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Leveraging Marketing Resources to Strengthen Stakeholder Company Identification

Channel relationships, market knowledge, strategic partnerships and brand equity are examples of marketing resources which firms can possess. Marketing resources are especially valuable when they are properly leveraged by agents of the firm (Srivastava, Fahey, and Christensen 2001). This dissertation examines how one marketing resource - corporate sponsorships - can be leveraged by companies to enhance financial performance. Based on the tenets of social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner 1985), two conceptual models are developed which propose corporate sponsorship can develop the attractiveness of a company's identity and thus enhance levels of company identification among salespeople (Study 1) and customers (Study 2). It is further proposed that through this strengthening of company identification, these stakeholders will become motivated to perform supportive behaviors on behalf of the company which will lead to the firm's enhanced performance. To empirically test the conceptual models, data were collected from the sales force and a sample of customers of a Fortune 1000 company which actively engages in a single national corporate sponsorship. The data set used in Study 1 includes survey responses from 490 sales representatives (21.7% response rate) which are combined with objective sales data gathered from company records. The data were analyzed utilizing linear regression and Hierarchical Linear Modeling. The conceptual model developed in Study 2 was tested utilizing structural equation modeling of survey data collected from 246 active customers. The two studies contained in this dissertation make several important theoretical and substantive contributions to both marketing theory and practice. First, evidence is provided that company identity can be influenced by a company and its marketers. By affiliating with a prestigious entity through a corporate sponsorship, a firm can enhance the attractiveness of its identity which in turn, influences levels of identification among salespeople and customers. The studies also provide additional evidence highlighting the power of identification in terms of predicting firm-directed supportive behaviors. The analysis in Study 1 shows that company identification influences salesperson sales growth and Study 2 confirms that customer-company identification leads to customer sales and positive word-of-mouth communications. Implications of these findings are provided.
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