Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 124, Issue 1, pp 149–160 | Cite as

Is Publicity Always Better than Advertising? The Role of Brand Reputation in Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Siv SkardEmail author
  • Helge Thorbjørnsen


Previous studies on corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication suggest that firms’ social initiatives should be communicated through third-party, non-corporate sources because they are perceived as unbiased and therefore reduce consumer skepticism. In this article, we extend existing research by showing that source effects in the communication of social sponsorships are contingent on the brand’s pre-existing reputation. We argue that the congruence between the credibility and trustworthiness of the message source and the brand helps predict consumer responses to a social sponsorship. The results show that a non-corporate source (publicity) generates more positive brand evaluations than a corporate source (advertising) when the sponsor has a positive reputation. However, the converse effect occurs when brand reputation is low: when the sponsor has a poor reputation, a corporate source generates more positive brand evaluations than a non-corporate source. Mediation analyses show that the interaction effect between CSR information source and brand reputation can be explained by sponsorship attitude, persuasion knowledge, and perceived fit between the brand and the cause.


Corporate social responsibility Reputation Advertising Publicity Source effects 


  1. Artz, N., & Tybout, A. M. (1999). The moderating impact of quantitative information on the relationship between source credibility and persuasion: A persuasion knowledge model interpretation. Marketing Letters, 10(1), 51–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bae, J., & Cameron, G. T. (2006). Conditioning effect of prior reputation on perception of corporate giving. Public Relations Review, 32(2), 144–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balasubramanian, S. K. (1994). Beyond advertising and publicity: Hybrid messages and public policy issues. Journal of Advertising, 23(4), 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benn, S., Todd, L., & Pendleton, J. (2010). Public relations leadership in corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 96(3), 403–423.Google Scholar
  5. Bhattacharya, C. B., & Sen, S. (2004). Doing better at doing good: When, Why, And How Consumers Respond To Corporate Social Initiatives. California Management Review, 47(1), 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cameron, G. T. (1994). Does publicity outperform advertising? An experimental test of the third-party endorsement. Journal of Public Relations Research, 6(3), 185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, M. C. (1995). When attention-getting advertising tactics elicit consumer inferences of manipulative intent: The importance of balancing benefit and investments. Journal of Consumer Psychology (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), 4(3), 225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Coppetti, C., Wentzel, D., Tomczak, T., & Henkel, S. (2009). Improving incongruent sponsorships through articulation of the sponsorship and audience participation. Journal of Marketing Communications, 15(1), 17–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cornwell, T. B., & Coote, L. V. (2005). Corporate sponsorship of a cause: The role of identification in purchase intent. Journal of Business Research, 58(3), 268–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cornwell, T. B., Humphreys, M. S., Maguire, A. M., Weeks, C. S., & Tellegen, C. L. (2006). Sponsorship-linked marketing: The role of articulation in memory. Journal of Consumer Research, 33(3), 312–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cornwell, T. B., Roy, D. P., & Steinard Ii, E. A. (2001). Exploring managers’ perceptions of the impact of sponsorship on brand equity. Journal of Advertising, 30(2), 41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crimmins, J., & Horn, M. (1996). Sponsorship: From management ego trip to marketing success. Journal of Advertising Research, 36(4), 11–21.Google Scholar
  13. D’Astous, A., & Bitz, P. (1995). Consumer evaluations of sponsorship programmes. European Journal of Marketing, 29(12), 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dahlén, M. (2005). The medium as a contextual cue. Journal of Advertising, 34(3), 89–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dahlén, M., & Lange, F. (2005). Advertising weak and strong brands: Who gains? Psychology & Marketing, 22(6), 473–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dahlén, M., Rosengren, S., Törn, F., & Öhman, N. (2008). Could placing ads wrong be right? Journal of Advertising, 37(3), 57–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis, J. J. (1994). Consumer response to corporate environmental advertising. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 11(2), 25–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dean, D. H. (2002). Associating the corporation with a charitable event through sponsorship: Measuring the effects on corporate community relations. Journal of Advertising, 31(4), 77–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Douglas, S. P., & Craig, C. S. (2007). Collaborative and iterative translation: An alternative approach to back translation. Journal of International Marketing, 15(1), 30–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Du, S., Bhattacharya, C. B., & Sen, S. (2010). Maximizing business returns to corporate social responsibility (CSR): The role of CSR communication. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), 8–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Du, S., & Vieira, E. (2012). Striving for legitimacy through corporate social responsibility: Insights from oil companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(4), 413–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eisend, M., & Küster, F. (2011). The effectiveness of publicity versus advertising: A meta-analytic investigation of its moderators. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(6), 906–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Engeseth, S. (2009). The fall of PR and the rise of advertising. Southport: Engeseth Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Fombrun, C. J., Gardberg Naomi, A., & Sever, J. (2000). The reputation quotient: A multi-stakeholder measure of corporate reputation. The Journal of Brand Management, 7, 241–255.Google Scholar
  25. Fombrun, C. J., & Riel, C. B. M. V. (2004). Fame and fortune: How successful companies build winning reputations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  26. Friestad, M., & Wright, P. (1994). The persuasion knowledge model: How people cope with persuasion attempts. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(1), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Grohs, R., Wagner, U., & Vsetecka, S. (2004). Assessing the effectiveness of sport sponsorships: An empirical examination. Schmalenbach Business Review (SBR), 56(2), 119–138.Google Scholar
