Fans / Leagues / Sponsorship


Lenovo’s NFL sponsorship activations

Author Katerina Peterson, University of San Francisco

Posted: October 20, 2015

Sport consumers play a large and an important role in fueling the developing environment that makes up the business of sports. These consumers, along with the market, are unique because there are constant changes being made to make the experience of being a consumer better than ever. Sport organizations can no longer rely on the performance of their teams to ensure a strong consumer base; they need to understand who these consumers are and how to develop a relationship with them (Pons, Giroux, & Mourali, 2014, p. 34).

Research has shown that there is a variety of ways to reach different levels of consumers, especially with sports. The Sport Fan Motivation Scale (SFMS) was able to unify what motivates sports consumers into eight factors: eustress, self-esteem, escape, entertainment, economic, aesthetic, group affiliation, and family (Pons et al., 2014, p. 27). The group affiliation factor refers to the belongingness a fan feels and the social benefits by supporting a team. This sense of belongingness can create motivation for consumers to purchase products that support these teams because people want to show others that they are a part of a community.

Computer maker Lenovo has embraced this concept by adding a “licensed-product component” to its NFL league sponsorship that lets its consumers who order their Y Series laptops and Yoga 3 Pro laptop/tablet directly from the website to customize their products with etched NFL team logos (Lefton, 2015, p. 36). Like any other item such as a jersey or a hat, these products give consumers the opportunity to represent a specific community through personalized materials. This form of representation also helps people gain a form of acceptance within their communities because “[real] and authentic supporters need to have products that identify themselves with a specific team” (Pons et al., 2014, p. 32).

Lenovo also has a “Fantasy Online College” video series and is supporting contests through social media to gain more exposure through their relationship with the NFL (Lefton, 2015, p. 36). This sort of access has become a part of the consumer experience because the sport industry receives so much media exposure; it is what separates it from other industries. Consumers rely on technology more than ever to gain this specialized form of exposure. No matter the form that media is consumed, all are fundamental in shaping attitudes, impressions, and opinions of the public (Funk & Lock, 2015, p. 38). Media provides an opportunity for organizations to build and maintain a relationship with its fan base, and Lenovo has been able to use this concept to its advantage.

People consider sport teams and organizations to be a part of their sense of self and a representation of who they are, so it is essential for these teams and organizations to develop a relationship with their consumers. Kevin Burman, Lenovo’s Director of North America Consumer Marketing, said that there has been a “significant increase in awareness and purchase consideration among NFL fans” because Lenovo’s partnership with the NFL (Lefton, 2015, p. 36). Lenovo has been able to contribute to their consumer sport identity. Sport identity is similar to group affiliation because it has “emotional value, symbolic meaning, and functional significance” (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 45). Using research from models such as SFMS and giving consumers media access can influence the identities of the consumers. Companies like Lenovo are experiencing the benefits that come with understanding their consumers because they are producing products that affect their motivation and attitudes.



Funk, D. C., & Lock, D. (2014). Sport Consumer Attitudes: Formation, Function, and Effects on Information Processing. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands In Sport Business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pons, F. Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation: Why Are Sport Consumers So Special? In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging Brands In Sport Business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge.

Lefton, T. (2015, September 7). Lenovo lets laptop buyers personalize with NFL logos. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(21). Retrieved from

About Katerina Peterson, University of San Francisco

Katerina graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology, a Business of Sports Certificate, and a Critical Sports Studies Certificate. She is currently a Master’s Candidate in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco. Along with being a graduate student, she also serves as an Event Manager at Stanford University, a Fan Experience Intern at University of California, Berkeley, and a Marketing Intern at Positive Coaching Alliance. This article is an edited version of a paper Katerina prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

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