A case study: One community's dilemma in sponsoring athletics

Lee, Kuo-Wei
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the decision-making process and procedures in which corporate sponsors engage in the sponsorship exchange process with local athletic departments. In addition, the investigator identified the similarities and differences that exist in the decision-making process used by corporate sponsors and athletic department administrators, and how this information is used to evaluate the current and the future exchange process.

Data were collected from the athletic departments of two public universities (one at NCAA Division I level and one at Division II level) and one independent school district geographically located within a local community. One representative from each athletic department and 17 representatives from their corporate sponsors were interviewed. The qualitative data gathered from these interviews were organized and analyzed using a qualitative software package, NVivo 7.

There were 9 themes determined that demonstrated the sponsorship exchange process. The results reveled that sponsorship is a mixed exchange. Participants explained that commercial objectives, as well as, philanthropy and relationships contribute to the sponsors' decision to engage in sponsorship. With regard to business aspect, corporations used the sponsorship of the local athletics to achieve their primary objectives of increasing sales, increasing awareness, enhancing their image, increasing community involvement, reaching target markets, personal interest, and maintaining relations. In the decision-making process, sponsors indicated that media coverage, the size of an event, target market, relationship, professionalism, and price were the criteria that they used in evaluating the local athletic sponsorship In addition, the size of a corporation and sponsorship had an impact on the level in the company where the final decision of a sponsorship agreement was made.

The reason that athletic departments initiated a sponsorship is mainly because of the funding they expect from corporations. In the decision-making process, athletic departments took sponsor's satisfaction into consideration. Athletic departments considered revenue generation and an increased commitment from sponsors to be indicators of a successful sponsorship. The policy of a university and ISD or state law has an effect on how they seek sponsorship for their athletic department.

Athletic directors demonstrated an overall understanding of the criteria that were important to sponsors. Both sponsors and athletic directors perceived that athletic departments as the dependent party were more likely to initiate sponsorship exchange, and less likely to terminate the exchange. Sponsors appeared to demand positive results from sponsorship, but they rarely conducted systematic evaluations of their sponsorship. The corporate sponsors noted difficulties in measuring the effects of the sport sponsorships, because of the complication and cost of a sponsorship evaluation.

Social sciences, Athletic department, Corporate sponsorship, Decision-making, Exchange theory, Intercollegiate sport, Interscholastic sport