Athletes' transgressions and sponsor evaluations: A focus on consumers' moral reasoning strategies

Joon Sung Lee, Dae Hee Kwak, David Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Marketing managers often face dilemmas when their athlete endorsers are accused of immoral behavior. However, research findings have been equivocal as to whether athletes' transgressions damage endorsed brand evaluations. Using two experiments, we empirically demonstrate that consumers' moral reasoning (i.e., moral rationalization, moral coupling, and moral decoupling) has differential effects on evaluations of a transgressor (Study 1). In Study 2, we examine the causal effect of moral reasoning choice on evaluations of the transgressor and the associated brand. Findings show that moral coupling has negative effects on the athlete and brand evaluations, whereas moral decoupling and moral rationalization positively affect brand attitude and purchase intent through positive evaluation of the athlete. Findings from this study provide empirical evidence to explain how and why some consumers continue or discontinue their support for a troubled athlete and associated brand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-687
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Sport Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Human Kinetics, Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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