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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of concurrent sponsor color contrast on viewers’ attention for sponsor signage. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected through an experimental study (n=92) involving eye-tracking and a survey, and were analyzed using a linear regression model. Findings: The results of this study show that, besides factors like logo size, brand familiarity, and involvement, viewers’ attention for sponsor signage is also affected by the signage color of concurrent sponsors. In particular, findings reveal that viewers’ attention for sponsor signage increases with greater color contrast between concurrently visible sponsor signage. Regarding the importance of attention as a prerequisite for further processing of sponsorship information, these findings have important implications for managers looking to evaluate the returns on their sponsorship investment. Practical Implications: When assessing the returns of a sponsorship investment, marketers should consider the visual characteristics of surrounding sponsor signage with regard to their impact on the capability of their own signage to attract viewers’ attention. Ideally, marketers should attempt to create a greater color contrast between their own signage and its surroundings in order to maximize viewer attention. Originality: This paper provides valuable information on the importance of concurrently visible sponsor signage and its visual characteristics for sponsorship effectiveness through its impact on viewers’ attention.
International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship
Determinants of viewer attention in concurrent event sponsorship
Felix Boronczyk, Christopher Rumpf, Christoph Breuer,
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To cite this document:
Felix Boronczyk, Christopher Rumpf, Christoph Breuer, (2018) "Determinants of viewer attention in
concurrent event sponsorship", International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Vol. 19
Issue: 1, pp.11-24, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSMS-09-2016-0063
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https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSMS-09-2016-0063
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Determinants of viewer attention
in concurrent event sponsorship
Felix Boronczyk, Christopher Rumpf and Christoph Breuer
Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management,
German Sport University, Cologne, Germany
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of exposure-related and consumer-related factors
on the return of sponsorship investment through their influence on viewersattention for sponsor signage.
Design/methodology/approach Data were collected through an experimental study (n¼92) involving
eye-tracking and a questionnaire, and were analyzed using regression analysis.
Findings The results show that viewersattention for sponsor signage is affected by the signage color of
concurrent sponsors, as well as viewersbrand familiarity, and sport involvement. In particular, the findings
reveal that viewersattention for sponsor signage increases with greater color contrast between concurrently
visible sponsor signage. Further, signage receives more attention if viewers are familiar with the brand and
less involved with the sponsored event. Given that attention is an important prerequisite for further
processing of sponsorship information, these findings have important implications for managers seeking to
evaluate the return on their sponsorship investment.
Practical implications When assessing the return on a sponsorship investment, marketers should
consider the characteristics of surrounding sponsor signage and the audience with regard to their impact on
viewersattention for their own signage. Ideally, marketers should attempt to create a greater color contrast
between their own signage and its surroundings in order to maximize viewer attention.
Originality/value This paper provides valuable information on the importance of concurrently visible
sponsor signage and audience characteristics for the return on investment of sponsorships through their
impact on viewersattention.
Keywords Sponsorship, Eye-tracking, Attention, Colour effects, Concurrent sponsorship,
Experimental research
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Over the past decades, marketing managers have shifted their focus toward so-called
indirect forms of marketing like sponsorship, product placement, or the use of social media
(Cornwell, 2014). Faced with consumers that are increasingly difficult to reach through
classic marketing communications such as TV advertising, they have instead attempted to
reach their target audiences by embedding their brands in sport events, TV programming,
or video games. Consequentially, spending on indirect marketing communications,
and particularly on sport sponsorship, has soared: over the past two decades, global
sponsorship spending has increased about fivefold, totaling $57.7 billion in 2015, with the
sport industry accounting for as much as approximately 70 percent of the sponsorship
spending in the North American market (International Events Group, 2016). In the face of
growing expenditures, marketers are increasingly under pressure to justify the large sums
of money spent on sponsorship fees and activation, and to critically evaluate the return on
their investment in sponsorship.
The development in measuring and evaluating sponsorship outcomes, however, has not
been able to keep up with the rapid increase in expenditures, which has resulted in a
measurement deficit ( Jensen and Cobbs, 2014). In fact, measuring sponsorship returns is a
complicated task and remains one of the greatest challenges in sponsorship research
(e.g. Crompton, 2004; Jensen and Cobbs, 2014). Many researchers have focused on the International Journal of Sports
Marketing and Sponsorship
Vol. 19 No. 1, 2018
pp. 11-24
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1464-6668
DOI 10.1108/IJSMS-09-2016-0063
Received 23 September 2016
Revised 2 December 2016
Accepted 17 January 2017
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1464-6668.htm
This study was supported by funding from Viessmann Werke GmbH & Co. KG. The funder was not
involved in the research process.
