• Fan Responses to Virtual Reality Sport Sponsorship Activations: The Influence of Presence on Emotion and Attitude Formation

      Schlieman, Troy; Applied Health Sciences Program
      Considering the massive financial investment into sport sponsorship and the growth of the industry, it is important for managers to understand the strategic implications of their partnership decisions. This is even more essential in the current marketing landscape where advertising clutter and limited attention spans are rampant. Consequentially, experiential marketing has emerged to combat these challenges and provide consumers with unique and memorable experiences. Further, virtual reality (VR) has surfaced as a possible experiential marketing tool in that it has the capabilities of simulating one’s presence in a virtual environment: potentially creating those unique and memorable experiences. With sponsorship activation transitioning into an online environment further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the capabilities of virtual reality make it an attractive option to sport marketers. Presently, this technology is being applied without a clear purpose due to the newness of the platform and the lack of research and understanding regarding its true value. Thus, it is critical to examine how media modes, such as VR, may affect the impact of sponsorship messaging. In exploring sponsorship activation specifically, this study aimed to examine the use of 360-degree video and virtual reality as activation components, and if traditional non-immersive (phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop) and immersive (virtual reality) technologies differ in terms of their influence on important sponsor outcomes such as eliciting emotions and influencing attitudes. This study employed a survey design to compare responses between two groups. The first group experienced a 360-degree sport sponsorship activation video using non-immersive media while the second group experienced the same video in VR. A total of 114 responses were collected (57 in each group). Responses were then analyzed using two-way independent sample t-tests to find any statistically significant differences. Results showed that non-immersive respondents reported higher ratings of arousal compared to immersive respondents. Notably, there was a clear desire for 360-degree activation content from all users regardless of media mode. This study serves as a preliminary basis of valuation for virtual reality technology as it applies to sponsorship activation.