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Spillover of social responsibility associations in a brand portfolio

Wenling Wang (Department of Business, Guilford College, Greensboro, North Carolina, United States)
Daniel Korschun (Department of Marketing, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 21 September 2015




This paper aims to explore the spillover effect of social responsibility (SR) activity at the product brand level on the full brand portfolio. Extant research has established that SR activity can be beneficial to companies by influencing consumers’ SR associations with the company and its product brands. However, most studies only look at the outcomes of SR implemented at the corporate level (i.e. corporate social responsibility [CSR]). This paper provides a new and expanded perspective by exploring how SR at the product brand level reverberates throughout the full brand portfolio. Drawing on associative network theory, the authors propose a conceptual model that predicts when and how SR associations with a product brand spillover to corporate brand and other product brands and the consequences of this spillover.


Two experiments were conducted to test the conceptual model. The authors used utilitarian products (frozen yogurt, ice cream, and soft drink) in the first experiment and value-expressive products (running shoes, T-shirt and watch) in the second experiment.


Both experiments found support for the proposed spillover effect. The moderating impact of corporate branding strategy and product category fit on the strength of spillover effect were also examined.

Practical implications

The findings will help managers make better decisions about which brands (product and corporate level) should be involved in SR activity.


This research offers a new perspective to look at the consequences of SR activity and reveals a larger picture than extant research on CSR by indicating the impact of a product brand’s SR initiative on the whole brand portfolio.



The authors thank Rajneesh Suri, Rolph Anderson, Pravin Nath, John Kounios and the three anonymous reviewers of the 2009 AMA Summer Conference for their many helpful and valuable comments and suggestions.


Wang, W. and Korschun, D. (2015), "Spillover of social responsibility associations in a brand portfolio", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 596-609.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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