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Attenuation of negative sponsorship effects in the context of rival sports teams’ fans

Reinhard Grohs (Private University Seeburg Castle, Seekirchen am Wallersee, Austria)
Heribert Reisinger (Marketing Department, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)
David M. Woisetschläger (Institute of Automotive Management and Industrial Production, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 9 November 2015




The purpose of this study is to understand the occurrence, formation and magnitude of negative effects for sponsors of rival sports teams and to identify means to counteract negative sponsorship effects.


Surveys measure fans’ identification with their team as well as attitudes toward rival teams and their sponsors in a soccer context. An experiment introduces sponsorship communication activities that aim at mitigating negative sponsorship effects by shifting the focus of the sponsorship.


Results from surveys and experiments demonstrate that identification with a sports team negatively affects perceptions of a rival team, negative perceptions of a rival team negatively affect perceptions of its sponsors, this effect is stronger for fans with higher levels of team identification, companies can improve perceptions of rival team sponsors by shifting the focus of sponsorship-linked communication activities, but attenuating negative sponsorship effects is more difficult to achieve for fans with higher levels of identification with their team.

Research limitations/implications

Further studies need to disentangle mitigating effects of framing sponsorship communication and investigate in greater depth conditions under which sponsorship leverage can emphasize specific social identities of sports fans and enhance the inclusiveness of fans’ self-categorization.

Practical implications

Companies can learn from this study how they can frame, design and use sponsorship communication activities to mitigate negative sponsorship effects in the context of rival-team sponsorship.


The study is one of the few studies addressing negative effects of sponsorship. In particular, the study provides first insights into how social identity theory, social categorization theory and framing theory work together with theories of image transfer in both the formation and the attenuation of negative sponsorship outcomes.



Grohs, R., Reisinger, H. and Woisetschläger, D.M. (2015), "Attenuation of negative sponsorship effects in the context of rival sports teams’ fans", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 49 No. 11/12, pp. 1880-1901.



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