Featuring the Hometown Team in Cause-Related Sports Marketing: A Cautionary Tale for League-Wide Advertising Campaigns

Bridget Satinover Nichols
Joe Cobbs
and David Raska

This paper examines the role of league-cause fit, perceived sincerity, and intentions to support campaigns of league-wide cause-related sport marketing (CRSM). Using the context of the National Football League (NFL) and the tenets of schema theory and social identity theory, we demonstrate potential backlash effects of featuring “hometown” team imagery in league-wide CRSM campaigns. The results of three experiments suggest that while a cause perceived as high fit to the league (Wounded Warrior Project) may facilitate better overall response, fans exposed to campaign imagery featuring their hometown team view the CRSM efforts as less sincere, resulting in reduced support compared to campaign imagery featuring a rival or no team. In low-fit CRSM campaigns, team imagery has no effect. These results conflict with the current literature on CRSM and offer new guidance for sport administrators. Specifically, league-wide CRSM campaigns are best presented in the neutral context, without specific team imagery.