Runyan, R.C. (2009), "Guest editorial", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 37 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijrdm.2009.08937daa.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Volume 37, Issue 4
1 Retailing and sport: an introduction to the special issue
The importance of the relationship between retailing and sports has grown tremendously over the past few decades, and not just in the USA and Europe. The 2007 US Superbowl drew nearly 100 million television viewers in the USA alone, with millions more watching in other countries. According to FIFA, the 2002 World Cup soccer championships drew over one billion viewers world-wide. These are examples of events which drive the sales of related products such as team apparel and even electronics (e.g. televisions), which are sold to the public through retail outlets (in different channel forms). Sports teams (e.g. Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, etc.), as well as individual athletes (e.g. Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Anna Kournikova, etc.) have become quasi-brands, driving the sales of products bearing their names and images at the retail level. Yet these relationships between retailing and sports industries have seen little research reported in the extant literature.
With sports industries bringing in billions in direct revenues, and generating billions more in indirect revenues, investigation of the relationships between leagues, teams and athletes and the consumers who drive sales of tickets, equipment and apparel is not just timely but important. Municipalities the world over make taxation and funding decisions involving the building of sport stadia which have long-term implications for local citizens. Corporations engage in long-term, multi-million dollar contracts with athletes to serve as the face of their products. How do these funding decisions relate to revenue growth? How do consumers perceive products endorsed by athletes? Are corporations affected by negative actions attributed to a sponsored athlete? Conversely, are athletes’ reputations tied to a corporate sponsor’s? Some of these questions are answered in this Special Issue. The Special Issue contains five full-length papers and one research note, which address various issues in the intersection of sport and retailing. The research settings for the studies presented were international in scope (coming from the USA and Europe), and the papers can be placed (generally), in three separate categories: athlete-to-corporate endorsement, corporate-to-team sponsorship, and one on team-to-consumer branding.
The endorsement group contains three papers. Karen Lear, Rodney Runyan and William Whitaker used a content analytic approach to study the growth of celebrity athlete endorsement of retail products over the past two decades. In the process they updated an earlier study by Stone et al. (2003) which assessed the use of celebrity athletic endorsers appearing in the top US sports magazine, Sports Illustrated. The current study found increased frequencies of advertisements featuring celebrity athletes during the six year period (2001-2006) compared to the original study, which had found a downward trend in the use of such endorsers from the 1980s to the 1990s. Despite the proliferation of media over the past 10-15 years (e.g. cable television, internet, etc.), Lear, Runyan and Whitaker found that the number of advertisements featuring celebrity endorsers in one major print medium actually had increased over previous periods measured. They also found that the majority of the celebrity athletes endorsing retail products were either professional baseball or (American) football players.
Darin White, Lucretia Goddard and Nick Wilbur investigated a seldom-considered aspect of athletic endorsement in their paper, namely whether an athlete can be affected by negative publicity regarding a product he/she endorses. The potential negative effects on brands, following bad publicity regarding an athlete endorser have been well chronicled (Louie et al., 2001). But what of the athlete who is an upstanding citizen, but who happens to endorse a product or company which falls upon bad times? This paper considers both sides of the endorsement issue using a randomized experimental design. The authors found that when respondents were exposed to negative information about a celebrity endorser, a negative transference of affect in the endorsement relationship resulted. However, in the reversed situation (respondents exposed to negative information about the company), the transference of affect is mitigated.
Shih-Mei Chen and Patricia Huddleston provide an exploratory study regarding the relatively new concept of “fair trade” products and celebrity endorsement. The fair trade campaign’s goal is to improve the position of poor food producers in the Third World by helping them to become more advantageously involved in world trade (Jones et al., 2004). In the study, Chen and Huddleston considered four separate strategies that a small retailer might employ to promote the purchase of fair trade coffee. One of these strategies was the use of local sport’s celebrities as potential endorsers. Results showed that considering the likely cost of hiring a celebrity, small retailers would be better served to use more traditional methods of promotion. Since this study is one of the first of its kind, it offers key ideas for research on an emerging product market.
The sponsorship of sports teams by corporations is less prevalent in the United States than in other parts of the world. Thus, it is not surprising that the authors and settings for the two studies on sponsorship are based in Europe (UK and Greece, respectively). Nicholas Alexander takes a case-study approach to study the brand strategy of the corporate sponsor of a Welsh rugby team. Specifically, he structures the case within the existing research relating to issues of brand strategy and semantic fit. He finds that at least in the case of a brewer and a rugby team, sponsorship can be an influential platform for brand strategy. For US readers, a valid comparison might be Budweiser and auto racing.
Rodoula Tsiotsou and Konstantinos Alexandris utilized a sample of fans of a Greek professional basketball team, to examine the relationship between team attachment and sponsorship outcomes. In other words, they investigated whether sponsorship of a sport team brings about the desired results for the corporate sponsor. They found support for the idea that highly attached fans will be more likely to develop a positive image for the sponsor, and also have increased intentions to buy the sponsor’s products. This is good news for the corporations which invest millions in expensive sports teams!
Finally, Brad Carlson, D. Todd Donavan and Kevin Cumiskey consider the relationship between a sports team’s brand personality and its relationship to retail spending on team-related products. The authors use a field-study methodology to examine the outcomes of game viewership and retail spending. They found that, once a consumer identifies with a team brand, retail spending and viewership increase. This study is one of the few which considers the personality of a somewhat intangible sports brand.
Each of the studies in this Special Issue takes a diverse view of the intersection of sports and retailing. That both are important in sociological and economic terms are certain. Some of the best known faces in the world are athletes (e.g. Tiger Woods and David Beckham) and influence fans young and old. Nike, Adidas, Puma and Reebok are global manufacturers and retailers of athletic equipment and products, influencing the economies of many countries. Some of the largest companies in the world today are retailers (e.g. Wal-Mart and Carrefour). Thus, the research conducted in this area as represented by these authors, is important and can help shed light upon the relationships between the stakeholders: fans, consumers, athletes and corporations.
Rodney C. RunyanAssistant Professor of Retailing, in the Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. His research interests include small retail entrepreneurship, central business districts, and international retailing.
Jones, P., Comfort, D. and Hillier, D. (2004), “Developing customer relationships through fair trade: a case study from the retail market in the UK”, Management Research News, Vol. 27, pp. 77–87
Louie, T.A., Kulik, R.L. and Johnson, R. (2001), “When bad things happen to the endorsers of good products”, Marketing Letters, Vol. 12, pp. 13–24
Stone, G., Joseph, M. and Jones, M. (2003), “An exploratory study on the use of sports celebrities in advertising: a content analysis”, Sport Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 12, pp. 94–102