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examination of different factors regarding their effect on outcomes such as sponsor recall or
recognition (Cornwell et al., 2005), and thus their influence on the effectiveness of
sponsorship in marketing communications.
One important factor that has been ignored by the vast majority of studies, however, is
the role of concurrently visible sponsors. In contrast to most other marketing
communication tools, brand exposure in the context of sports or entertainment is
typically not exclusive. Whereas during a TV ad for example normally only one brand is
presented, sport properties are often concurrently sponsored by several brands, meaning
that sport spectators are exposed to the brand logos of multiple sponsors simultaneously
(Ruth and Simonin, 2003; Groza et al., 2012). During a televised sport event for example,
a sponsors brand may be visible alongside several others on the same perimeter board.
Such special communication environments may have important implications for the
effectiveness of a sponsorship.
Previous research shows that a larger number of concurrently visible sponsor logos
negatively affects viewersattention for sponsor signage in sports broadcasts and,
consequently, their ability to recall the sponsor brands (Breuer and Rumpf, 2012). While
these findings indicate that concurrently visible signage affects sponsorship effectiveness,
previous research has merely focused on the impact of the number of visible logos.
Additional properties, such as the visual properties of concurrently visible signage, were not
taken into account. However, different pairings of concurrently visible sponsors on a
perimeter board may vary considerably with regard to their visual features, for example
their color, but may be otherwise identical. If differences in the color of the co-sponsor lead to
different levels of viewer attention for a sponsors signage, for example due to the level of
color contrast between the adjacent logos, then the color of the concurrent sponsors signage
may be a meaningful variable that influences the effectiveness of a sponsorship. However,
this notion has not been examined in the literature to date.
In addition to exposure-related factors, previous studies have examined the effects of
consumer-related variables on outcomes like purchase intentions (e.g. Alexandris et al.,
2007; Dees et al., 2008) or sponsor identification (e.g. Pham, 1992; Cornwell and Relyea,
2000; Olson and Thjømøe, 2009; Breuer and Rumpf, 2012). Although consumers
visual attention for brands in a sponsorship context can be regarded as a prerequisite
for such outcomes (Breuer and Rumpf, 2012), the influence of consumer-related variables
on attention for sponsor signage has been ignored in the literature to date. Findings
from the field of print advertising, however, suggest that factors related to individuals
and their idiosyncratic attention processes may also drive consumersattention
(Pieters and Wedel, 2004).
This study therefore aims to achieve two major objectives: to examine the effect of
concurrent sponsorsvisual features on the return of sponsorship investment through their
impact on viewersattention for sponsor signage; and to examine the role of consumer-related
factors on consumersallocation of attention for sponsor signage.
Measuring the return on sponsorship investment
In practice, measuring and evaluating the return on investment of sponsorships is often
based on a media-analytical approach that focuses on measuring sponsor logo exposure in
different media and the respective medias audience reaches (e.g. Jensen, 2012; Jensen and
Cobbs, 2014). However, assessing the return on a sponsorship investment through this
media-analytical approach has severe shortcomings. For example, it only represents a
potential sponsorship effect because it disregards whether or not the sponsorship
information has in fact been processed (Crompton, 2004). Or, put differently, it is not
exposure that drives the return on investment of a sponsorship but the impact that the
exposure has on consumers (Shilbury et al., 2009).
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However, before consumers can process, store, and later retrieve sponsorship
information, they first need to visually perceive it (Breuer and Rumpf, 2012). Therefore,
signage that is visible in a sports environment needs to attract viewersvisual attention
before it becomes the subject of mental processing (e.g. Lardinoit and Derbaix, 2001;
Lardinoit and Quester, 2001). Signage that is visible but fails to draw viewersattention will
not achieve its objective, e.g. to influence consumersfuture behavior, and will therefore
likely result in a poor return on investment of the sponsorship.
Consequently, a comprehensive evaluation of the returns that a sponsorship investment
yields will require a solid measure for projected viewer attention for the visible signage.
Viewer attention, rather than exposure, should be regarded as the relevant outcome of a
sponsorship, and the value of a sponsorship should be assessed based on the relationship
between costs and capability to attract viewer attention.
