Uh-Oh, Tiger Is in Trouble: Empirical Analysis of Consumers’ Moral Reasoning Strategies and Their Implications for Endorsed Brands

Joon Sung Lee, Dae Hee Kwak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Celebrity athlete endorsers are often engaged in immoral transgressions that cannot be controlled by marketers. While previous research on celebrity endorsement has emphasized how utilizing athletes could enhance persuasiveness of marketing communications, empirical research on consumer responses to athletes’ transgression and their associated brands remains sparse in the literature. In the present study, we focus on moral reasoning strategy (e.g., moral decoupling referring to exclusion of immorality in evaluation process: Bhattacharjee et al. 2012; moral rationalization referring to justification of immorality in evaluation process: Bandura et al. 1996) as a main processing mechanism. In two experimental studies, we identified the existence of a distinct moral reasoning process (i.e., moral coupling) which allows consumers to integrate judgments of morality and performance of a transgressed athlete. Study 1 examined the effect of moral reasoning priming on consumers’ judgments of a transgressed athlete’s morality and performance. Study 2 utilized path analyses to examine causal relations between different types of moral reasoning choices, attitude toward the athlete (AAth), attitude toward the endorsed brand (ABrd), and purchase intent (PI). In Study 1, we primed participants (n = 97) into one of four moral reasoning conditions (moral coupling: MC; moral decoupling: MD; moral rationalization: MR; and control condition). Participants were then asked to read an article about an athlete’s transgression and to report their evaluations of the athlete’s immorality and performance. A set of ANOVAs revealed that the MC group exhibited different facets of athlete evaluations than the MD or the MR. In particular, the MC condition reported significantly lower levels of performance and morality evaluations than the MR condition. In addition, the MC condition showed significantly lower levels of performance evaluations than the MD condition. Since the selection of moral reasoning strategy was primed rather than chosen by participants, Study 2 (n = 218) examined the impact of consumers’ moral reasoning choice on athlete and endorsed brand evaluations. We had participants read articles about an athlete’s transgression then select their own moral reasoning strategy. Participants then read another article about endorsement deal and reported their AAth, ABrd, and PI. To test each model employing different moral reasoning choices, three structural models were examined. The results showed that the MC reasoning had a negative and significant impact on AAth and ABrd. In addition, in the MD and MR models, only the MR reasoning had a positive and significant direct impact on AAth. Interestingly, only MD reasoning had a marginal positive impact on ABrd. Lastly, indirect effect of MC on PI was negative and significant, while the indirect effects of MD and MR on PI were both e positive and significant. Our empirical results demonstrate that consumers’ moral reasoning strategy plays an important role in understanding the impact of athlete’s transgression on endorsed brands.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevelopments in Marketing Science
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN (Print)2363-6165
ISSN (Electronic)2363-6173

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Academy of Marketing Science.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Marketing
  • Strategy and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Uh-Oh, Tiger Is in Trouble: Empirical Analysis of Consumers’ Moral Reasoning Strategies and Their Implications for Endorsed Brands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this