QUT Digital Repository:
Neale, Larry and Filo, Kevin and Funk, Daniel (2007) Corporate social
responsibility and sport event sponsorship. In: ANZMAC 2007, 3-5 December
2007, University of Otago, Dunedin.
© Copyright 2007 [ please consult the authors]
Corporate Social Responsibility and Sport Event Sponsorship
Kevin Filo and Dan Funk, Griffith University
Larry Neale, University of Western Australia
Demonstrating socially responsible behaviour has become increasingly important for
corporations. Using the Psychological Continuum Model (PCM) as its theoretical framework,
this paper examines the mediational role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the
relationship between sport participation motivation, event attachment and purchase intent of a
sport event’s sponsors’ products. A questionnaire was distributed to a sample of sport event
participants (N=689) to measure sport participation motivation (recreation and charity),
attachment to the event, CSR, and purchase intent of sponsors’ products. Results reveal that
CSR fully mediates the link between purchase intent and sport participation motivation and
partially mediates the influence of attachment on purchase intent. The authors propose that
corporations strategically align with sport events in which participants are attached to allow
for CSR and the meaning elicited by the event to work jointly.
In 2002, 4.6 million Australians over the age of 18 participated in organised sport or physical
recreation, while 7.0 million Australian adults (48.2% of the population) attended at least one
sport event (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003). These figures demonstrate that
participatory sport events provide stakeholders, such as event sponsors, with an attractive
audience. Sponsorship of sport events is one form of cause-related marketing, which is a way
for corporations to demonstrate social responsibility (Brown and Dacin, 1997). Corporate
social responsibility (CSR) represents an important marketing strategy that is favourable to
both the economy and society (Zhihai, 2007). The current study examines how CSR affects
the relationship between motivation and meaning for a sport event with purchase intent
towards event sponsors.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Demonstrating socially responsible behaviour has become increasingly important for
corporations. CSR involves effectively balancing a corporation’s economic, social and
environmental performance (Collins, Steg and Koning, 2007) and is comprised of sincerity,
trustworthiness and law-abidance (Zhihai, 2007). CSR has emerged as a worldwide trend
involving a variety of different parties including corporations, states, international
organisations, and civil society organisations (Sahlin-Anderrson, 2006). Corporations can use
CSR to enhance their overall image (Dowling, 1986), and this enhanced image can contribute
to a sustainable competitive advantage for the organisation (Amis, Pant and Slack, 1997).
Sport has proven to be an effective vehicle for influencing society in general and communities
in particular through positive social contributions (Smith and Westerbeek, 2007). Consumer
response to a sponsored sport event has been found to transfer to event sponsors (Crimmins
and Horn, 1996). Research suggests CSR can be exhibited through sport via sponsorships,
donations, gifts in-kind, cause-related marketing, and employee volunteering (Smith and
Westerbeek, 2007). Sport CSR represents a sport consumer’s attitude towards a corporation
as a result of its sponsorship involvement with a sport event. The role of CSR in sport
sponsorship and whether this involvement translates into purchase intent of sponsors’
products is not well understood.
The current study uses Funk and James’ (2001; 2006) PCM as its theoretical basis as it builds
upon prior research to account for a variety of discrete social-psychological, cultural-
education, and situational motives operating within its framework. The PCM outlines a
number of processes that explain how consumers become connected to sport events. This
connection occurs through a progression along a vertical continuum with four stages:
awareness, attraction, attachment, and allegiance.
Prominent within the PCM framework is a discussion of core motives for sport and recreation
participation. Most notably, Beard and Ragheb (1983) advanced four dimensions of leisure
motivation: intellectual, social, escape, and competency motives related to leisure needs.
Each of these four dimensions have been highlighted in the existing literature on motivation
(e.g. Crompton, 1979; Crompton and McKay, 1997; Mannell and Iso-Ahola, 1987; Zhang and
Lam, 1999). These recreational motives represent core factors that can contribute to event
participation in general. However, additional consideration in the form of contextual motives
may also serve to fulfil needs within consumers and lead to participation (Funk and James,
2004). For sport events that have a benefiting charity, the charitable component and
attachment to the event may represent additional aspects.
Factors related to charitable giving may serve to motivate contributors towards participating.
Donors may be motivated by reciprocity, self-esteem, need to help others, and the desire to
improve the charity (Amos, 1982; Hibbert and Horne, 1996; Marx, 2000; Ritzenheim, 2000).
