Magazine article Marketing

The Big Match

Magazine article Marketing

The Big Match

Article excerpt

Which brands have managed to identify the perfect fit for a sports sponsorship? Here we put four deals to the test using exclusive research.

Sport dominates the world of sponsorship, representing 80% of the pounds 12.4bn global sponsorship market. Today, sports sponsorship is being used as a long-term branding tool, with the average duration of the top 50 deals lasting more than four years.

Yet research carried out by WPP companies Millward Brown and BMRB, revealed exclusively here by Marketing, shows that many of these deals are being made on the basis of little more than gut instinct about brand fit.

The research, entitled 'SportZ' and carried out in eight countries among 21,000 sports fans over the age of 15, studies consumer attitudes and behaviour toward sports, and how these have an impact on sponsors' brands.

With 35 million UK adults confirmed sports fans, there is no denying that it is a winning way into consumers' hearts. But how can marketers harness the passion that consumers have for sports, and project it onto their brands?

More importantly, how can they identify the sport with which their consumers have the strongest affinity?

The research shows that it is not enough to structure sponsorships simply by matching the image of the sport to the image of the brand. Even when these seem to fit, the life values of fans need to match the brand values.

The consumer relationship with the brand is demonstrated here in 'brand pyramids', which measure presence (unprompted awareness); relevance (whether it meets consumers needs); performance (whether it works); advantages (how much better the brand is than its rivals); and bonding, (the percentage of consumers who think the brand is best in its sector).

The best fit comes from understanding fans' relationship with the property and the sponsor. But even where the sponsorship match is not perfect, sometimes the execution of the sponsorship campaign can make all the difference - helping the brand to reposition itself or reach untapped audiences.

Millward Brown and BRMB have applied the research to present and past sponsorships, to test how well they match up with consumers' values and perceptions.


Coke got involved in international football with the 1970 World Cup, when it signed up for the first stadium advertising. It quickly became a key advertiser and was an official sponsor in 1982, with the launch of the World Cup partnership programme. Today it sponsors FIFA and UEFA competitions, reaching audiences of more than 50 billion for events such as the World Cup.

More than 23 million people in the UK are football fans - that's half the adult population. About one-quarter of soft drinks consumers have 'bonded' with Coca-Cola, believing it is the soft drink that has the most advantages. With such widespread popularity and presence, these two properties appear to make an ideal sponsorship partnership.

When it comes to personality, Coke consumers and football fans are both defined by the research as 'impulsive' and 'casual'.

The match is further supported by the respective life values of football fans and Coke drinkers, which also correspond. The life values of both are defined as 'self-interest and image'.

This is also the case in Germany, France, Spain, China, Japan and the US, making Coke's sponsorship of international football a very effective brand fit.

                                      Athletics  Cricket      F1   Foot-
                                            (%)      (%)     (%)     (%)
Better to watch live at the event            19       17      14      42
Better to watch on TV                        20       17      24      23
Better to watch than play                    15       12      22      18
Exciting to watch                            26       10      25      41
Fast-paced                                   27        2      53      35
For the whole family                         28       14       9      38
Makes you feel passionate                    10        7       7      31
Makes you feel enthusiastic                  17       10      11      33
Provides good role models for children       35       23       7      26
Popular with children                        16       12      13      65
Promotes a healthy lifestyle                 51       20       8      38
Strong tradition or heritage                 18       47      11      49
Source: Millward Brown/BMRB

Sports' popularity
Sport                          Number of      % of UK
                                 UK fans   population
Football                      23,217,500           50
Tennis                        16,926,500           36
Athletics                     16,059,600           35
Snooker                       14,245,200           31
Formula One motor-racing      12,939,500           28
Cricket                       11,915,000           26
Rugby                         11,530,300           25
Boxing                        11,308,400           24
Golf                          10,950,400           24
Cycling                        6,177,010           13
World Rally Car                6,105,170           13
Horse racing                   5,982,940           13
Skiing                         5,646,130           12
Sailing/yachting               2,588,340            6
Extreme sports                 2,534,720            5

Source: Millward Brown/BMRB


French insurance giant AXA ended its six-year Sunday League cricket sponsorship in 1998 in favour of a pounds 20m four-year FA Cup deal. …

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