Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beijing Olympics Sponsors Bring Home Gold: Both Brand Attitude and Brand Recommendation Score Higher for Sponsors - Sponsorship Awareness is Crucial

Hong Kong (PRWEB) September 13, 2008 -- A survey conducted by Aha! Research has found that the 2008 Beijing Olympics official sponsors have enjoyed significant benefits as a result of their involvement. Sponsor brands were shown to have experienced higher brand recommendation and brand attitudes compared with non-sponsor brands.

According to estimates, each of the top 12 sponsors of the 2008 Beijing Olympics spent about US$70 million to have their brand associated with this truly global event. Although watched by up to four billion people worldwide, it remains difficult for marketers to assess the impact of sponsorship on their business.

Measuring the effectiveness of sponsorship within the marketing mix has always been challenging, and as such its high costs can be difficult to justify. In this online survey conducted among 1,330 Chinese respondents randomly selected from an online consumer panel provided by GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.), Aha! Research employed the crucial measures of brand recommendation and brand attitude to assess the marketing effectiveness of the brands that sponsored the event against those that did not. Awareness of sponsorship is a strong determinant on the scores of both these measurements, which also underlines the value of so-called ambush marketing.

"This research is groundbreaking in terms of understanding the effect of sponsorship, consumer awareness of it, and the importance of the two critical measures of brand recommendation and brand attitude," explains Peter Steyn, managing director of Aha! Research based in Hong Kong. "Research in most industries has found that high levels of brand recommendation and positive attitudes toward a brand are the most effective measures in determining brand loyalty and predicting future growth and profitability. This survey found that not only sponsorship itself, but more importantly, sponsorship awareness (whether accurate or not), differentiates brands on these two crucial measurements. Both measures exert a significant influence on consumer decision-making, as people often simplify buying decisions by opting for familiar brands."

Brand Recognition

The survey covered 29 official Beijing Olympic sponsors and partner brands. Ranked on recognition of brand being an official sponsor, the top five were Coca Cola, China Mobile, Lenovo, Bank of China and PICC. Those sponsors that achieved less than 20 percent recognition included Manulife, Atos Origin, Johnson & Johnson and BHP Billiton. Among the 41 non-sponsor brands mentioned in the survey, those with high levels of incorrect brand sponsorship recognition were Li Ning (67 percent), China Life Insurance Company (54 percent), Nike (50 percent) and Sina (41 percent).

Brand Recommendation

In the analysis of the survey data, 25 comparisons were made between a sponsor and a non-sponsoring competitor, for instance Air China compared to non-sponsor United Airlines, and Budweiser compared to non-sponsor Heineken. In all but 11 comparisons, the sponsor brand scored significantly higher on respondent's likelihood to recommend the brand to friends and family than the non-sponsor brands.

However, the survey data suggests that recognition of a brand being a sponsor is more crucial. All nine sponsor brands tested on brand recommendation showed a significantly higher score among respondents aware of their sponsorship than those who were not aware. This is also true for non-sponsor brands. Eleven of the 15 non-sponsor brands measured on brand recommendation also scored higher among those who incorrectly identified the non-sponsor brand as a sponsor. These findings clearly show the importance of sponsorship awareness among consumers.

Brand Attitude

The survey measured consumer attitude towards five brand sponsors - Air China, Bank of China, Tsingtao, Samsung and Adidas - against their five non-sponsor counterparts - United Airlines, ICBC, Heineken, Nokia and Nike. All sponsors, except Samsung and Adidas, scored significantly higher for brand attitude than their competitors. However, among all the sponsor brands, scores were significantly higher among respondents who correctly recognized the sponsor brand. Similarly, among the non-sponsor brands, scores were significantly higher among respondents who incorrectly identified the non-sponsor brand as a sponsor - except for Nokia.

As with the brand recommendation measure, the survey showed that where respondents correctly recognized a sponsor brand, or incorrectly identified non-sponsoring brands as sponsors, they had a more positive attitude towards the brand. Clearly for sponsoring brands, it is crucial to ensure high consumer awareness of their sponsorship to maximise their return on investment.

"Survey results suggest that the investment brands made in sponsoring the 2008 Beijing Olympics are possibly justified for most, but likely not all," concludes Steyn. "Millions of dollars were spent this year by the sponsors of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Our research indicates that most of these brands are enjoying improved recognition, attitudes towards their brand and brand recommendation. But there's a sting in the tail - it is not enough to be a sponsor - brands must take the initiative before, during, and after the event to communicate their leading role to consumers to make the most of the significant sums they have invested."

For further information, please contact:
Peter Steyn, Managing Director, Aha! Research

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