These motives can attract and increase event participation as well as lead to attachment (Filo,
Funk and O’Brien, 2007). Attachment is the overall importance of the event to the
participant, and embodies the event taking on emotional, symbolic and functional meaning
(Funk and James, 2006). Higher levels of attachment create a greater likelihood that an
individual will participate and re-participate in a specific recreational activity. Taken
together, the current research investigates how event attachment, recreational and charity
motivation, and perceived CSR contribute to a participant’s intent to purchase event sponsors’
A sample of participants in the 2007 3M Half Marathon and Relay in Austin, Texas
completed an online questionnaire following completion of the event. This event represents
an established participatory sport event aligned with a charity, in which a portion of the event
revenue benefits the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. The event is in its thirteenth year of
existence. 3M is a technology company with a worldwide presence in markets such as
consumer and office, health care, and safety services, and a multi-division U.S. headquarters
in Austin, Texas. In addition to its involvement with the Half Marathon and Relay promoting
the city’s active lifestyle, 3M has non-profit partnerships in Austin with organisations
including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Literacy Austin, and Meals on Wheels. Participants chose
between a half marathon and a two-person half marathon relay. Individual participants were
required to pay a US$40 registration fee in advance, or US$80 on race day, while relay team
participants paid US$80 in advance, or US$120 on race day. The event attracted over 4,000
participants. The majority of participants registered via the internet
Respondents (N=689) ranged in age from 18-65 with the majority (70%) between the ages of
25-44. Thirty-seven percent had a monthly household income between US$3500 and
US$10,000, 70% lived with a partner at home, 47% had children, and 86% had obtained at
least a Bachelors degree. Ninety-eight percent of the sample had previously participated in
the event, with 47% in their second year of participation.
Participants were given a multi-attribute questionnaire that included: (a) 12-items to measure
a composite for recreation motivation (Beard and Ragheb, 1983), (b) 12-items to measure a
composite for charity motivation (Amos, 1982; Hibbert and Horne, 1996; Marx, 2000;
Ritzenheim, 2000), and (c) nine-items to measure attachment to the event (Funk and James,
2006). All items were measured on 7-point Likert-scales anchored by (1 = strongly disagree,
7 = strongly agree). To measure CSR, two Likert-scale items using seven-point scales (1 =
not at all favourable, 7 = extremely favourable) were used to assess how sponsorship of the
event caused participants to view 3M and how sponsorship of the event caused participants to
view a sponsoring company, and two Likert items using seven-point scales (1 = not at all
likely, 7 = extremely likely) to measure purchase intent of the sponsors’ products. The
questionnaire also included a battery of demographic and participation questions.
The questionnaire was administered online one week following the event. Participants were
sent an e-mail with a link to the questionnaire. The e-mail was sent to 3,500 participants, with
689 usable questionnaires returned for a response rate of 19.7%. The questionnaire was
available to participants for two weeks following the initial e-mail.
Consistent with the recommendations of Baron and Kenny (1986), a three-step test of
mediation was conducted using multiple linear regressions (MLR) to examine the
relationships. Step 1 examined the relationship between CSR and recreation motivation,
charity motivation, and attachment. Step 2 examined the relationship between purchase intent
and recreation motivation, charity motivation, and attachment. Step 3 examined the
relationship between purchase intent and recreation motivation, charity motivation, and
attachment along with CSR simultaneously.
The means, standard deviations, and Cronbach alpha values for all constructs measured are
reported in Table 1. The Chronbach alphas were calculated for the constructs since multi-
item scales were used, and ranged from α = .88 to α = .95, indicating the items used to
measure the constructs were reliable (Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994).
The mediation tests for the sample are reported in Table 2. Results from Step 1 indicate a
significant relationship exists between CSR and recreation motivation, charity motivation, and
attachment (p < .05). The results from Step 2 indicate a significant relationship exists
between purchase intent and these same three variables (p < .05). According to Baron and
Kenny, partial mediation exists if a regression coefficient in Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 is
significant (p < .05) and full mediation exists if a regression coefficient in Step 1 and Step 2 is
significant but not in Step 3. Results from Step 3 indicate CSR mediates the relationship
between purchase intent and recreation motivation, charity motivation, and attachment (p <
.05). CSR fully mediates the relationship between purchase intent and both recreation
motivation and charity motivation, while partially mediating the relationship between
purchase intent and attachment. In addition, the explained variance in purchase intent
increased from 16% in Steps 1 and 2 to 41% in Step 3 with the addition of CSR.
