New Research Study on Consumer Attitudes Toward Corporate Sponsorship in Current Economic Crisis

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As Consumers Tighten Their Belts, They Expect Corporate Sponsors To Do The Same

Consumers are recognizing that they need to live within their means - and they expect corporate America to do the same. This is not the time for stable companies to drop sponsorships, but to provide more value to consumers with their programs'

As Bank of America puts an end to negotiations for a naming rights sponsorship of the new Yankee Stadium and Wachovia changes the name of its golf tourney, a recent study by Performance Research reveals this to be exactly the behavior consumers want to see from companies in crisis - especially those accepting federal funds in order to stay afloat.

While consumers generally appear to expect the same or higher level of corporate sponsorship from stable or profitable companies, a study by sports marketing research firm Performance Research (Newport, RI) of American consumers revealed that one-third (32%) reported they are paying "Less attention" to corporate sponsorships than they were a year ago. Moreover, the majority would like to see less spending on sports sponsorships for companies experiencing any difficulties (62%), and particularly by those accepting federal assistance (68%).

Results indicate that this expectation is in keeping with consumer's own behaviors, with the majority of respondents indicating that they are less likely to purchase a ticket for a favorite sporting event (67%) or for a favorite performing arts or cultural event (64%), and less likely to donate money to a favorite cause (55%) than they were a year ago.

Not surprisingly, two-thirds (69%) reported that they have a "Lower approval" of American companies than they did one year ago. But would increasing or decreasing sponsorship spending change this opinion? Within the sports environment, just 13% reported that sponsorship of their favorite event should increase to raise their opinion of corporate America, while twice that (26%) reported it should decrease- with the remainder (61%) indicating it would make no difference. Results were mixed for sponsorship of cultural events (20% reporting it should increase, and 20% indicating the opposite.) The story was different for non-profits and causes, with 41% feeling sponsorship should increase to raise opinions of corporate America, and just 12% indicating it should decrease.

As expected, the industry of the sponsoring company appears to be an important factor on attitudes toward sponsorship. When respondents were asked if they would be more or less confident (or no different) if a company were to sponsor their favorite sporting event, those industries most under fire in the current economy (banks, investment firms, and domestic automobile manufacturers) were most likely to inspire "Less" confidence as a sponsor (37%, 36%, and 30%, respectively). Only about 10% indicated they would be "More confident" by seeing sponsorship in these industries.

The study shows that corporate humility and fiscal conservatism are clearly now appealing qualities; a majority of respondents agreed they are thinking more about wasteful corporate spending now than ever before (74%), that there should be restrictions on sponsorship spending for companies receiving federal assistance (69%), that it is more important than ever for companies to appear "Humble" (64%), and that they are impressed when hearing of a company cutting back on corporate hospitality (64%).

When asked about specific corporations and their individual sponsorships, in every case favorable reaction to sponsorship was down from what respondents indicated they would have felt a year ago. For example, just 22% indicated they would have reacted positively to Citibank sponsoring the NY Mets a year ago, compared too 15% today. Identical numbers were shown for Wachovia and the Wachovia (PGA) Championship.

So where is the good news for corporate sponsorship? For corporations that are stable and profitable, over three fourths of consumers studied (77%) would like to see them spend the same or more on their favorite sports, 79% would like to see same or more spending on their favorite arts or cultural programs, and 84% would like to see more spending on favorite causes or non-profits.

According to Jed Pearsall, president of Performance Research, "Consumers are recognizing that they need to live within their means - and they expect corporate America to do the same. This is not the time for stable companies to drop sponsorships, but to provide more value to consumers with their programs'"

About Methodology:
Performance Research conducted this study online among a national random sample of American consumers, aged 18-65, in the last week of February 2009. A total of 1005 respondents were included in this study.

The margin of error for this sample is no more than +3%.

PowerPoint charts of complete research results are available by request.

About Performance Research:
Performance Research (Newport, Rhode Island) is the world's leader in consumer research and evaluation for the sponsorship industry. Founded in 1985, the company has taken the leading role in understanding the marketing impact of sponsorship, as well as the phenomenon of emotional triggers and passion points among sports and arts enthusiasts.

Performance Research's consulting and evaluation work affects nearly $800 million worth of corporate sponsorship investments each year. Custom studies include on-site event surveys, telephone interviews, online surveys, and in-depth qualitative focus groups that explore the marketing impact of sponsorship / advertising from the consumer perspective.

For more information:
Contact: Jed Pearsall
Tel: 401- 848-0111
Fax: 401-848-0110
http://www.performanceresearch.com

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