Sport Celebrity Influence on Young Adult Consumers. Keywords: Advertising, Execution, Strategy, Celebrity

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1 Page 1 of 9 ANZMAC 2009 Sport Celebrity Influence on Young Adult Consumers Steve Dix, Curtin University of Technology The paper investigates how sports celebrities can be perceived as role models and influence young adult consumers purchase and behavioral intentions. It also examines if this influence differs between males and females. A self-administered questionnaire, drawn from established scales, was completed by a Generation Y, university student sample. Athlete role model endorsers have a positive influence on young adults product switching behaviour, complaint behaviour, positive word-ofmouth behaviour and brand loyalty. This paper provides useful insight into the influence of athletes endorsers on young adults and suggests athletes should be considered as appropriate and influential spokespersons for brands. This study is a significant step in providing useful information about how young consumers respond to the use of sports celebrities in advertising. Keywords: Advertising, Execution, Strategy, Celebrity

2 ANZMAC 2009 Page 2 of 9 Sport Celebrity Influence on Young Adult Consumers Introduction Businesses are spending millions of dollars in endorsement deals each year to associate their products or brands with some of the biggest names in sport (Bower and Mateer 2008; Harris 2008; Thomaselli 2008; Byrne, Whitehead and Breen 2003). Many believe that the celebrity and popularity of celebrity athletes would benefit brands, creating positive associations, contributing to brand name recognition and creating meaning for even the most ordinary products (Miciak and Shanklin 1994; Charbonneau and Garland 2005; Stevens et al. 2003; Tingchi Liu, Yu-Ying and Minghua 2007). More importantly, in a crowded media environment where advertisers face an increasing challenge of attracting consumers attention, celebrities are said to have the ability to break through this media clutter and hold viewers attention (Miciak and Shanklin 1994; Charbonneau and Garland 2005). Despite the widespread use of celebrity endorsers, there are a number of perspectives on the effectiveness of sports celebrity endorsers in advertising. Friedman and Friedman (1979) revealed that regardless of the type of product, a celebrity endorser produced better recall of both the advertisement and the brand name than an advertisement using an expert endorser, typical consumer endorser or no endorser. Atkin and Block (1983) support this argument and maintain that advertisements featuring celebrity figures consistently produced more favourable impact than non-celebrity ads. On the other hand, it was reported that only one of five commercials using celebrity endorsers lived up to the sponsor s expectations (Miciak and Shanklin 1994). Moreover, Schaefer and Keillor (1997) argue that, although the use of celebrity endorsers is a good foundation for effective advertisements, it does not significantly influence the attitude and behavioural intentions of the target market. Young Adults and Sports Relevant Literature Young adults are major sport consumers (Bennett and Henson 2003) and as such, college or university students are a highly coveted target market for sport marketers (Tingchi Liu, Yu-Ying and Minghua 2007). Sports celebrities and sport figures who display extraordinary personal characteristics were found to be a popular hero choice among young adults (Stevens, Lathrop and Bradish, 2003; Chan and Zhang 2007; Tingchi Liu, Yu-Ying and Minghua 2007). Celebrity endorsers, such as film stars and athletes, are beneficial to advertising message strategy and are most effective in influencing the attitudes of this market because they are respected by and are highly identifiable with young people (Atkin and Block 1983; Wolburg and Pokrywczynski 2001). Endorsement by a celebrity has a meaningful influence on young people s evaluation of ads and products (Xu 2008). 1