Viewer attention to sponsor signage
While attention is of great importance for sponsorship effectiveness, consumers in general
frequently attempt to avoid commercial stimuli (Milosavljevic and Cerf, 2008), and sport viewers
in particular were found to pay attention to just a small share of visible sponsorship information
(dYdewalle and Tasmin, 1993). Therefore, factors that determine the attention-gaining capacity
of signage should be of great interest for sponsorship managers and researchers. Previous
research on viewer attention in sponsorship has shown that, among other variables, viewer
attention for sponsor signage in sport can be increased by modifying certain optical features,
such as the size of the brand logo (Breuer and Rumpf, 2012), and by using brighter colors,
or certain types of animations (Breuer and Rumpf, 2015).
However, despite the ubiquity of concurrent visibility situations in practice, the interplay
of simultaneously visible brand logos has received very little attention in the literature
to date. Yet these brand communication environments require enquiry, since the
simultaneous visibility of multiple sponsor brands may affect the amount of visual attention
that viewers devote to each sponsor. Breuer and Rumpf (2012) for example found that the
number of simultaneously visible sponsor logos is negatively linked to the amount of
attention each logo attracts, however they did not take into account any characteristics of
the concurrent sponsor signage apart from the number of logos. Nevertheless, the visual
features of simultaneously visible sponsor signage, for example their color, may also affect
the effectiveness and thus the value of sponsor signage. If the allocation of viewer attention
is in part determined by the color of concurrently visible sponsor logos, this would have
important implications for managers, since identical signage would then promise different
returns, depending on the surrounding signage.
Prior research regarding the visual environment of sponsor signage found that the color
of the immediate surroundings of sponsor signage mattered insofar, as a greater color
contrast between sponsor signage and the surrounding playing field lead viewers to pay
more attention to the signage (Breuer and Rumpf, 2015). Considering that, in addition to the
playing field, sponsor signage is typically surrounded by concurrent sponsorssignage,
an additional effect based on the color contrast between adjacent sponsorssignage appears
plausible. The question how the color of concurrent sponsor signage affects the amount of
attention a sponsor brand logo can capture however has not been examined so far.
Color contrast and attention
While viewer attention has been identified as an important driver for the processing of
sponsorship information (e.g. Lardinoit and Derbaix, 2001; Lardinoit and Quester, 2001)
and therefore a central driver of sponsorship effectiveness, the influence that the visual
characteristics of sponsor signage surroundings have on viewersattention has been
investigated by very few researchers. In the general marketing literature, color contrast
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effects on advertisement effectiveness have been examined for example in print media
(e.g. Schindler, 1986) or online media (e.g. Moore et al., 2005). Schindler (1986) argued that
ads in print media need to be seen and read in order to affect consumer behavior and
assumes that a higher contrast within an ad increases legibility. The author examined the
usage of color contrast in a number of magazine ads and provided descriptive results, but no
deeper empirical analysis of the effectiveness of the ads in attracting attention. Moore et al.
(2005) on the other hand examined the effect of online banner ad color and color-text
contrast on viewersattention in an experimental study, but found no significant main
effects for their color contrast manipulations on attention. However, their results have to be
seen critically regarding their validity, because the authors operationalized attention by
using memory measures. Since attention is in part allocated automatically (Dehaene et al.,
2006), viewers cannot recall all objects that they have mentally processed (Rosbergen et al.,
1997), therefore memory retrieval is a very limited measure of attention.
In a sport sponsorship context, color contrast as a determinant of viewer attention has
been ignored, with the notable exception of Breuer and Rumpf (2015) who used eye-tracking
to examine the effect of different sponsor signage colors on viewer attention to sponsorship
signage. Adopting an experimental research design, 176 participants were exposed to video
clips taken from real sport telecasts. These clips were digitally manipulated so that sponsor
signage differed in terms of hue and also color contrast, namely between sponsorship
signage and the surrounding colors. To measure the amount of visual attention paid to each
sponsors signage, the participantseye movements were recorded via eye-tracking.
The authors found that a higher color contrast between sponsor signage and sport
surroundings increases viewer attention devoted to the signage (Breuer and Rumpf, 2015).
However, in the interest of internal validity, fictional brands were used as sponsors, and the
signage surroundings were not systematically manipulated. The color contrast between the
sponsor and the surrounding signage of concurrent sponsors was not examined in this
study. In short, although there is good reason to assume that the visual features of
concurrently visible sponsor signage significantly affect the value of a sponsorship
investment, this has not been examined in the literature so far.
Consumer-related factors and attention
While the physical features of sponsor signage and its surroundings are likely to affect
viewer attention, individual differences between consumers may also result in different
allocation of attention. In sponsorship research, such consumer-related factors like viewers
sport involvement or brand familiarity have been examined mostly with regard to their
effect on outcomes such as sponsor recall (e.g. Pham, 1992; Cornwell and Relyea, 2000; Olson
and Thjømøe, 2009; Breuer and Rumpf, 2012) or purchase intentions (e.g. Alexandris et al.,
2007; Dees et al., 2008; Olson and Thjømøe, 2009).
