Marketing managers often face dilemmas when their athlete endorsers are accused of immoral behavior. However, research findings have been equivocal as to whether athletes’ transgressions damage endorsed brand evaluations. Using two experiments, we empirically demonstrate that consumers’ moral reasoning (i.e., moral rationalization, moral coupling, and moral decoupling) has differential effects on evaluations of a transgressor (Study 1). In Study 2, we examine the causal effect of moral reasoning choice on evaluations of the transgressor and the associated brand. Findings show that moral coupling has negative effects on the athlete and brand evaluations, whereas moral decoupling and moral rationalization positively affect brand attitude and purchase intent through positive evaluation of the athlete. Findings from this study provide empirical evidence to explain how and why some consumers continue or discontinue their support for a troubled athlete and associated brand.
Joon Sung Lee, Dae Hee Kwak and David Moore
Dae Hee Kwak, Joon Sung Lee and Joseph E. Mahan III
Participation in fantasy sports has become one of the most popular forms of interactive online entertainment, attracting more than 32 million players in North America. The purpose of this study was to examine the biasing effects of an advertisement promoting the popular online service. Using the illusion of control theory as a framework, a 2 × 2 between-subjects experiment (N = 156) was conducted to examine the effects of two marketer-controlled variables (i.e., customization level and expert information) on participants’ illusory judgments and their decisions to participate in the advertised service. The results showed that both manipulated features evoked biases in control perceptions. Furthermore, illusory control increases winning expectancy and increased winning expectancy leads to favorable attitude and decision toward the advertised product. Findings suggest that promotional information emphasizing control heuristics and expert knowledge can increase consumers’ beliefs that they can control their outcome, which subsequently influences their decision to participate.
Joon Sung Lee, Dae Hee Kwak and Jessica R. Braunstein-Minkove
Athlete endorsers’ transgressions pose a dilemma for loyal fans who have established emotional attachments toward the individual. However, little is known regarding how fans maintain their support for the wrongdoer. Drawing on moral psychology and social identity theory, the current study proposes and examines a conceptual model incorporating athlete identification, moral emotions, moral reasoning strategies, and consumer evaluations. By using an actual scandal involving an NFL player (i.e., Ray Rice), the results show that fan identification suppresses the experience of negative moral emotions but facilitates fans’ moral disengagement processes, which enables fans to support the wrongdoer. Moreover, negative moral emotions motivate the moral coupling process. Findings contribute to the sport consumer behavior literature that highly identified fans seem to regulate negative emotions but deliberately select moral disengagement reasoning strategies to maintain their positive stance toward the wrongdoer and associated brands.