New York, Jan 23: Why did fans and sponsors such as Nike drop former road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong but stayed loyal to golfer Tiger Woods? Probably because Armstrong’s doping scandal took place on the field unlike Wood’s off–the–field extramarital affairs, interesting research shows.
According to Joon Sung Lee, doctoral student from University of Michigan, when fans can separate an athlete’s immoral behaviour from his or her performance, they are much more forgiving than if the bad behaviour could impact athletic performance or the outcome of the game.
“The latter happened with Armstrong’s doping scandal which fans viewed as performance–related, a reasoning strategy called moral coupling,” added Dae Hee Kwak, co–investigator and assistant professor.
The career of Armstrong, who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles, suffered tremendously and Nike eventually dropped him. The opposite happened with Woods.
The transgression was not performance–related and fans and consumers could more easily separate Woods’ extramarital affairs from his athletic performance, the researchers said.
They ratiolised the behaviour – moral ratiolisation – or deemed it irrelevant to the game, called “moral decoupling”.
Woods’ career did not suffer nearly as much and Nike continued its sponsorship and even developed ads to help Woods resuscitate his image.
This is valuable information for sponsors and marketers. Sponsors can monitor how consumers view the transgression.
“They could look at social media and also conduct surveys or focus groups to see if consumers tend to separate or integrate judgments of performance and morality,” Kwak emphasised.
Based on their target consumers’ views, marketers can determine when they should continue or discontinue their relationship with the athletes in trouble, the authors concluded.
The study appeared in the Jourl of Business Ethics. IANS