Previous research for instance indicates that consumersinvolvement with the sponsored
property is positively linked to their intentions to purchase the sponsors products
(e.g. Alexandris et al., 2007; Dees et al., 2008). Additionally, Pham (1992) finds that higher
involvement with the sponsored event is positively linked to consumersrecognition of
sponsors, but this effect turns negative for higher levels of involvement (Pham, 1992).
However, while the author assumes that more involved consumers pay less attention to
billboards containing sponsorship messages, he does not directly measure consumers
visual attention, and memory measures are only a limited measure for attention (Breuer and
Rumpf, 2012). In short, although consumersinvolvement appears to influence their
processing of sponsor messages, its influence on viewer attention for sponsor signage has
not been examined directly.
Similarly, research on the impact of consumersfamiliarity with the sponsor brand
shows that consumers are more likely to recall familiar brands as sponsor from memory
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(e.g. Olson and Thjømøe, 2009; Breuer and Rumpf, 2012). Breuer and Rumpf (2012) also
show that viewer attention for sponsor brands increases the likelihood of correct recall,
but do not measure the effect of brand familiarity on viewer attention for sponsor signage.
To summarize, although the significant impact of involvement and brand familiarity has
been demonstrated with regard to important outcomes of sponsorship, their role in
explaining viewer attention for sponsor signage has not been analyzed to date.
This study therefore seeks to contribute to the literature on sponsorship effectiveness in
two ways: first, it elaborates on a visual feature which has not been examined so far but may
impact the effectiveness of a sponsorship through its influence on viewer attention. While
most studies in sponsorship research do not take into account the visual features of
surrounding sponsor signage, this paper aims to shed further light on how the color contrast
between concurrently visible sponsorssignage affects viewer attention, and thus
sponsorship effectiveness. Second, it attempts to expand the body of knowledge on the
influence of audience characteristics on sponsorship effectiveness by analyzing its effect on
viewer attention for sponsor signage. More precisely, the influence of viewersinvolvement
with the sponsored property and of their familiarity with the sponsored brand on attention
for sponsor signage will be analyzed.
The remainder of the study is organized as follows: first, the theoretical background of
viewer attention for sponsor signage is examined and the research hypotheses are
presented. Then, the research method and the experimental procedures are described. Next,
the results of the experiment are reported, analyzed, and discussed. Finally, this study
concludes with suggestions for future research.
Theoretical background
When watching a sport telecast, viewers are faced with a far greater amount of visible
information than they could possibly process, including the sporting action, but also the
sponsor signage. To protect the visual system from information overload, the visual
attention mechanism allows the processing of a subset of selected visible objects over others
(Palmer, 2002). The spotlightmetaphor (e.g. LaBerge, 1983) describes the attention
mechanism as a spotlight that directs its focus on selected objects in the viewers field of
vision, which are thus processed more efficiently than non-selected ones. Only one object
at a time is attended, and once it has been processed, the spotlight moves on and the next
object in the field of vision is selected (Palmer, 2002). Sport viewersattentional resources are
therefore limited and, in order to be effective, sponsor signage needs to be perceived amidst
the information regarding the sport event and the concurrent sponsors.
Sponsor signage therefore has to compete for viewersattention with a large amount of
concurrently visible information. Faced with such a cluttered environment, consumers often
try to avoid marketing messages (Milosavljevic and Cerf, 2008). To understand how sponsor
signage can draw viewersvisual attention anyway, the two-component framework of
attention (Itti and Koch, 2000; Treisman and Gelade, 1980) provides a useful background.
According to this framework, objects in the viewersvisual field can be processed in two
ways: They either receive visual attention by a top-down mechanism, which can be
deliberately controlled by the viewer, with the result that only the most relevant information
is consciously processed. Alternatively, objects can attract attention automatically through
a bottom-up mechanism which requires little to no cognitive resources and draws viewer
attention toward the most salient objects in the field of vision (Parkhurst et al., 2002; Pieters
and Wedel, 2004). These two mechanisms can operate simultaneously, therefore, in order to
be perceived, sponsor signage either needs to be brought into the focus of attention willfully,
or it needs to win the competition for saliency (Itti and Koch, 2000; Rumpf and Breuer, 2016).
