Sponsors and how consumers react to controversial athletes
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- Master of Science 
The protest by NFL athletes against police brutality have split public opinion in surveys pretty evenly. Our study fills a gap in sponsorship literature which have focused on impact of illegal acts by sponsored athletes, not acts both widely admire and widely disliked by audiences. A content analysis of 1097 comments on the NFL context were carried out to examine how firms should react when sponsored athletes takes a controversial stand. The study finds a majority of commenters support sponsors which pull their support for controversial athletes. Commenters supporting the athletes protest appear to have stronger commitment to boycotting sponsors that pull their support for athletes compared to the other group. We also find that eight percent have stopped witching games due to the protests which is consistent with viewership figures from the period. There is also evidence of several commenters planning to make a purchase because a sponsor has pulled support for the athletes. A factor that appear to play a large role is political orientation of fan base, which needs to be considered by managers when deciding how to handle controversial sponsored athletes.
Masteroppgave(MSc) in Master of Science in Strategic Marketing Management - Handelshøyskolen BI, 2018