New Research Shows: Global Fans Feel Growing Ambivalence Toward Brand Involvement In Sports

FANS DEMAND MORE SOCIAL CONNECTION AS THEY FEEL INCREASING WARINESS AROUND BRANDS SPONSORING EVENTS

Nov 09, 2015, 11:00 ET from Momentum Worldwide

NEW YORK, Nov. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Sports marketing and brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide conducted a survey of global sports fans that indicates ambivalence of consumers toward brand involvement in sports. While roughly half of fans agree that sponsors have sports' best interest at heart, 83% accepted the statement: "Sponsors never consider the fans," revealing a sentiment of increasing distance from the sports experiences they love, And only 55% of respondents would currently consider trying a particular brand or product as a result of that sponsorship. The study is based on quantitative and qualitative input from 2,000 sports fans in the UK, US, Brazil, Spain and Japan.

Conversely, the newest global research study aimed at determining fan sentiment toward the entirety of brand experience yields findings that hint toward fans' openness to brand inclusion done right: 88% of fans believe that sponsors can create new opportunities for their favorite sports and teams, and 86% would not object to seeing even more sponsorship in sports.

The research pointed toward elements of the sports experience that could lead to improvement, with social elements rising in importance, demonstrating that fans not only love to talk, but need to talk—to get information and demonstrate that they have information. 58% of fans believe the ability to share information enhances their experience, and 53% say that information (or content) created by other fans also enhances their experience.

"This research shows that while people are open to brands bringing real value to their sports experiences, unfortunately, they don't currently believe sponsors think about the fans when planning their programs. Today's connected fans are rightfully accustomed to being in control of their relationships—including relationships with brands—and right now they're feeling let down at sports events," according to Mike Sundet, Momentum Worldwide SVP, Director of Sports and Entertainment. "The opportunity exists for brands to bridge this gap by celebrating the value of fans—putting them in control and at the heart of these experiences. Brands that make sports more accessible and aspirational, that make a positive impact on people's health and wellbeing, and exploit the social effects of sports for the greater good of individuals and communities will earn lasting attention and positive connections with fans."

The research shows that fans want brands to have presence, but need to be thoughtful in how, why and where they're part of a sports experience:

  • Live wins: Physical presence at the event is still considered the best way to enjoy sports, with 73% of respondents stating that the shared experience of being with a crowd of equally passionate fans is what most enhances their enjoyment.
    • 63% of fans cited "rituals with other fans" as important to the live experience. 
    • Twice as many fans rank being at the event as first for atmosphere and quality of experience over merely watching on TV, with 82% saying that being close to the action at a live event most enhances their love of the sport.
    • Fans of all sports reported a growing sense of frustration with the rules and regulations that govern how they experience a live event (no standing, no alcohol, no umbrellas, no rival-sponsor logos, etc.).
    • Owning team merchandise ranked lowest in the list of requirements for true fandom.
  • Millennial changes: This group—respondents age 16-35—see music, merchandise and sharing on social media as valued additions to the sports experience. Compared to non-Millennial respondents, they're more open to: content created by other fans (64% vs. 46%), sharing experiences on social media (63% vs 44%) and general advertising presence (50% vs. 37%).

Fans also reported sentiments specific to certain global markets from the study:

  • Brazil's passion: 72% of fans say they are most passionate about sports teams and players from the country of their birth, with Brazilians (76%) agreeing with this statement more than any other country.
  • UK's fan apathy: Research indicated the growing feeling of distance from pro athletes was particularly strong in the UK, and least felt in Japan.
  • International empathy: Over half of all fans say their team's performance has a strong impact on how they are feeling. This is particularly strong in Japan (64%) and the UK (62%).
  • Spanish resistance: Fewer Spanish fans (39%, vs. 50% of all fans, 65% of Brazilian fans) believe advertising enhances their experience. Spanish fans (25% vs. 16% of all fans), believe the main purpose of sports is to keep people fit as opposed to serving as entertainment. A recent study into athletes and social media by Momentum Worldwide family agency PMK-BNC found that Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal—who has the highest personal social media following—saw less engagement on branded posts in his social media vs. personal ones, representing that this resistance may be cultural to Spain.
  • Japan cheers for sports overall: More Japanese fans (42%, vs. 13% of all fans) state it is more love of the sport itself that drives their fandom, rather than love for a specific team.
  • Globalization: Fewer fans in the US believe the globalization of sports enhances fan experience. 9% fewer US fans agreed with this statement compared to fans globally, and almost 30% less than fans in Brazil.

ABOUT MOMENTUM WORLDWIDE
Momentum Worldwide is built on the simple truth that it's not what brands say, it's what they do that matters. That's why Momentum delivers total brand experiences for our clients, guided by the belief that today the most important product a brand makes—other than the product itself—is an experience. The experiences we build are fully integrated "phygital" experiences, living seamlessly in the physical and the digital worlds. Momentum's work is driven by bringing tangible value to brands and consumers wherever they may be, working across sports, events, music and entertainment sponsorships, advertising and activations—in all media including social and digital, product and package design, and all shopper and retail channels. Part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), we operate in over 40 countries for partners including American Express, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Verizon, Walmart, William Grant & Sons, and many more.

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