Semester of Graduation

May 2022

Degree

Master of Mass Communication (MMC)

Department

Mass Communication

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Brands are beginning to engage in corporate social advocacy (CSA) with social movements to form deeper connections with their audience, but not all are successful. This thesis asks why a brand’s target audience considers some CSA campaigns as more authentic than others. In Study I, I use Twitter data to conduct an exploratory analysis that applies existing research to two extreme CSA cases: Nike’s Emmy-winning “Dream Crazy” campaign starring Colin Kaepernick and Pepsi’s unsuccessful “Live for Now– Moments” campaign starring Kendall Jenner. Pepsi failed despite its history of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. I suggest that group identity theory impacts audience perception. A white celebrity main model for Pepsi’s CSA campaign may have alienated supporters by ignoring the Black Lives Matter movements’ ingroup, the Black community.

Study II determines how a brand’s CSR history and campaign model’s group identity impact its audience’s perception. I conduct a representative online survey of 500 American adults analyze the data in a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) test. The independent variables are the brand’s CSR commitment (continuous or one-time) and the campaign’s main model group identity (ingroup or outgroup). The dependent variable is the audience’s perceived authenticity measured as brand values, brand personality, and brand intent scales. I find main effects from CSR commitment and group identity on all three scales. Interaction effects show that using an ingroup model limits the negative effects of a less-extensive CSR history.

In summary, brand engagement in continuous CSR initiatives yields the most authentic audience perception, but brands just beginning to engage in CSA without a continuous history of CSR can use a social movement ingroup model to increase the campaign’s perceived authenticity.

Committee Chair

Porter, Lance

DOI

10.31390/gradschool_theses.5566

Available for download on Saturday, April 08, 2023

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