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The researchers explore consumers’ emotional responses toward athlete brands by developing the associative evaluation–emotional appraisal–intention (AEI) model. The AEI postulates that unconscious (implicit attitudes) and conscious (explicit affective attitudes) levels of emotional responses systematically flow following assessments of perceived fit in athlete endorsements. Implicit attitudes were measured through the implicit association test, whereas pleasure, arousal, and pride captured explicit affective attitudes. Contrary to dominant beliefs about successful athlete endorsements, findings from a lab experiment indicate that low perceived fit affected implicit attitudes, which in turn affected arousal for consumers with high involvement. Pleasure, arousal, and pride were interrelated and systematically determined behavioral intentions of viewership and online friendship with athletes. Studies investigating athlete brands and endorsement success should consider the influence of both implicit and explicit attitudes on fan behavior. Managers should strategically utilize both low and high fit endorsements to facilitate emotional experiences and optimize desired consumption behavior.
Chang is with the School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. Ko is with the Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Carlson is with the John Cook School of Business, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO.