Dr. George Cunningham, professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University, partnered with Dr. E. Nicole Melton, assistant professor of Sport Management in the Department of Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences at Texas Tech University, to conduct research and author the scholarly article entitled, Signals and Cues: LGBT Inclusive Advertising and Consumer Attraction, a text that examines the influence of advertising that is inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals on consumers’ intentions to join a fitness club.
Cunningham and Melton suggest that the findings from the conducted research have the potential to inform practice and policy-making. “Sport marketers and managers need to develop LGBT-inclusive policies for their organization,” they said. “Having such policies in place is not only socially responsible, but can also improve organizational processes and outcomes.”
According to the authors, sport-related organizations that adopt diversity management strategies are more likely to attract and hire talented, creative employees and generate goodwill among customers who are concerned with diversity-related issues. This, they argue, ultimately translates to better customer loyalty and an increase in revenue recognition.
"Sport marketers and managers need to develop LGBT-inclusive policies for their organization." - Dr. George Cunningham, director of the Texas A&M Laboratory for Diversity in SportTweet This
Organizations that demonstrate positive images of diversity experience positive public feedback and an enhanced external image. Additionally, the authors note that the vast majority of research on diversity in the workplace examines racial diversity. This means that other facets of diversity, such as gender and sexual orientation, are overlooked – a prevalent issue in the sport industry.
“We focus on fitness clubs because they are primarily service providers and represent a type of participant sport organization – one of the largest segments in the sport industry,” said Cunningham and Melton. “We argue that people will interpret LGBT-inclusive advertising as reflecting broader diversity within the fitness club.”
Cunningham and Melton write that organizations signal diversity cues through advertising to those outside of the organization who they seek to influence and, as a result, those receiving the message interpret the cues and make reflective connections about the organization. For example, an organization demonstrating LGBT inclusiveness is likely to represent a larger emphasis on diversity and inclusion for those who are receiving the message.
To further test the hypothesis, Cunningham and Melton looked at a sample of 203 students enrolled at a large university. Results from the experiment indicate that those who viewed LGBT-inclusive advertisements were more likely to believe the club was diverse and inclusive (based on racial diversity, sex diversity, sexual orientation and gender identity diversity) than those who viewed non-inclusive advertisements.
Cunningham and Melton believe that, based upon their research findings, there should be further investigation into the effects of LGBT-inclusive policies in order to determine whether such policies truly influence consumer attitudes.
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