We conducted an experiment to investigate the impact of sport scandal on consumer attitudes toward a range of sport stakeholders. We examined the effects of fans’ social identity (fan of scandalized team vs. fan of rival team), scandal severity (single perpetrator vs. multiple perpetrators), and the sponsor brand’s response to the scandal (sponsorship retention vs. termination) on consumers’ attitudes toward the implicated team, the scandal perpetrators, the sport, and sponsor brand. We find evidence of differential reactions to scandal reflecting social identity, such that fans support their own team despite increased scandal severity but negatively judge a rival team’s transgressions. Results suggest that where fans are concerned, sponsors may be better served to continue with a sponsorship following scandal than to terminate, even for some forms of severe scandal. However, termination may receive more positive evaluation from rival team fans; hence continuation of sponsorship needs to accompany a tempered approach.
P. Monica Chien and Sarah J. Kelly are with UQ Business School, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Clinton S. Weeks is with QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.