partial least squares (PLS) methodology was applied with a
posteriori segmentation (PLS prediction-oriented segmentation (POS)).
Findings The attitudetoward the sponsor helpsto assess the efficiency of sponsorships betweencompanies.
This variable is particularly relevant for evaluating sponsorship efficiency in online brand communities.
Improving trust andassessing the sense of membership directly improves attitudes toward the team and the
sponsoredbrands. The attitude towardthe sponsor has a direct and positiveimpact on the purchase intentions.
The use of a posteriorisegmentation with the PLSPOS technique helps discriminate between groups.
Research limitations/implications Among the limitations encountered, further study would require
using a sample of various sports disciplines and cultures.
Practical implications Specific actions and communication strategies are defined for each segment
and in general to adapt communication strategies that improve identification with virtual brand communities.
The study has revealed involvement-related differences resulting from the impact that engagement with the
sponsored team may have on the assessed relationships.
Originality/value The study of the effects of sponsorship and the use of a posteriori variables user
segmentation in an online brand community are used.
Keywords Sponsorship, Online brand communities, PLS prediction-oriented segmentation,
Virtual brand communities
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Online communities (OCs) are formed by geographically dispersed users who interact
dynamically on the internet based on feelings, values and/or a structure of common
relationships (Dholakia et al., 2004). Virtual brand communities (VBCs) are a particular case
derived from OCs that are created around a specific brand (Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006).
These VBCs can be initially created by users (which is more typical of the Web 1.0) or by
companies (which is more common in the Social Web) (Laroche et al., 2012). Community
members can build significant affective bonds with the brands, which provide brands with a
place for establishing relationships with consumers and create important advantages for the
companies that use them (Thompson and Sinha, 2008).
Among the different advantages of using VBCs, the following are worth highlighting:
consumer segmentation (Flavián and Guinalíu, 2005), developing relationships with customers
Industrial Management & Data
Vol. 118 No. 6, 2018
pp. 1287-1302
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/IMDS-08-2017-0349
Received 6 August 2017
Revised 12 February 2018
4 April 2018
Accepted 23 April 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
image transfer
and increasing their brand loyalty ( Jang et al., 2008), converting clients into producers
(Laroche et al., 2012) and obtaining additional incomes (Flavián and Guinalíu, 2005).
However, there is still little research on VBCs in the area of sports sponsorship, although
professionals of sports organizations already know that VBCs have an impact on the
attendance at stadiums (Katz and Heere, 2015), the identification with the team (Yoshida and
Gordon, 2015) and the increased traffic to the website, which, in turn, increases commercial
benefits (McCarthy et al., 2014). VBCs can help create value for the communities of sports
fans (Pongsakornrungsilp and Schroeder, 2011), since they play an important role in
building relationships with sports clubs. Therefore, the business community supports the
development and maintenance of brand communities and believes that their use is profitable
and particularly helpful (Algesheimer et al., 2005). The social media represent a privileged
position for establishing interactions between brands and consumers, which makes them
the ideal platform for sponsorship. This is why the new social media have become an
important place for measuring efficiency (Meenaghan, 2013). However, although the
sponsorship industry continues to grow (Grohs, 2015), the relationship between VBCs and
the brand sponsor of a team or sporting event is given little professional or academic
attention (Meenaghan et al., 2013).
This study assesses the existing relationships within a VBC between companies and
users. It describes the types of users that can be found among the fans of a sports team, and
it analyzes the impact of brand image transfer in sports sponsorship in the VBC
environment on the purchase intentions through the theory of image transfer. To this end, a
comparison was conducted using partial least squares (PLS) and sample segmentation
through the not a priori PLS prediction-oriented segmentation (POS) methodology.
Our first main contribution is the validation of a model that confirms the effect and
efficiency of sports sponsorship in a VBC. Second, we use the PLS methodology together
with unobserved heterogeneous segmentation. Third, we evaluate the models resulting from
the PLSPOS segmentation.
The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. First is a literature review, including
a description of VBCs in sports. Second is an explanation of the theoretical framework based
on the theory of image transfer. Third is a series of hypotheses based on the proposed
model. Fourth is a description of the method, analysis and results of the study. Finally, there
is a discussion of the findings, the subsequent managerial implications, and the limitations
of the study.
2. Theoretical background
2.1 Brand image transfer in sports sponsorship
Sponsorship has been studied from an academic perspective and approached from different
theories, such as the mere exposure theory (Gail et al., 2007) or the affective transfer model
(Pracejus, 2004). However, the most widely accepted theory among researchers for studying
sponsorship efficiency is the theory of image transfer (Novais and Arcodia, 2013). This
theory claims that the attributes inherent to a sports team or event are transferred to the
sponsoring brand (Alonso Dos Santos, Vveinhardt, Calabuig and Montoro-Ríos, 2016).
Sports teams presumably have personalities and attributes of their own associated with
their brand (Grohs, 2015). In practice, the industry does not have a standard tool to measure
the efficiency of sponsorship initiatives. Nonetheless, the attitude toward the sponsor is the
most commonly used variable to assess sponsorship efficiency among companies
(Meenaghan et al., 2013).
The image of the event is transferred to the sponsor when a sports event is sponsored
(Meenaghan et al., 2013). Sponsorship was found to increase attendeeslikelihood to
purchase products from the sponsor of the brand because of the sponsorship itself (Pope
and Voges, 2000). However, since sales performance cannot be explained through one single

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