Given that top-down allocated attention is based on a mechanism with variable
selection criteria, and the spotlight of attention can be directed under cognitive control
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(Itti and Koch, 2000), viewersfamiliarity is likely to affect the amount of attention that
sponsor signage receives. Familiar signage contains the logo of a brand that the consumer
has seen before, and thus, creates a feeling of familiarity (Rosbergen et al., 1997). In line
with the associative network memory model (e.g. Anderson, 1983), this means that the
brand is already represented in a node in the consumers memory. Once the node is
activated, for example by glancing at the logo, the associations linked to the brand are
rapidly recalled (e.g. Keller, 1993). Because familiar objects are already stored as a
cognitive structure in consumersminds, they are easier to process than unfamiliar objects
and thus require less attention. Accordingly, sponsor signage can be expected to receive
less visual attention if viewers are familiar with the sponsor brand. Research on print
advertisements confirms that a higher level of consumersbrand familiarity reduced their
attention for print advertisements of the brand (e.g. Pieters et al., 2002; Pieters and
Wedel, 2004). Compared to print advertisements, static sponsor signage typically contains
very little information, but a similar mechanism is assumed to be at work in both cases
and therefore the following hypothesis is put forward:
H1. Viewersfamiliarity with the sponsor brand will have a negative influence on their
attention for sponsor signage.
In addition to consumersfamiliarity with the presented brand, their involvement with the
sponsored sport or event may also affect their attention for the visible sponsor signage.
In keeping with Celsi and Olson (1988), consumersinvolvement can be regarded as their
motivation to process information and is determined by the degree to which consumers
perceive this information to be personally relevant to them.
In the context of sport media, viewers who are less involved with a sport event will put
less effort in following the sporting action and pay more attention to surrounding stimuli,
for example sponsor messages (Pham, 1992). Consistent with the notion of limited
cognitive capacity (Kahneman, 1973), the more highly involved viewers are, the more
they will focus their limited processing capacity on the most relevant information and
try to avoid less relevant stimuli. In other words, viewers who are highly involved with
the sport event can be expected to consciously direct their attention toward the event
and away from sponsor signage (Pham, 1992). Their attention for the visible sponsor
signage will mostly be determined by its capability to draw viewerssaliency-based
attention (Breuer and Rumpf, 2015). Based on this reasoning the following hypothesis
is formulated:
H2. Viewerslevel of sport involvement will be negatively related to their attention for
sponsor signage.
In contrast to the top-down mechanism of attention, the allocation of saliency-based
attention occurs extremely fast, and consumer-related factors are unlikely to play a
significant role for this bottom-up mechanism. Instead, the likelihood of an object to receive
saliency-based attention will be mostly based on its visual properties, such as its color,
intensity or orientation (Itti and Koch, 2000). Taking all visual features into account,
a saliency map is created in the viewers mind that indicates the most salient object in the
visual scene, which ultimately receives all visual attention in a winner-take-all manner,
whereas less salient objects are overlooked (Itti and Koch, 2000; Peters et al., 2005).
Vision research shows that whether or not an object in the visual field calls bottom-up
attention to itself does not depend on its absolute visual features, but on the visual context of
the surrounding scene (Nothdurft, 2000). A very different object in a field of otherwise
similar objects, such as a single vertical line in a field of horizontal lines, appears to
pop outto the viewers eye (Palmer, 2002). With decreasing levels of feature contrast
though the saliency of that object is reduced. Aside from properties like object orientation or
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movement, the color contrast of a target relative to the objects surrounding it has also been
reported to determine its saliency (Nothdurft, 2000).
This is in line with the opponent color processing theory (Hering, 1878/1964; DZamura,
1991) which states that color vision is based on a red/green channel and a yellow/blue
channel. Because the pairs of red/green and yellow/blue are complementary colors, there is
no perceptual combination of either pair. This concept is supported by neuroscientific
findings, which show that different wavelengths of light lead to different responses in hue-
selective neurons in the visual cortex of the human brain (Yoshioka et al., 1996). Some of
these color opponent neurons prefer red (yellow) light while inhibiting green (blue) light and
vice versa (Palmer, 2002). If a pair of opponent colors is perceived simultaneously, e.g. blue
and yellow, the saliency of both the blue and the yellow surfaces is intensified. This color
contrast effect decreases with similarity of the colors that are presented together and can be
observed for all pairs of opponent colors.
Applied to concurrent sponsorship, it can therefore be assumed that the saliency of
sponsor signage, for example on a perimeter board, is affected by the visual features of the
adjacent sponsor signage, more precisely by the color contrast between two concurrent
sponsor logos. For example, red signage is less salient if it is placed next to signage of the
same color than if it is placed next to blue signage; thus the concurrent sponsor signage
color may affect the amount of viewer attention each of the two sponsors receives. Therefore
the following hypothesis is formulated:
H3. Sponsor signage placed in a high-contrast concurrent sponsor surrounding will receive
more attention than signage placed in a low-contrast concurrent sponsor surrounding.
