And now, goodbye: consumer response to sponsor exit

Julie A. Ruth and Yuliya Strizhakova

Rutgers University

Introduction

‘Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.’ (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

With annual spending at $46 billion worldwide (IEG 2010), sponsorship continues to be an important marketing communications tool (Walliser 2003; Cornwell et al. 2005; Cornwell 2008). Sponsorship is defined as an exchange between a property (e.g. sports, arts, or cultural organisation or event) that receives compensation from a brand that obtains rights to promote their association with the property (Cornwell & Maignan 1998). Much of the academic research on sponsorship focuses on consumer response to initiation and maintenance of sponsorship arrangements between brands and properties (Gwinner & Eaton 1999; Johar & Pham 1999; Ruth & Simonin 2003, 2006; Rifon et al. 2004; Poon & Prendergast 2006; Pope et al. 2009; Herrmann et al. 2011). Yet, all sponsorships end at some point, and sponsor turnover appears to be quite common. For example, recently the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics did not have the participation of long-time global sponsors Johnson & Johnson, Manulife Financial and Lenovo Group (Star-Ledger 2010); South African national sponsor Sasol announced it would not renew its sponsorship of South Africa’s Springboks rugby team (Rees 2010); and US regional PNC Bank dropped its 20-year long sponsorship of the Philadelphia Flower Show (Smith 2011).