3 Page 3 of 9 ANZMAC 2009 Female consumers have become a key niche within the sport marketplace and have grown in strength as sports-related decision makers and spenders (Bradish and Lathrop 2001). Young women view sports as fun. They value respect and the social aspect of sports and thus prefer to buy sporting goods that are endorsed by their favourite athletes from companies that are socially responsible and supportive of female sports (Bush et al. 2005). Research has also found that women are 22% more likely to buy a product or service that is endorsed by a female athlete (Women s sport foundation 2003, cited in Bush et al. 2005). Theoretical Models Influencing Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsements A number of models and theories have been suggested to explain how endorsers might influence consumers and what aspects of the endorsement are more likely to succeed (Braunstein and Zhang 2005). The source credibility model advocates that the effectiveness of the advertising message depends on the expertise and trustworthiness of the source (McCracken 1989). The Product Match-Up Hypothesis proposes that a message is most effective when the image of the celebrity and the product match one another (Kahle and Homer, 1985, cited in Braunstein and Zhang 2005; Tingchi Liu, Yu- Ying and Minghua 2007). Finally, the meaning transfer model advocates that an endorsement succeeds when an association is created between the cultural meanings of the celebrity s world, on the one hand, and the endorsed product, on the other (McCracken 1989). Hypotheses This study provides insight into Bush, Martin and Bush s (2004) proposition that athlete endorsers can have significant influences on behavioural intentions of young adults. For the present study, behavioural intentions are defined by the following three dimensions identified by Bush, Martin and Bush (2004): (1) product switching or complaining behaviour, (2) positive word-of-mouth, and (3) brand loyalty. These measures will form the basis against which the following hypotheses are tested: H 1 : Young adults athlete role model influence is positively related to product switching and complaint behaviour H 2 : Young adults athlete role model influence is positively related to positive or positive word-of-mouth behaviour H 3 : Young adults athlete role model influence is positively related to brand loyalty Young women were identified as more likely to be influenced by athlete endorsers and to spread positive word-of-mouth; and less likely than men to consider athletes as materialistic, making them more receptive to sports celebrity role models. Thus, this is the basis for the following hypothesis: H 4 : Young adults athlete role model influence among females is more positively related to (a) product switching and complaint behaviour, (b) positive word-of-mouth behaviour, and (c) brand loyalty, than among males. 2

4 ANZMAC 2009 Page 4 of 9 Method Sample This study focuses on young adults aged between 17 and 25 residing in Australia. A convenience sample was drawn from students at a large university in Western Australia and a total of 249 students voluntarily participated in the survey. The usable responses from 207 students equates to an 83% response rate. Research Instrument The two page self-administered survey comprised three sections. Section A consists of the five-item athlete role model influence scale developed by Rich (1997). Section B consists of a 12-item purchases and behavioural intentions scale developed by Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman (1996) which was adapted for this study. This scale provides responses to a variety of purchase and behavioural intention questions specifically related to the consumer s favourite athlete. Both scales are 7-point likert scales, anchored on a strongly disagree to strongly agree continuum. Sample Characteristics Results and Analysis An acceptable gender split among respondents was obtained, with 51.7% male respondents (n=107) and 48.3% female respondents (n=100). Respondents ages varied across 17 to 18 years old (35.7%), 19 to 20 years old (27.5%), 21 to 22 years old (22.7%) and 23 to 25 years old (13.5%). When asked to think of their favourite athlete, 95% of respondents identified a male athlete. This corroborates the survey findings of Elling and Knoppers (2005) that male athletes are the predominant choice of sport heroes. Around 60.9% of respondents were actively involved in sports. On the other hand, 17.4% of respondents did not play any sport or played less than one hour of sport per week (21.7%). Correspondingly, approximately 15% of respondents did not watch any sport and 23.2% watched less than one hour of sport per week. Factor Analysis and Reliability An exploratory factor analysis was conducted on the five-item athlete role model influence scale developed by Rich (1997). As expected, this revealed a high correlation between items resulting in a unidimensional factor. The five items loaded on the same factor, which explained 59.9% of the variance. An exploratory factor analysis was also conducted on the 12-item purchase and behavioural intentions scale developed by Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman (1996). The factor analysis with a varimax rotation and principal axis factoring confirms previous results obtained by Bush, Martin and Bush (2004). Three distinct factors emerged, with the proposed items loading on the intended 3