Methodology
In order to analyze determinants of viewersattention for sponsor signage, an experimental
research design was created. In this laboratory experiment, participants were exposed to
30 sport media pictures in which sponsor signage was systematically manipulated and their
attention for sponsor signage was measured using eye-tracking methodology. By exposing
participants to systematically manipulated treatments in a controlled setting and by directly
observing their glance direction, this approach provides deeper insights into the implicit
effects of visual communication in sports.
Pre-study
In a pre-study, 103 participants were asked to browse different print newspaper pages for
90 seconds each. Overall, the pages included a total of 16 images containing sport-related
content. Recording of participantseye movements through eye-tracking showed that,
on average, each image received 2.37 seconds of the viewersattention (SD ¼0.80). Based on
this observation, participants in the main study were exposed to each image for 3 seconds to
ensure the validity of the findings.
Research design and preparation of treatments
As stimulus pictures for the main study, 30 press photos were selected which contained clearly
visible sponsor signage in the context of different winter sport events, because sponsor signage
in these environments is typically surrounded by largely homogenous and achromatic
environments. Photos of events from the three most popular winter sports among German
sport fans were chosen, namely cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and biathlon, because these
sports receive the majority of winter sports-related coverage in German media, and thus, can be
regarded most relevant. In order to allow for a meaningful number of cases but avoid excessive
repetition of similar images, ten images per sport were prepared.
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To achieve a realistic appearance, five brands that regularly sponsor winter sport events
were selected to appear as sponsors in the stimulus images and the visible sponsor signage
in the stimulus images was replaced with virtual signage of these brands using Adobe
Photoshop. Three of these sponsor brands, Audi, Viessmann, and Eon, use predominantly
red sponsor signage, while signage of the remaining two brands, BMW and DKB, is largely
achromatic and consists of a brand logo containing blue font on a white background.
For each of the 30 stimulus images, different versions were created showing varying
combinations of sponsor signage from two out of these five brands, but no further visible
sponsor logos. This resulted in a number of images in which the level of color contrast
between the concurrently visible sponsors was very low, e.g. Viessmann and Audi, and
images with a relatively high level of color contrast between the sponsor brand logos,
e.g. Viessmann and BMW. Overall, six different treatment versions were created, resulting
in a total number of 180 different stimulus pictures.
Sample and procedures
In keeping with sample sizes used in previous eye-tracking studies in the field of
sponsorship (e.g. Breuer and Rumpf, 2012, n¼85; Breuer and Rumpf, 2015, n¼176),
data for the main study were collected from a sample of 100 participants. Participants were
recruited via an advertisement placed in a local newspaper and randomly assigned to one of
the treatment groups. Due to insufficiently accurate tracking of the eye movements, data
from eight participants were deleted from the data set. In total, 60 percent of the remaining
92 participants in the sample were male, and the mean age was 27.4 years ±11.7 years.
Participants were offered a financial incentive of 10 for taking part in the experiment.
To achieve blinding, all participants received a briefing which clouded the actual objective
of the study.
The experiment took place in a lab room that was equipped with a 22" screen and a
monitor-integrated eye-tracking device. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of
the six treatment versions, which comprised 30 pictures each. The images were identical
across treatments in terms of sport scenes and were presented to the participants as a
slideshow in a randomized order, resulting in a treatment duration of 90 seconds.
Measurement
Eye-tracking was employed in order to measure participantsattention for the manipulated
sponsor signage in these images, as gaze direction is known to be highly correlated with
attention (Henderson and Hollingworth, 1999). During the treatment participantseye
movements were recorded with a frequency of 60 Hz using a remote eye-tracking device,
and for each participant an individual calibration of the eye-tracking device was performed
prior to the treatment to ensure good data quality. Areas of Interest(AOI) were defined in
advance for each sponsor logo across all images, which could then be matched with
each participants gaze directions during the experiment. In this way, attention for
sponsorship signage could be operationalized as the total glance duration for each brand
logo (Holmqvist et al., 2011). Furthermore, the AOIs provided information on the ratio
between the size of sponsor signage and the screen. This procedure yielded a data set
containing information on attention for 70 different AOIs for each of the 92 participants.
Of the resulting 6,440 cases, five had to be deleted because of data loss after minor technical
difficulties during the measurement, leading to a final case number of k¼6435.
