Sport sponsorship has developed into a major global industry. Even though it is still a significant communication tool for companies, in recent years, sponsorship is no more just a matter of exposing a logo on a jersey or purchasing an in-stadium sign. Rather sponsors and sport entities should engage in an activity that enables them to exchange value. Sponsorships are moving toward complex patterns of interactions in which each “player” is engaged in a meaningful activity that can deliver mutual benefits. The aim of the paper is to analyze the sport sponsorship’s evolution in the latest economic recession. To understand the patterns of relations among different actors involved within a sport sponsorship arrangement, we take as “interpretive lenses” the strategic partnerships’ theoretical framework and make an application to a wide range of empirical sponsorship cases. Our main focus are national and international sponsorships related to professional teams and major sports events in which we are able to underline roles and strategic behaviors of sponsors and sport entities. The empirical analysis has been supported by a qualitative methodology. Data and information has been gathered using online secondary sources. Moreover, interviews with key executives and professionals involved within several sport sponsorships deals have been carried out. Findings suggest that sport sponsorships are assuming the role of a huge variety of agreements-exchange transactions, collaborations, strategic alliances, cooperation, consortia, etc.-that involve multiple complementary assets (technology, distribution channels, financial resources, etc.) and functions (R & D, marketing, organization, etc.). Furthermore, by implementing sports partnerships corporate and/or institutional actors are able to emerge among various stakeholders and to gain a global exposure.
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