PURPOSE : Sponsorship is a major contributor to income in the South African sports arena, and is a critical component allowing sports unions to remain financially viable and sustainable. Sports sponsoring companies, however, have long questioned the financial returns generated from these ventures. The purpose of this paper is to understand whether financial returns of companies with sports sponsorship in South Africa are significantly different to those without. This research was conducted on Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies that sponsored sport consistently between 2000 and 2015 for a period of two years. A quantitative methodology was employed whereby share price, revenue and earnings growth were analysed, comparing firms that did not adopt strategies involving sports sponsorships to those that did.
DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH : A quantitative methodology was employed, whereby share price, revenue and earnings growth were analysed, comparing firms that did not adopt strategies involving sports sponsorships to those that did. South Africa is an emerging market and a member of the BRICS Forum ranked 14th in the sport sponsorship market globally (Sport Marketing Frontiers, 2011), becoming increasingly dominant in the global sports industry (Goldman, 2011). The population consisted of JSE-listed Main Board and alternative exchange companies that participated in any form of consistent sports sponsorship in the given time frame: 2000-2015, where the company’s share price, revenue and earnings per share (EPS) data for the period were available from the INET BFA database. The JSE is ranked 17th in terms of market capitalisation (over $1 trillion) in the world, being the largest stock exchange on the African continent with over $30bn being traded on average monthly. Multiple journals today publish research done on the JSE, for example the International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, Investment Analysts Journal and the South African Journal of Accounting Research. This stock exchange is 125 years old and has over 400 listed companies of which 358 are domestic (Kruger et al., 2014).
FINDINGS : Results show that companies involved in sports sponsorship during the period analysed did not experience enhanced share price or revenue growth in excess of those companies not involved in sports sponsorship. As a whole, sports sponsoring companies did however experience greater income growth (EPS) than those companies not involved in sports sponsorship. Enhanced revenue growth was found in the consumer services sector, indicating that sport sponsorship in this sector drives brand image and recall resulting in enhanced revenues. These results though indicate that a multitude of differing objectives may exist for companies engaging with sports sponsorship, with increased sales not the singular objective. In general it is concluded that sports sponsorship is considered to achieve a broad spectrum of outcomes that are likely to contribute to increased profitability.
RESEARCH LIMITATIONS/IMPLICATIONS : The relatively small size of 40 firms on the JSE in the South African sports sponsorship market is a limitation for this research. The purely quantitative approach limited the ability to gain the required level of insight into those sectors with small samples, which a qualitative study would reveal. SABMiller as example could not be analysed against its sector peers, given that it is one of the most prominent and consistent sports sponsors in South Africa across all major sporting codes. The telecommunications sector was represented entirely by companies that were involved in sports sponsorship and, hence, no in-depth comparison could be conducted within this sector. Vodacom, a major sponsor of sport in South Africa, could not be compared with its peers utilising purely financial and statistical methods. Cell C is one of the most prominent sponsors of rugby in South Africa, through its title sponsorship of the Cell C Sharks, and was not included in this study as it is not listed on the JSE. It is suggested that such companies should be included in a qualitative study approach.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS : The results of the Mann-Whitney U test for the consumer services and financial sectors confirm no significant difference in EPS growth for companies utilising consistent sports sponsorship as part of their marketing mix to those that do not. The consumer services sector has seen above-average revenue growth from sports sponsorship compared with its sector peers; however, the sector was unable to convert this increased revenue growth into increased profits, suggesting that the cost of sponsoring, as well as the operating costs associated with sports sponsorship, counteract any growth in revenue.
SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS : The sample of sports-sponsoring companies experienced a larger annual mean EPS growth rate of 30.6 per cent compared to the remaining JSE Main Board companies which grew EPS annually at 27.4 per cent. The results of the Mann-Whitney U test confirm a significant difference in EPS growth for companies utilising consistent sports sponsorship as part of their marketing mix. From a practical interpretive perspective, this result reveals that those companies in South Africa involved in sports sponsorship consistently attain greater than market-related profit growth. This poses some interesting points for discussion, given that revenue growth was not statistically different, which suggests that many sponsors are utilising the sponsorships for purposes other than sales growths that result in a profitable outcome. The potential range of options is large but would likely comprise the creation of stronger supplier relationships, resulting in optimised business inputs. Sponsors might be utilising sponsorships to improve corporate social status, which assists them in creating regulatory compliance, in some instances. Additionally, these sponsorships may be utilised to maintain key client relationships that provide the highest levels of profitability, and whilst this might not grow revenue through new business acquisition, it may result in higher profitability as a result of a loyal and stable customer base.
ORIGINALITY/VALUE : Much of the available research focusses on the sponsorship of specific sporting events and the share price impact thereof at specific occasions like the announcement, renewal and termination. Where research is conducted across a multitude of sporting events and codes, this predominantly focusses on share price performance only, with varying and somewhat inconclusive results. There is little research focussing on wider, more comprehensive sets of sponsored events and sporting codes, and that seeks to provide an understanding of financial returns for sponsoring properties. In a study of more than 50 US-based corporations it was found that, as a group, corporations which consistently invested in sports sponsorships outperformed market averages, and that those with higher sponsorship spend achieved higher returns (Jensen and Hsu, 2011). The study utilised descriptive statistics. More analysis, utilising detailed statistical analysis, is required to better understand the effects of sponsorship on the wider set of variables analysed. In this case, a five-year compound annual growth rate was calculated for stock price appreciation, total revenue, net income and EPS, and analysed descriptively with only means and standard deviation. Measurement of such variables assists with an understanding of the materialized results of sponsorship as opposed to much of the work in this field, which analyses market reactions to sponsorship announcements.