After the slideshow, participants were asked to fill in a computer-based questionnaire
containing questions regarding their familiarity with each of the five brands, the strength of
their involvement with Winter sports, and sociodemographic variables. Similar to the
measure employed by Breuer and Rumpf (2012), brand familiarity was assessed by
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exposing participants to the respective brand logo and asking them to indicate whether or
not they had been familiar with the brand before that day.
Similar to the measure for object category involvement used by Olson (2010), participants
sport involvement was measured through two a two-item scale. Participants were asked to
indicate the strength of their involvement with winter sports on two seven-point Likert scales
ranging from I am not interested in winter sports (1)to I am interested in winter sports (7),
and winter sports mean nothing to me (1)to winter sports mean a lot to me (7),
respectively. For each participant, the mean value of these two items was taken as measure
for their involvement (Cronbachsα¼0.89). Finally, questions regarding participantsage and
gender were included as control variables. In total, the procedure required 15-20 minutes
per participant.
Results
A linear regression model was computed with participantsattention for sponsor signage
per image in seconds as the dependent variable, and including the independent variables
brand familiarity, sport involvement, as well as a binary independent variable indicating
whether the brand was presented in a high-contrast or low-contrast condition. The size of
the sponsors signage, operationalized as percentage of screen covered, was entered as
control variable, as well as participantsage, gender, and their attention for the concurrently
visible sponsor signage. The results are presented in Table I.
The regression model (R
2
Adj
¼0.07, F(7, 6414) ¼65.83, po0.001) shows that, as H1
assumed, viewers devoted less attention to signage of brands they were familiar with.
Furthermore, a greater level of viewersWinter sport involvement had a significant negative
effect on their attention for sponsor signage, providing support for H2. Moreover, sponsor
signage received significantly more attention when placed in an environment with
concurrent sponsors that created a greater level of color contrast, than if it was placed next
to concurrent sponsor signage of the same color. All other variables kept equal, placing
sponsor signage in a high-contrast context increased viewersattention for the signage by
0.03 seconds, which confirms H3. Further, consistent with the findings of Breuer and Rumpf
(2012), the on-screen share of the sponsor signage has a positive impact on viewersglance
duration. Finally, a marked age effect was also observed, as a higher age was found to
positively affect participantsattention for the sponsor signage.
Discussion and implications
The return of a sponsorship investment significantly depends on the amount of viewer
attention that the sponsors signage can attract, as attention is a prerequisite for further
Variable BSE Bβ
Constant 0.135*** 0.023
High Contrast Co-Sponsor 0.033** 0.010 0.039
Winter Sport Involvement 0.010** 0.003 0.041
Brand Familiarity 0.033* 0.015 0.027
Screen Share in % 0.008*** 0.001 0.095
Age 0.003*** 0.000 0.089
Female 0.007 0.010 0.008
Attention for Concurrent Sponsor in Seconds 0.199*** 0.012 0.199
Adj. R
2
0.066
F(7, 6414) 65.827***
Notes: Dependent variable: attention for sponsor signage (in seconds). *p o0.05; **p o0.01; ***p o0.001
Table I.
Linear regression
analysis for viewers
attention
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processing of sponsorship information. Accordingly, some factors which determine the
amount of viewer attention that signage receives have been discussed in the literature.
This research contributes to the understanding of sponsorship effectiveness as it stresses
the importance of viewersbrand familiarity and sport involvement, and the role of color
contrast effects based on concurrent sponsor signage. All three variables are shown to
influence the attention-gaining capacity of sponsor signage.
As postulated by H1, the results of the experiment show that viewers require less time
to process sponsorship information if they already know the sponsor, and thus devote less
attention to signage of familiar brands than to signage from unfamiliar brands.
These results are in line with findings from advertising research, which show that
consumers pay less attention to familiar print advertisements (e.g. Pieters et al., 2002;
Pieters and Wedel, 2004). Furthermore, viewersattention for sponsorship information is
found to depend in part on their motivation to process information related to the
sponsored event, confirming H2. In line with the concept of limited cognitive capacity
(Kahneman, 1973), viewers who are more highly involved with the sponsored property
direct their attention toward the sport event and thus away from environmental stimuli
like sponsor signage.
In support of H3, the results further reveal a significant effect of the level of contrast
between concurrently visible sponsor signage. Sponsor signage received significantly
more attention when placed next to a concurrent sponsor that caused a higher level of
color contrast. The regression coefficients reveal that placing sponsor signage in a higher
contrast environment increased viewer attention equivalent to an increase of signage
size by four percent of the total screen. The standardized coefficients suggest that
this concurrent color contrast effect is stronger than the attentional effect observed for
brand familiarity.
