Consumers to Troubled Companies: Stop Sponsoring Sports

March 12, 2009

Nearly one-third (32%) of American consumers say they are paying “less attention” to corporate sponsorships than they were a year ago and the majority would like to see less spending on sports sponsorships by companies experiencing difficulties (62%), according to a Performance Research study. Consumers think that companies accepting federal bailout money (68%), in particular, should spend less on sponsorships, the research found.

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Results indicate that this expectation is in keeping with consumers’ own behaviors, with the majority of respondents saying they are less likely to purchase a ticket for a favorite sporting event (67%) or for a favorite performing arts or cultural event (64%), and are less likely to donate money to a favorite cause (55%) than they were a year ago, Performance Research said.

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Sponsorships Won’t Help Image

More than two-thirds (69%) of consumers report they have a “lower approval” of American companies than they did a year ago, and the majority do not believe increased sports and cultural sponsorships will do anything to increase these opinions.

  • ?Only 13% say that increased sponsorship of their favorite sporting event would raise their opinion of corporate America, while 26% reported decreased sponsorship would raise their opinion. 61% say that an increase or decrease would make no difference.
  • 20% say that sponsorship of their favorite cultural event should increase to raise their opinion of corporate America, and 20% say it should decrease.

The situation with non-profits and causes is slightly different, however, with 41% feeling increased sponsorship would raise their opinion of corporate America. Just 12% say decreased sponsorship would do the same.

Industry Plays Role In Perception of Sponsorship

The industry of the sponsoring company also plays an important role in attitudes toward sponsorship, the study found. When respondents were asked if they would be more or less confident if a company were to sponsor their favorite sporting event, those industries most under fire in the current economy (banks, investment firms, and domestic automobile manufacturers) were most likely to inspire “less” confidence as a sponsor (37%, 36%, and 30%, respectively). Only about 10% indicated they would be “more confident” by seeing sponsorship from companies in these industries.

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Humility Highly Desirable

The study indicates that consumers believe corporate humility and fiscal conservatism are appealing qualities in the current economic climate:

  • 74% of respondents are thinking more about wasteful corporate spending now than ever before.
  • 69% say there should be restrictions on sponsorship spending for companies receiving federal assistance.
  • 64% think it is more important than ever for companies to appear “humble.”
  • 64% are impressed when hearing of a company cutting back on corporate hospitality.

When asked about specific corporations and their individual sponsorships, favorable reaction to sponsorship is down from what respondents indicated they would have felt a year ago. For example, just 22% indicated they would have reacted positively to Citibank sponsoring the New York Mets a year ago, compared with 15% today. Identical numbers were shown for Wachovia and the Wachovia (PGA) Championship.

Sponsorship OK for Stable Firms

For corporations that are stable and profitable, 77% of consumers would like to see them spend the same or more on their favorite sports, 79% would like to see same or more spending on their favorite arts or cultural programs, and 84% would like to see more spending on favorite causes or non-profits.

“Consumers are recognizing that they need to live within their means – and they expect corporate America to do the same,” said Jed Pearsall, president of Performance Research, This is not the time for stable companies to drop sponsorships, but to provide more value to consumers with their programs.”

About the survey: Performance Research conducted this study among random sample of American consumers, ages 18-65, in the last week of February 2009. A total of 1,005 respondents were included in this study.

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