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Saturday, August 31, 2013


Antonia Mantonakis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, Brock University Goodman School of Business: Perception of Wine Taste Due To Celebrity Athlete Endorsement - Interview

Antonia Mantonakis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing at Brock University Goodman School of Business, was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about a recent study she and her colleagues conducted, about how consumers perceive the quality and taste of a wine. The study of consumer perceptions was based on the impact of having celebrity athletes, from various sports, endorse a wine.

Antonia Mantonakis described the background to the study, its methodology, and shared some of the findings from that study.

Thanks to Antonia Mantonakis for her time, and for her responses to the questions. They are greatly appreciated.

What was the background to creating this study of the perceived relationship between customer behaviour and consumer decision making; and who were the participants?

Antonia Mantonakis: My co-authors (Sarah Clemente, Eric Dolansky, and Katherine White) and I have been studying consumer decision making ever since we were graduate students. I’ve always found the topic fascinating given my background in Psychology.

Participants are usually community members, including students at the University. We kept track of their wine knowledge, and were able to split the respondents into high vs. low knowledge participants.

The study examines the relationship between wines and celebrity athlete endorsements in various sports. How did you determine if there are real and quantifiable relationships between customer behaviour and the endorsements?

Antonia Mantonakis: Well we first did a pre-test, where we gave participants a list of athletes such as David Beckham and Christine Sinclair, and had them rank order the degree of “fit” to the product of wine. It was interesting to see how respondents rated the golfer Vijay Singh as a “good” fit, whereas “The Rock” (wrestler) was a poor fit, and Jeremy Wotherspoon (speed skater) was perceived to be a moderate fit.

When you examined different sports, how did the choice of sport athlete make a difference?

Antonia Mantonakis: In the actual tasting study, we paired each of these athletes with wines, to taste. What was interesting was that, for high knowledge respondents, taste ratings were higher for the “moderate” fit. In addition, these respondents reported a higher willingness to pay for the wine with a moderate fit.

Antonia Mantonakis, Ph.D. (photo left)

You discovered that there was a different fit between consumers and the athletes and sports selected. Why is this concept of fit an important consideration for marketers?

Antonia Mantonakis: This is actually a topic that’s been studied extensive in marketing, especially for co-branding efforts. Ours is the first to examine “fit” in the context of taste.

When consumers were rated on different knowledge levels regarding wine, what did that knowledge level mean for the amount of the endorsement fit?

Antonia Mantonakis: This is interesting, actually, because our results (that consumers preferred the wine with the “moderate” fitting celebrity endorsement) appeared only for the high knowledge consumers, not for the low knowledge consumers.

Were the more knowledgeable consumers more swayed by the taste of the wine or the fit of the endorsement?

Antonia Mantonakis: Here’s the other trick in our study: all wines (for all 3 celebrity athletes) were the same. They only thought that they were different. So, they were more swayed by the fit of the endorsement, yes.

For marketers how is the level of knowledge held by consumer to be considered when finding endorsements for either high, medium, or low knowledge level consumers?

Antonia Mantonakis: This is a good question because we know that consumers of different knowledge levels approach and evaluate products differently. For instance, lower knowledge consumers may look more at price, whereas high knowledge consumers look more at other features of the product, like what’s written on the label in the case of wine.

What conclusions and marketing lessons were uncovered from this study?

Antonia Mantonakis: The take away message in this study is that consumers (even those who know a lot about the product they are evaluating) can be swayed by who is endorsing the product, to the point that it actually tastes different (even though it should taste no different).

What is next for Antonia Mantonakis?

Antonia Mantonakis: Hmmm always more studies to be done on how consumers make decisions! Right now, my colleague Keri Kettle and I are working on consumer perceptions of wine that simply has the wine maker’s signature on it. Such a simple addition to the printed label, but, so far, we are finding that seeing a signature on a label makes a huge difference in perceptions, and willingness to buy the wine! Isn’t that interesting?


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