These findings are in line with Breuer and Rumpf (2015) and also consistent with the
theoretical model of saliency-based attention which postulates that viewersvisual attention
is automatically assigned to the most salient object in the visual field (e.g. Itti and Koch,
2000; Parkhurst et al., 2002). Since the saliency of sponsor signage is increased through
concurrent exposure next to signage of a relatively distant color and the resulting greater
level of contrast, its capacity to attract viewersbottom-up attention is increased.
It should be noted that the results from this study are likely to be conservative, because
the level of contrast in the high-contrast condition was not maximized. A red logo
surrounded by green signage could be expected to exhibit an even greater capability to
attract viewer attention. Nevertheless, the literature on mere-exposure effects suggests that
even small increments in viewer attention can prove valuable for a sponsor brand.
Even brief and repeated exposure to a stimulus can encourage greater familiarity and more
positive attitudes toward the brand at an unconscious level, without the necessity for any
explicit cognitive processing (Zajonc, 1980; Olson and Thjømøe, 2003).
The practical implications of these results are straightforward: Marketers should
carefully consider the color of concurrently visible brand logos surrounding their own
signage. To maximize viewer attention for their brand, managers should look to create a
greater color contrast between their own signage and its surroundings. For example,
marketers could adjust the color of their own brand logo to increase contrast to concurrent
sponsor signage or, alternatively, in negotiations leading up to an event sponsorship,
managers could try to include terms that guarantee a minimum level of color contrast
between their own and concurrent sponsorssignage.
Furthermore, managers should consider audience characteristics to assess the
effectiveness of their signage in capturing viewer attention. Based on the current
findings, managers can expect their signage to receive more attention from consumers
who are less involved with the event and unfamiliar with their brand, which would make
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event sponsorship a useful tool for companies who are looking to promote new brands.
At the same time managers should be aware of the fact that their signage will mostly attract
the attention of casual spectators, whereas they might not reach the highly involved fans
just as well.
Therefore, sponsorship managers should be ready to spend more for superior,
high-contrast placements of their signage or events with audiences which are more inclined
to perceive their signage, since viewersattention, and thus the potential returns on their
investment, can be increased significantly by use of this strategy.
Limitations and suggestions for further research
Although this study contributes to the understanding of concurrent sponsorsvisual
features and consumer-related factors in explaining sponsorship effectiveness, there are
some limitations to consider. Most importantly, the data were collected in a laboratory
experiment, which, as is always the case with experiments, resulted in a trade-off between
internal and external validity of the findings. For instance, participants were presented
images from different winter sports and without up-to-date relevance, and their emotional
involvement may have been lower than it might have been had they been watching a live
broadcast of a sport event. These limitations also represent an avenue for future research,
as future studies could for example employ mobile eye tracking and attempt to replicate
these trials in a real time environment.
Whereas the complexity of a brand environment increases with every additional
concurrent sponsor, this experimental design only comprised a small number of sponsor
brands and did not recreate situations that included more than one concurrently visible
sponsor. Further, the treatments only contained two possible color contrast levels, and only
the color contrast between signage of different sponsors was analyzed, whereas the
surrounding color was not included in the analysis. Future studies could address these
shortcomings by using more sophisticated measures of contrast, or by examining more
complex settings that include additional sponsor brands to create varying degrees of
contrast strength.
Additionally, future research could extend the analysis on the influence of color contrast,
brand familiarity and sport involvement on further sponsorship outcomes like sponsor
recall, brand image, or behavioral outcomes. For example, since previous studies showed
that attention and familiarity in part determine sponsor recall (Breuer and Rumpf, 2012),
analyzing the simultaneous impact of familiarity on both attention and recall appears to be a
promising avenue for future research.
Finally, while the regression analysis reveals a significant age effect, this study does not
provide an explanation for this finding. However, it points toward a potentially substantial
influence of socio-demographic variables on viewer attention for sponsor signage that calls
for further investigation.
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About the authors
Felix Boronczyk received the MSc Degree from German Sport University. Boronczyk is a Researcher and
a Lecturer at the Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management, German Sport University Cologne.
Felix Boronczyk is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: f.boronczyk@dshs-koeln.de
Christopher Rumpf received the PhD Degree from German Sport University. Rumpf is a Researcher and
a Lecturer at the Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management, German Sport University Cologne.
Christoph Breuer received the PhD Degree from German Sport University. Breuer is a Full
Professor of Sport Management at the Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management, German
Sport University Cologne.
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