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Fans’ resistance to naming right sponsorships: Why stadium names remain the same for fans

David M. Woisetschläger (Institute of Automotive Management and Industrial Production, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany)
Vanessa J. Haselhoff (University of Applied Sciences Unna, Unna, Germany)
Christof Backhaus (Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 July 2014



The aim of this article is to contribute to the literature by analyzing potential determinants of fan resistance to naming right sponsorships. Although sports sponsorships mostly trigger neutral or positive reactions by fans, the authors find empirical support which provides evidence for fan boycott or resistance.


The authors empirically test a model using a sample of 798 soccer fans and thereby quantify structural relations between determinants and fan resistance. They use a logistic regression to assess potential determinants of fan resistance.


Results indicate that sponsee- and sports-related variables, such as fan/regional identification and attitude toward commercialization, contribute to higher fan resistance. Furthermore, fans see themselves as in-group members who discriminate out-group members. As the sponsoring company takes over control and imposes a “threat” (the change of a stadium’s name) on the group’s ritual place, this results in strong negative emotional reactions. These emotions tend to be repeated and affirmed in intra-group communications which intensify negative reactions unless the sponsor offers a positive contribution from the fans’ standpoints. Our findings confirm that sponsorship fit and perceived benefits of the sponsorship reduce fan resistance while the sponsor’s regional identification is unrelated to fan resistance.

Research limitations/implications

Little attention has been paid on negative reactions to sponsorships in the existing research. Therefore, future research could assess negative effects resulting from other sponsorship contexts, such as the sale of a club's naming right, promotion campaigns during the venue and to sponsorship deals in general. Moreover, research should be devoted to finding strategies that lead to a reduction of fan resistance to sponsorship actions.

Practical implications

Results show that sponsorship fit reduces fan resistance. Existing literature suggests that sponsorship fit can be improved by emphasis or creation of fit between sponsor and sponsee. Additionally, sponsors should try to build a bridge between sponsor and fans to gain acceptance of the in-group by raising awareness on the benefits that the sponsee receives from their partnership. Moreover, sponsors should actively strive to understand negative reactions of the fans and adapt their communication strategy to avoid resistance, e.g. due to fans’ feelings of overt commercialism.


Although naming right sponsorships are generally considered a powerful instrument for companies to gain high profile and market share, they seem not to be entirely free of risk. This article contributes to the literature by conceptualizing the phenomenon of fan resistance and assessing the determinants that contribute to fan resistance when naming rights are sold. Our findings extend the understanding of negative sponsorship effects in addition to the mechanisms and theoretical frameworks that are documented in the literature (Cornwell et al., 2005).



The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of the associate editor Dr. Nicholas J. Ashill and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and insights.


M. Woisetschläger, D., J. Haselhoff, V. and Backhaus, C. (2014), "Fans’ resistance to naming right sponsorships: Why stadium names remain the same for fans", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 48 No. 7/8, pp. 1487-1510.



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