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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 Skard
  • Helge Thorbjørnsen
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Corporate social responsibility Reputation Advertising Publicity Source effects 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

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

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