Brand Personality: A Key to Sponsorship Success

Brand Personality: A Key to Sponsorship Success

Posted on October 4, 2022 by National Sports Forum | Selling It | SUBSCRIBE

By: Camryn Henry

Dear Faithful Readers,

Today is an exciting day here at the NSF! We are live for the NSF Virtual Fall Summit and have an incredible line up of speakers today, including Mark Cuban, Owner of the Dallas Mavericks. We are looking forward to learning from these bright individuals in the sports industry.

In this edition of “Selling It…”, we spoke with Wakefield, a Research Service Company based in Waco, Texas, about research they conducted on the relationship between brands and sponsorships, and how brand personality plays into it. This feature summarizes some of the key takeaways from their research and how applies to sponsorship spending and its success.

Read on for a deeper dive into the findings of this research. Enjoy!

Warm Regards,

Melody Forstie

Marketing Coordinator


For many years, brands and sponsorship have gone hand in hand in the sports industry. Brands have invested in sponsorships with sports teams, leagues, and properties to reinforce their brand image, increase revenue, and better connect with their customer base. Two critical questions that brands try to answer are: 1) “Have we over or underspent on a given sponsorship?” and 2) “Was the sponsorship effective and successful?” Lane and Kirk Wakefield, of Baylor University and their research consultancy — Wakefield, partnered with Kevin Lane Keller, of Dartmouth College, and Anne Rivers, of The Howard Hughes Corporation, to tackle the challenge of finding some answers to these questions. Through research of 200 brands across multiple years, Wakefield and partners studied the brand personality and spending habits of official sponsors in Major League Baseball. They focused on four brand equity dimensions: differentiation, esteem, knowledge, and relevance. The key objectives included: 


  • Learning the differences between product categories and how fans perceive brands differently based on their category 
  • Understanding the effects that heavy sponsorship spending has on brand equity 
  • Identifying brand personality and its importance behind sponsorships when it comes to Fun-Friendly-Social brand personalities versus Traditional-Reliable-Straightforward brand personalities 


Lane Wakefield discussed a key concept behind their study. He explains, “Sponsorships entail three active entities—consumers, properties, and sponsors. Most research fails to incorporate each entity. We want to know more about how they interplay.”

Key Discoveries:

After learning more about their discoveries, the number one thing that can be drawn from this research is that brand personality matters! They found that brands can be broadly differentiated by two categories of personality: fun-friendly-social and traditional-reliable-straightforward. Beer and liquor, snacks, and soda/water are a few examples of brands perceived as fun-friendly-social. Credit cards, automotive, and household goods are other examples of those that may be perceived as more traditional-reliable-straightforward. They discovered that both fun and traditional brands who are already perceived highly amongst consumers, particularly in terms of esteem, knowledge, and relevance, may not see an increase in brand equity from an increase in sponsorship spending. On the other hand, higher sponsorship spending may warrant positive returns for traditional brands in regard to knowledge and relevance amongst consumers if they are experiencing low levels in these brand equity dimensions.

Brands with a strong personality see fewer benefits from higher spending on sponsorships, so oftentimes a strong brand personality realizes meager returns on brand equity. The same goes for official sponsors. Not all brands reap the same benefits, even if they invest similar amounts. Brands with an already distinct brand personality and high level of brand equity are less likely to benefit from higher sponsorship spending. It is also important to consider how much a brand spends on advertising. Those who spend more on both advertising and sponsorship do not necessarily outperform those who spend less on sponsorships and more on advertising.

Looking Forward/Applications to the Sports Industry:

The key discoveries stated above can be helpful for brands in the sports industry as they develop their brand image and identify their personality. This research provides data about the effects of brand personality and brand equity on sponsorship performance. Teams, leagues, properties, and agencies in the industry can utilize this data to better understand consumers, the industry, and competitors. Through his research experience, Lane Wakefield shared what brands are looking for. He stated that, “Brands want to know their effectiveness [in sponsorships] and more managers are interested in new data that can reliably explain what is happening.” By understanding how brand personality, brand equity, and sponsorships all intertwine, brands can use that as leverage to create effective sponsorships.

There are many different factors that play into sponsorship performance, all of which are tied to the three entities (consumers, properties, and sponsors) that makeup sponsorships. How do the fans perceive this brand and what is its personality? What property are they sponsoring and who are their competitors? These are all questions that should be answered as these entities work together to understand each other’s goals and create sponsorships that are bound to be successful. To learn more information about this research, please visit Wakefield’s website or contact Lane Wakefield at



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