The Olympic Games and associative sponsorship

Richard Rutter (School of Business, Australian College of Kuwait, Kuwait City, Kuwait) (King’s Business School, King’s College London, London, UK)
John Nadeau (School of Business, Nipissing University, North Bay, Canada)
Ulf Aagerup (School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Fiona Lettice (Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Publication date: 11 November 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore the brand relationships between a mega-sports event, the Olympic Games, and its branded main sponsors, using the lens of brand personality.


The study uses the internet-based website communications of the sponsor and event brands to assess congruence in brand personality identity exhibited in the communications of sponsors and how these relate to the event brand itself. A lexical analysis of the website text identifies and graphically represents the dominant brand personality traits of the brands relative to each other.


The results show the Olympic Games is communicating excitement as a leading brand personality dimension. Sponsors of the Olympics largely take on its dominant brand dimension, but do not adapt their whole brand personality to that of the Olympics and benefit by adding excitement without losing their individual character. The transference is more pronounced for long-running sponsors.

Practical implications

Sponsorship of the Olympic Games does give brands the opportunity to capture or borrow the excitement dimension alongside building or reinforcing their own dominant brand personality trait or to begin to subtly alter their brand positioning.


This study is the first to examine how the sponsor’s brand aligns with the event being sponsored as a basis for developing a strong shared image and associative dimensions complimentary to the positioning of the brand itself.



Rutter, R., Nadeau, J., Aagerup, U. and Lettice, F. (2019), "The Olympic Games and associative sponsorship", Internet Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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