  28. Groza, M., Pronschinske, M., & Walker, M. (2011). Perceived organizational motives and consumer responses to proactive and reactive CSR. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(4), 639–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gwinner, K. P., & Eaton, J. (1999). Building brand image through event sponsorship: The role of image transfer. Journal of Advertising, 28(4), 47–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hallahan, K. (1999). Content class as a contextual cue in the cognitive processing of publicity versus advertising. Journal of Public Relations Research, 11(4), 293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hibbert, S., Smith, A., Davies, A., & Ireland, F. (2007). Guilt appeals: Persuasion knowledge and charitable giving. Psychology & Marketing, 24(8), 723–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. IEG. (2011a). Cereal marketers scoop up sponsorships. IEG sponsorship report.Google Scholar
  33. IEG. (2011b). Sponsorship decision makers survey. IEG sponsorship report.Google Scholar
  34. IEG. (2012). Economic uncertainty to slow sponsorship growth in 2012. IEG sponsorship report. From Accessed 15 Dec 2012.
  35. Jo, S. (2004). Effect of content type on impact: Editorial vs. advertising. Public Relations Review, 30(4), 503–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jo, H., & Na, H. (2012). Does CSR reduce firm risk? Evidence from controversial industry sectors. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(4), 441–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Klincewicz, K. (1998). Ethical aspects of sponsorship. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(9/10), 1103–1110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lii, Y.-S., & Lee, M. (2012). Doing right leads to doing well: When the type of CSR and reputation interact to affect consumer evaluations of the firm. Journal of Business Ethics, 105(1), 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. MacKenzie, S. B., & Lutz, R. J. (1989). An empirical examination of the structural antecedents of attitude toward the Ad in an advertising pretesting context. Journal of Marketing, 53(2), 48–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Meenaghan, T. (1991). The role of sponsorship in the marketing communications mix. International Journal of Advertising, 10(1), 35–47.Google Scholar
  41. Morsing, M., Schultz, M., & Nielsen, K. U. (2008). The “Catch 22” of communicating CSR: Findings from a Danish study. Journal of Marketing Communications, 14(2), 97–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Muehling, D. D., & Laczniak, R. N. (1988). Advertising’s immediate and delayed influence on brand attitudes: Considerations across message-involvement levels. Journal of Advertising, 17(4), 23–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Olson, E. L. (2010). Does sponsorship work in the same way in different sponsorship contexts? European Journal of Marketing, 44(1/2), 180–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pelsmacker, P. D., Geuens, M., & Anckaert, P. (2002). Media context and advertising effectiveness: The role of context appreciation and context/Ad similarity. Journal of Advertising, 31(2), 49–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pope, R. (2010). The making of social sponsorship. Journal of Sponsorship, 3(3), 242–248.Google Scholar
  46. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36(4), 717–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40(3), 879–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Prendergast, G. P., Poon, D., & West, D. C. (2010). Match game. Journal of Advertising Research, 50(2), 214–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rossiter, J. R. (1977). Reliability of a short test measuring children’s attitudes toward TV commercials. Journal of Consumer Research, 3(4), 179–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roy, D. P., & Cornwell, T. B. (2004). The effects of consumer knowledge on responses to event sponsorships. Psychology & Marketing, 21(3), 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Seitanidi, M. M., & Ryan, A. (2007). A critical review of forms of corporate community involvement: From philanthropy to partnerships. International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing, 12(3), 247–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shankar, V., Smith, A. K., & Rangaswamy, A. (2003). Customer satisfaction and loyalty in online and offline environments. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 20(2), 153–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Simmons, C. J., & Becker-Olsen, K. L. (2006). Achieving marketing objectives through social sponsorships. Journal of Marketing, 70(4), 154–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Simonin, B. L., & Ruth, J. A. (1998). Is a company known by the company it keeps? Assessing the spillover effects of brand alliances on consumer brand attitudes. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), 35(1), 30–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Speed, R., & Thompson, P. (2000). Determinants of sports sponsorship response. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28(2), 227–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Strahilevitz, M. (2003). The effects of prior impressions of a firm’s ethics on the success of a cause-related marketing campaign: Do the good look better while the bad look worse? Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 11(1), 77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wang, A., & Muehling, D. D. (2012). The moderating influence of brand status and source confirmation on third-party endorsement effects in advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 31(3), 605–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Weeks, C. S., Cornwell, T. B., & Drennan, J. C. (2008). Leveraging sponsorships on the internet: Activation, congruence, and articulation. Psychology & Marketing, 25(7), 637–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wiener, J. L., Laforge, R. W., & Goolsby, J. R. (1990). Personal communication in marketing: An examination of self-interest contingency relationships. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), 27(2), 227–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yoon, Y., Gürhan-Canli, Z., & Schwarz, N. (2006). The effect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on companies with bad reputations. Journal of Consumer Psychology (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), 16(4), 377–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L., & Parasuraman, A. (1996). The behavioral consequences of service quality. Journal of Marketing, 60(2), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Service Innovation (CSI)Norwegian School of Economics (NHH)BergenNorway

Personalised recommendations