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The importance of context in understanding football fans’ reactions to corporate stadia naming rights sponsorships

Gillooly, Leah and Medway, Dominic and Warnaby, Gary and Grimes, Anthony (2020) The importance of context in understanding football fans’ reactions to corporate stadia naming rights sponsorships. European Journal of Marketing. ISSN 0309-0566 (In Press)

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Abstract

This study explores fans’ reactions to corporate naming rights sponsorship of football club stadia, and identifies a range of contextual factors impacting these reactions. A qualitative, quasi-ethnographic research design is adopted, focusing on three football clubs in North West England. Data are gathered through online message board discussions, focus groups and auto-ethnographic approaches. Geographic, image and functional dimensions of sponsorship fit are noted as contextual factors in determining fans’ reactions to corporate stadium names. It is also proposed that some forms of fit (in particular geographic fit) are more important than others in this regard. Beyond issues of fit, three additional contextual factors are identified that potentially influence fans’ reactions to corporate stadium names: prior involvement with the club by the sponsor; fans’ perceived impact of the sponsorship investment; and whether the stadium is new or long-established. Future research might examine the relative importance and implications of the identified contextual factors, alongside seeking other potential areas of contextual framing. Sponsorship naming rights negotiations need to be sensitive to a variety of contextual factors. Furthermore, sponsors would do well to have a good awareness of their own brand image and its congruency with the identity of the club and fan base. This nuanced, qualitative analysis extends existing, quantitative-based research by identifying a range of contextual factors which shape fans’ reactions to corporate stadium naming.

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