Enhancing Relationships : Strenghtening customer relations through sport sponsorship
During the 1980s and 1990s, commercial sponsorship grew with a rapid pace with an increase in worldwide spending from $2 billion in 1984 to $18.1 billion in 1997. Also, when the sponsorship market grew the interest amongst business researchers grew and finally became an own topic within business. Further, within marketing there was also a change occurring during the same time. It was an evolutionary paradigm shift from the marketing mix and the 4Ps to Relationship Marketing and the focus on long-term relationships. The marketing mix and the 4Ps had been the dominating model since the 1950s however when industries matured, market demand changed, competition increased and customers became more sophisticated and demanded more. Both the rapid growth within sponsorship and move to Relationship Marketing can mainly be explainedby the developments in Information Technology and globalization.
However, despite the increasing interest sponsorship and relationship marketing separately,few researchers have tried to combine these two even though several researchers have challenged others. In 2003, Farrelly and Quester studied the relationships between the sponsor and the sponsored. The intentions of the researchers are to extend this research to the relationships between the sponsor and their customers.
The purpose of this thesis is to explore how sponsors utilize sponsorship to build and maintain relationships with their customers. The intention is to create a foundation that can be later tested with the sponsors’ customers through a series of propositions. This study is done from the sponsors' perspective and in a B2B context. It is a qualitative research using six of the main sponsors as case studies for HV71, one of the largest ice hockey teams in Sweden. For the data collection the researchers used face-to-face interviews with managers from Husqvarna, Swedbank, Öhrlings PriceWaterhouseCoopers,Nybergs Bil, Ernst&Young and June Emballage.
The researchers have identified four different ways how sponsors utilize sponsorship to build and maintain relationships with their customers. The sponsors use sponsorship to create meeting places outside the business office, increase communication, add value totheir offerings and predict customer needs. The goal is to increase trust and value because when they increase, the relationship between the sponsor and customer grows stronger.
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