5 Page 5 of 9 ANZMAC 2009 factors, Complaining and switching behaviour (six items), Positive word-of-mouth (three items), and Brand loyalty (three items). The three factors explained 56.2% of the variance. A Cronbach s Alpha analysis confirmed all factors above were reliable, each having alpha values exceeding 0.79, therefore rendering those factors acceptable for analysis (Churchill 1979). Regression Analysis The athlete role model influence was separately regressed onto each of the three dependent variables (switching and complaint behaviour; positive word of mouth; brand loyalty). Regression analysis revealed that athlete role model influence is a significant predictor (p =.000) of product switching and complaint behaviour (F = ). Athlete role model influence explained 10.8% of the variance in switching and complaint behaviour (t = 4.959). Hypothesis 1 is therefore supported. Interestingly, this contradicts the replicated study by Bush, Martin and Bush (2004) which found no support for this contention. However, the present study focuses on young adults aged who are likely to be more conversant with product switching and buyer complaint behaviour. Hypothesis 2 is also supported by a regression analysis, which shows that athlete role model influence is significantly related (p =.000) to positive word-of-mouth (F = ). Athlete role model influence explained 16.8% of the variance in positive wordof-mouth (t = 6.416). This result is congruent with Bush, Martin and Bush s (2004) findings among teenagers. Hypothesis 3 is also supported, demonstrating that athlete role model influence is a significant predictor (p =.000) of brand loyalty (F=18.798). Athlete role model influence explained 8.4% of the variance in brand loyalty (t = 4.336). Table 1: Regression of Role Model Influence on Purchase and Behavioral Intentions Dependent Variable B - Std Values Error Beta Adj R 2 t - value Sig. Product switching and complaint behaviour Positive Word of mouth Brand loyalty Gender Differences An independent sample T-test was conducted to test Hypothesis 4, showing no significant difference between the average rating of females and males on almost all items except The opinions of my favourite athlete influence me to complain to other customers if I experience a problem with a company s service (p <.05) in which males (M = 4.19) expressed a higher level of agreement than females (M = 3.95). 4

6 ANZMAC 2009 Page 6 of 9 Discussion and Implications The results obtained in this study offer some important considerations for marketing and advertising practitioners in regards to the use of athlete celebrity endorsers. It offers partial confirmation of previous results obtained by Bush, Martin and Bush (2004). The most interesting finding of this study is that celebrity athlete endorsers have a positive influence on young adults product switching behaviour, complaint behaviour, positive word-of-mouth and brand loyalty. This suggests that celebrity athlete endorsers have an impact on young adults decisions to switch brands, their tendency to talk about brands in a positive manner and their inclination to complain about products. It is interesting to note that although Bush, Martin and Bush (2004) did not find any support for the contention that celebrity athletes influence teenagers product switching and complaint behaviour, this study did support this hypothesis. This adds value to the body of knowledge since it goes beyond the cognitive and affective associations that appear in the literature between celebrity and brand recall (Friedman and Friedman 1979), ad impact (Atkin and Block 1983; Xu 2008) and consumer attitudes (Atkin and Block 1983; Wolburg and Pokrywczynski 2001). The establishment of a link between celebrity influence and hard behavioural measures such as word-of-mouth, switching behaviour and brand loyalty demonstrates that celebrity athlete endorsement can manifest in consumers actions around the brand. Females were expected to spread more positive word-of-mouth about a product or brand that is endorsed by their favourite athlete than males (Bush, Martin and Bush, 2004). A later study by Bush et al. (2005) also supported this result, stating that teenage girls were more adept at spreading word-of-mouth, especially for products endorsed by their favourite athlete, than their male counterparts. This finding however was not supported by this study. It is feasible that this difference is because the Bush et al. (2005) study surveyed teenage girls whereas the current study focuses on young adult females. In the current study, young adult females rated the influence of their favourite athlete on positive word-of-mouth behaviour and brand loyalty similarly to young male adults. The only exception was that male respondents were significantly more inclined to complain to other customers than female respondents. Future research might look into whether males and females hold the same perceptions of the influence of celebrity athletes. 5

