The aim of this master thesis was to explore the effects of sponsorships on the perceived source credibility of social media influencers in the fitness industry. In order to answer the research question how sponsorships affect the perceived source credibility, a qualitative approach in the form of focus group interviews and a quantitative approach in the form of an online survey have been used. Before the empirical research was conducted, a theoretical framework is provided which compromises three main topics: Influencer marketing, social media influencers and credibility. The qualitative approach was done in the form of two focus group interviews, which were conducted in order to further explore the topic of social media influencers, define what makes a social media influencer credible and which factors regarding sponsorships can be assumed to have an influence on source credibility. Furthermore, based on these findings and the findings of literature, hypotheses could be formulated which were further explored in an online survey. The survey was conducted in April 2017 in the form of an online questionnaire with 283 participants based in German speaking areas.
Within the focus group discussions, it was indicated that three factors are likely to have an influence on source credibility of social media influencers regarding sponsorship, which have been further explored in the survey: sponsorships, transparency and product-fit. However, sponsorships and transparency did not show a significant effect in terms of influencing source credibility whereas significant differences could be made between product-fit vs. no product-fit. Nevertheless, the survey was limited to several factors which might have distorted the results. One limitation of the survey was that participants would have needed to possess more knowledge of the topic in order to answer the questions properly. Furthermore, it could be shown that the participants took limited time for the survey, which might have influenced the results of sponsored vs. not sponsored groups.