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Headwinds in sports sponsoring

Pytrik Schafraad (Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Joost W.M. Verhoeven (Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

ISSN: 1464-6668

Article publication date: 5 August 2019

Issue publication date: 5 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effects of a crisis situation in a sports team on the credibility of their sponsor and how the sponsor’s use of various crises response strategies may repair the damage done to their credibility.


A scenario experiment was conducted with a 2 (pre-/post-crisis) × 4 (sponsor response strategy: denial/distancing/rebuild/no response) mixed factor design. Respondents (n=191) were recruited from a research panel.


The results confirmed the existence of a spill-over effect: the sponsor’s credibility dropped as a result of the crisis. More interestingly, the effects of the crisis on sponsor credibility were moderated by the response strategy of the sponsor: the harm that the crisis did to the sponsor credibility was aggravated by a denial strategy, but somewhat weakened by a diminishing strategy. A rebuild response unexpectedly improved the credibility of the sponsor.

Practical implications

While partnerships in sports can be risky, because crises can be contagious, such partners can also help one another to protect their credibility. Therefore, this study advocates an integral approach of crisis communication. Sponsors may improve their credibility when they frame their contribution to the solution to the problems as an authentic effort to do good.


Starting from an issue arena perspective, this contribution shows how crises in sports teams also affect sponsors and how sponsors can contribute to the restoration of the damaged credibility with suitable responses to the crisis situation.



Schafraad, P. and Verhoeven, J.W.M. (2019), "Headwinds in sports sponsoring", International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 538-552.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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