Table 1: Means, Standard Deviations and Reliability Measures for Recreation
Motivation, Charity Motivation, Attachment, CSR, and Purchase Intent
Charity Motivation 3.65
Purchase Intent 4.54
Table 2: Three Step Test of Mediation for Recreation Motivation, Charity Motivation,
Attachment, CSR, and Purchase Intent
Step 1 Step 2
CSR Purchase Intent Purchase Intent
Attachment .102 .166
Adjusted R² .16 .16
F-Value 44.34 44.13
With this sample, CSR mediates the relationship between purchase intent of the sponsors’
products and recreation motivation, charity motivation and event attachment. CSR fully
mediates the relationship between purchase intent and recreation motivation and charity
motivation. This indicates that while these motives drive event participation (Beard and
Ragheb, 1983; Filo, Funk and O’Brien, 2007), they will not influence purchase intent towards
the event sponsors’ products unless participants perceive the sponsor demonstrates social
responsibility. CSR partially mediated purchase intent when considering participant
attachment to the event. The emotional, symbolic and functional meaning an individual has
for a sport event (Funk and James, 2006) contributes to purchase intent individually but also
collectively contributes with CSR to increase the likelihood of purchasing sponsor products.
p > .05 .127 .143
.264 .191 p > .05 Full
Attachment to the event should be considered an important predictor of purchase intent due to
its partial mediation (e.g. Baron and Kenny, 1986).
These findings support the notion that favourable consumer responses to a sponsored sport
event (i.e. attachment) transfers to event sponsors (Crimmins and Horn, 1996). Furthermore,
the results demonstrate that CSR contributes to enhancing corporate image (Dowling, 1986)
via favourable consumer attitudes and intent to purchase. Finally, this research further
demonstrates that sport serves as a viable vehicle for displaying socially responsible
behaviour for corporations (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Smith and Westerbeek, 2007).
Implications and Future Directions
The findings of this study have both theoretical and managerial implications. First, from a
theoretical standpoint, the current research represents further refinement of attachment within
the PCM framework. The results demonstrate that the relationship between attachment and
behavioural intent can be bolstered by CSR, and this research can serve as a starting point to
further examine the influence of CSR on attachment. Second, marketers should consider
participant attachment when choosing sport events with which to align. Research suggests
potential corporate sponsors emphasise compatibility between the brand and event to garner
optimal consumer response (Trimble and Rifon, 2006). The current research demonstrates
that the personal meaning elicited by the event for consumers should be an additional factor to
consider in selecting effective sponsorship opportunities. Last, corporations should look to
leverage CSR towards brand loyalty. CSR is one way to foster trust in a brand (Brady, 2003;
Willmott, 2003), and brand trust contributes to brand loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook,
2001). Event sponsors should highlight their alignment with the sport event, and the trust this
establishes with consumers, through marketing communication.
Using the current research as a starting point, future work is warranted. First, the meaning of
attachment and CSR, and their dual influence on purchase intent, behaviour and loyalty can
be explored qualitatively. Semi-structured interviews would allow for a focus on meaning
(Denzin and Lincoln, 1994), while accounting for variety in experiences and relationships
(Veal, 2006). Second, research can examine sport events with a more prominently featured
charitable cause. The current research investigated an event in which a portion of proceeds
benefited a select charity, and the presence of this charity was featured minimally within
event marketing. Researchers should investigate a sport event managed and organised by a
charitable organisation, in which all proceeds benefit the specific cause with the charity
featured throughout all communication (marketing materials, online registration, location,
course, etc.). Researchers can then compare the influence and relative importance of CSR for
the two separate events.
This research demonstrates how perceived corporate social responsibility among sport
participants can influence purchase intent towards event sponsors’ products. CSR was found
to fully mediate the relationship between motivation and purchase intent as well as partially
mediate the relationship between attachment to the event and purchase intent. It is suggested
that potential corporate sponsors evaluate the meaning an event elicits from participants as
part of their event selection strategy. It is hoped that this research leads to further work on the
influence of CSR on both consumer attachment to a sport object and behaviour.
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