Study: Sport sponsorship can be stronger than traditional ads

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August 1, 2023

Brands can score a ‘Sport Dividend’ through effective sport sponsorship, according to a study by sports and marketing agency FUSE in partnership with creative effectiveness platform System1.

The study, The Sport Dividend: Unlocking Incremental Brand Growth Through Sport Sponsorship, revealed that a range of activations associated with sport sponsorship, from advertising to digital content, has the potential to drive stronger growth than traditional, brand-led communications.

Specifically, sponsorship wins by eliciting more intense feelings of happiness – happiness supports memory structures around a particular brand that come to the fore when we are in the market to make a purchase decision. As a result, sport sponsorship activation is predicted to achieve stronger long-term and short-term business effects for brands – ‘The Sport Dividend.’

The Sport Dividend can be achieved by all brands, both B2C and B2B regardless of size, share and budget, with positive implications for creative quality and media spend.

The study was based on in-depth testing of 170 sport sponsorship campaigns, gathering emotional data from over 33,000 people across Germany, France, UK and US. System1 tested the assets with representative samples to underpin how the emotional response to sport sponsorship campaigns differs between sports fans and the general public.

Using the System1 scale of 1 to 5.9 stars, sports sponsorship assets averaged 3.8-stars among sports fans, (compared with 2.4 stars for all advertising), an uplift which can correlate to increased market share gain. As sports fans account for over 40 per cent of consumers – a mass audience – the ‘Sport Dividend’ is proof that for sport sponsorship marketing campaigns, winning big is possible both on and off the pitch.

Among broad audiences, 49 per cent of the tested sport sponsorship assets delivered a stronger than average score over non-sport assets. This means, if done well, that sport sponsorship can also drive effectiveness for mass audiences as well as sport fans.

The research launched as a representative sample of 1,000 adverts on System 1’s database show only 5 per cent contain sport sponsorship related IP and rights. Similarly, only 12.5 per cent of adverts contain sport as a broader thematic, suggesting that brands aren’t maximising the potential of their partnerships, especially given the Sport Dividend that’s on offer.

Alex Charkham, Chief Strategy Officer at Fuse, said: “Across rights investments and related activation, sport sponsorship is estimated to be a $100 billion dollar industry, yet, up until now, it has lacked the resources and evidence (when compared with advertising) to quantify effectiveness and inform how sponsorship really works. This partly explains why sport remains undervalued as a platform. By applying a rigorous methodology and set of principles, for the first time Fuse and System1 have discovered that through sport sponsorship campaigns, brands can unlock growth amongst both sport and broad audiences while going toe-to-toe with brand communications. It’s what we are calling ‘The Sport Dividend’. And from this we have devised the top ways brands can benefit with our Blueprint for Success.

Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer, System1, said: “Sports has a unique ability to engage mass audiences around the world, thanks to its global reach and mainstream media appeal. System1 and Fuse identified an opportunity to look beyond the pitch and ascertain the key components that drive effectiveness in sport sponsorship. This research marks a monumental moment for the industry, whereby for the first time, brands and advertisers can lean on evidence-based practice to inform sport sponsorship strategy.”