Sports High Profile Endorsements


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Introduction

Within sport, endorsement has fast become an effective form of advertisement for organisations, with Stafford et al (2003) defining this type of commercial exposure as “a famous [athlete or coach] who uses public recognition to recommend or co-present with a product in an ad”. Wang et al (2012) defines the term celebrity “as a person who is well known and receives consumers’ respect;” hopefully then (from the companies perspective) leading to an instant connection between the consumer and the product through the favoured endorser, with Lear et al (2009) supporting the idea that celebrity endorsement is more” likely to positively influence consumer buying decisions”.
The way in which a brand / company publicise their product or services to a consumer through high profile endorsements could influence sales, depending on what that current market are demanding, and also the athlete supporting the product or service. A product with the backing of a famous athlete has incredible pulling power in terms of increasing brand awareness, with Poturak (2013) claiming that it is "unanimously accepted that celebrity endorsement can grant extraordinary characteristics to a product or service that may have lacked otherwise". With this in mind, external factors such as an athlete's personal life or 'off the field' endeavours could have just as much of an impact in deteriorating a brands image as it could improving it, with the customers personal opinion on the athletes themselves being the deciding factor in whether to purchase the product being endorsed or not. Biswas, Biswas, & Das (2006) believes that “because of consumer trust in celebrity endorsers, consumers tend to accidentally transfer their perceptions of celebrity endorsers to the brand,” does this then mean that much of Nike’s success could be due to its affiliation with sports stars with a ‘wild side’ such as Tiger Woods ? With statements made by Davis (2013) such as “today's teens get an extra whammy -- social pressures come earlier than in previous generations” suggesting defiant behaviour within the youth of current, work in favour of organisations such as Nike, Adidas and other major sporting brands, with a more outspoken and rebellious generation looking for like minded ‘role models’ to follow and idolise?
In some cases, sponsors see disobedient and unruly athletes as a risk so large that potential, and existing customers, as well as the organisations own public image could be lost or tarnished through their actions, as seen with the termination of 100 metre sprinter Ben Johnson’s endorsement contract with Diadora worth an estimated $2.

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8 million, once being found guilty of taking steroids after his record breaking run in the 1998 Olympic games (Nugent-Bowman, 2011), in a race now known as “the dirtiest race in history” (Telegraph Sport, 2013) which would suggest that the negative stigma among consumers and controversial activity committed by the sprinter through the scandal impacted negatively on the company economically, however, some sponsors are known to thrive off the edgy and somewhat deviant attention attracted by some of sports biggest athletes, with Nike’s support of golf star Tiger Woods being somewhat justified as a business decision. Despite Tiger’s off the field issues including several cases of adultery and a divorce, Nike still see him as a very valuable asset with the president of Nike golf Cindy Davis describing Woods as “one of Nike’s most iconic athletes” (Harig, 2013), with comparable plaudits coming from outside the company with golf digest ranking Woods the 2nd best golfer of all time (Kerr-Dineen, 2013). Despite Woods being dropped from several sponsors including “luxury watch maker Tag Heuer” (Telegraph, 2011), Nike decision to keep the golfer, using his wrong doings as a platform for further exposure with clever advertising campaigns involving Tigers’ recently deceased father subtly quizzing him about his off the field activity has lead to success with Nike offering him and new contract worth an estimated $100 million (Harig, 2013,) which would imply a successful marketing campaign and economic progression in terms Tiger Woods' endorsement.
The body of this project includes a collection of primary data obtained through several different research methods attempting to conclude whether young consumers are in fact enticed by athletes of a rebellious nature. Primary research within the project supported by in depth secondary data retrieved has analysed particular traits considered common within the current youth culture examining possible links and correlations to an endorsement influenced purchase decision.



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