Cross-controversial athlete sponsorships: How controversiality of the brand or the athlete affect consumers’ attitudes toward the sponsorship and brand image.
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- Master of Science 
agreements have been a frequently used strategy employed by many companies as a marketing communication tactic for a long period of time. There exists an enormous amount of research on the topic, primarily focusing on how the sponsoring brand is affected by the sponsored object. However, little research has been done on cross-controversial sponsorship agreements, where either the brand or the athlete is controversial. Therefore, this thesis investigates how consumers’ attitudes toward both the sponsorship and the brand are affected by such cross-controversial sponsorships. In order to do so, we conducted a 2 x 2 factorial between-subjects experimental design, using two brands (controversial: Red Bull, non-controversial: Møllers Tran) and two athletes (controversial: Henrik Kristoffersen, non-controversial: Kjetil Jansrud). Our findings show that cross-controversial sponsorships differ depending on whether the athlete or the brand is the controversial partner. Furthermore, our findings show that managers of non-controversial brands should avoid engaging in cross-controversial sponsorships, as this can lead to consumers’ attitudes toward the brand being negatively affected. However, our findings also revealed that high self-brand connection positively influences consumers’ attitudes toward the brand, implying that brands with strong connections to their consumers face lower risks when engaging in cross-controversial sponsorship compared to brands with weak connections to their consumers. In addition, consumers’ perceived fit of the sponsorship does not differ between non-controversial, controversial and cross-controversial sponsorships. This implies that consumers’ perceived fit between the athlete and the brand are not necessarily dependent on each partner’s level of controversiality
Masteroppgave(MSc) in Master of Science in Strategic Marketing Management - Handelshøyskolen BI, 2020