7 Page 7 of 9 ANZMAC 2009 References Atkin, C., Block, M., Effectiveness of celebrity endorsers, Journal of Advertising Research 23 (1), Bennett, G., Henson, R. K., Perceived status of the action sports segment among college students. International Sports Journal 7 (1), Bradish, C., Lathrop, A. H., Girl power: Examining the female pre-teen and teen as a distinct segment of the sport marketplace. Sport Marketing Quarterly 10, (1). Braunstein, J. R., Zhang, J. J., Dimensions of athlete star power associated with Generation Y sports consumption. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship 6 (4), Bryne, A,, Whitehead, M., Breen, S., The naked truth of celebrity endorsement. British Food Journal 105 (4/5), Bower, J., Mateer, N., The White Stuff?: An investigation into consumer evaluation of the Scottish celebrity milk marketing campaign. Nutrition and Food Science 38 (2), Bush, A. J., Martin, C. A., Bush, V. D., Sports celebrity influence on the behavioral intentions of generation Y. Journal of Advertising Research 44 (1). Chan, K., Zhang, C., Living in a celebrity-mediated social world: the Chinese experience. Young Consumers: Insight and Ideas for Responsible Marketers 8 (2), Charbonneau, J., Garland R., Talent, looks or brains? New Zealand advertising practitioners views on celebrity and athlete endorsers. Marketing Bulletin, 16, 1-10 Churchill, G. A., A paradigm for developing better measures of marketing constructs. Journal of Marketing Research 16 (1), Elling, A., Knopers, A., Sport, gender and ethnicity: Practices of symbolic inclusion/exclusion. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 34 (3), Friedman, H. H., Friedman, L., Endorser effectiveness by product type. Journal of Advertising Research 19 (5), Harris, J., Why Business is like Sporting Talent, Management Today, p16. McCracken, G., Who is the celebrity endorser? Cultural foundations of the endorsement process. Journal of Consumer Research 16 (3),

8 ANZMAC 2009 Page 8 of 9 Miciak, A. R., Shanklin, W. L., Choosing celebrity endorsers. Marketing Management (3) 3, Rich, G. A., The sales manager as a role model: Effects on trust, job satisfaction and performance of salespeople. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 25 (4), Schaefer, A., Keillor, B., The effective use of endorsements in advertising: The relationship between match-up and involvement. The Journal of Marketing Management 7 (2), Stevens, J. A., Lathrop A. H., Bradish, C. L., Who is your hero? Implications for athlete endorsement strategies. Sports Marketing Quarterly 12 (2), Tingchi Liu, M., Yu-Ying, H., Minghua, J., Relations among attractiveness of endorsers, match-up, and purchase intention in sport marketing in China. Journal of Consumer Marketing 24 (6), Thomaselli, R., With No Ring, James Is Still No Jordan, Advertising Age 79 (39), 4. Wolburg, J. M., Pokrywczynski, J., A psychographic analysis of generation Y college students. Journal of Advertising Research 41 (5), Xu, Y. J., The influence of public self-consciousness and materialism on young consumer s compulsive buying. Young Consumers: Insight and Ideas for Responsible Marketers 9 (1), Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L., Parasuraman, A., The behavioural consequences of service quality. Journal of Marketing 60 (2),

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Permanent Link: http://espace.library.curtin.edu.au/r?func=dbin-jump-full&local_base=gen01-era02&object_id=144933

Permanent Link: http://espace.library.curtin.edu.au/r?func=dbin-jump-full&local_base=gen01-era02&object_id=144933 Citation: Dix, Steve. 2010. A study of sports celebrity endorsement advertising: a partial replication and extension, Marketing Insights; School of Marketing Working Paper Series: no. 2010009, Curtin University

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