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Investigating factors affecting brand awareness of virtual advertising

By Yosuke Tsuji, Gregg Bennett, and James H. Leigh

A summary from an article in the Journal of Sport Management, Volume 23, Issue 4.


Brand awareness is one of the most important components of assessing advertising and sponsorship effectiveness. Although cognitive awareness of brands and advertisements is an established stream of research and researchers have conducted investigations with numerous media, the effectiveness of virtual advertising has gone relatively unexplored in the marketing and advertising literature. This study tested the effects of animation, repetition, baseball involvement, and team identification in brand awareness of virtual advertising. The results from this study indicated no effect of animation while effects of repetition, baseball involvement, and team identification were found to affect viewer’s cognitive responses.

What is virtual advertising? Virtual advertising is the seamless insertion of digitized images into a television broadcast and has been used increasingly within sport broadcasts (football’s first down line, corporate signage behind home plate in baseball). Those watching the broadcast from their homes are exposed to the advertising, but the message can’t be seen by event attendees because it is electronically generated.

What are the advantages to virtual advertising? Virtual advertising prevents viewers from skipping through advertisements as they are placed in the broadcast. Also, virtual advertisers can insert logos anywhere on the screen-creating greater brand exposure. These ads can also create additional attention through animation.

How did the researchers conduct the test? To test the factors affecting brand awareness, 208 undergraduate students at a large university in the southwestern US were solicited from several PE classes to participate in exchange for extra credit. The participants were randomly handed one of six different CDs with 24 minutes of a professional baseball game that had virtual advertisements embedded. After watching the CD, students answered a questionnaire without re-watching the game. The researchers sought to answer five questions:

  1. What are the effects of animation on brand awareness levels of virtual advertising? The study showed no significant effects of animation on viewer’s levels of awareness of virtual advertising. The researchers suggest that the novelty of animation in advertising may have worn off for this group of technologically-savvy college students.
  2. What are the effects of repetition on brand awareness levels of virtual advertising? Exposing the participants to a brand multiple times (four or six) generated larger unaided recall rates-at least 3 times greater than if they were only exposed to the brand once.
  3. What are the interactive effects of animation and repetition on brand awareness levels of virtual advertising? The researchers found no effect for this question.
  4. What are the effects of baseball involvement on brand awareness levels of virtual advertising? The results showed that the more the participants were involved with the game, the lesslikely they were to recall a virtual advertiser’s brand. (this is somewhat obvious/repetitive)
  5. What are the effects of team identification on brand awareness levels of virtual advertising? This study’s results showed that fans seem to actively look for sponsors that support their identified team. Although this seemed to contradict the findings from the previous question, researchers suggest that fans used a different information-processing scheme when watching the broadcast.

Implications of this research. The study indicates that advertisers don’t need to animate their virtual ads in order to gain recognition. Instead, sport marketers should focus on virtual advertising that allows for multiple exposures within an event. The researchers also suggest reinforcing sponsorship relations and trying to reach involved fans through event-related advertising efforts.

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