18-24 years old fail to engage
Sports brands appear to suffer from an overall lack of impact with consumers, with 68 per cent of 18-24s reporting that they rarely or never notice the brand that individual athletes wear on the field of play. Media coverage also appears to have limited impact, with only 30 per cent of those surveyed by threepipe always or sometimes noticing a brand being promoted through an athlete appearing in the media.
When asked to identify which brands sponsor a selection of high-profile sports stars:
- Just 8 per cent correctly associated Usain Bolt with long-term partner, Puma (compared with 15 per cent wrongly identifying Nike as Bolt’s sponsor)
- Only 14 per cent of 18-24 year olds correctly linked Wayne Rooney to Nike
- 6.8 per cent could identify adidas as Lionel Messi’s sponsor (with the same number also wrongly associating the Argentinian star with Nike)
- Non-sports brands achieved the highest levels of recognition, with 38 per cent associating Jessica Ennis-Hill with Santander, followed by 31 per cent linking Usain Bolt with Virgin Media
If the awareness barrier is overcome, 31 per cent of the audience reported that football players were most likely to have a positive impact on brand perception, followed by tennis players (13.5 per cent), rugby players and athletes (both 10 per cent). However, just 23 per cent of 18-24s claimed that any association with an individual sports star would make them more likely to consider purchasing a brand.
Given the big investments made by brands in athlete sponsorship deals and the often large amounts spent communicating those associations, this could be a concern. It seems that brands may be struggling to convert their sponsorship into awareness, let alone desire to purchase.
This research suggests that sponsoring brands need to take a step back and evaluate their overall communication strategy.