An interesting piece published by Event Magazine earlier this week suggested that sports fans are “growing ambivalent to sponsorship”. Research conducted by Momentum Worldwide across the UK, US, Brazil, Spain and Japan indicated that 83% of sports fans believe “sponsors never consider the fans”, which I’m sure you would agree is pretty concerning.

On reading the article in more detail and looking at the data embedded into it, I think it could actually be that as individuals working in the industry we are immersed and consumed by the world of sponsorship and therefore our understanding of sponsorship and how brands activate is far more developed than the fan or consumer.

Without seeing the questionnaire and the results, I am obviously speculating but I feel that the issue is perhaps more that sports fans are not aware that brand’s experiential campaigns at major events are a form of sponsorship in the sense that this is how they activate the rights they have paid for and ensure it is relevant for the fan/consumer.

This acts as a gentle reminder that we need to be careful with industry terminology and ensure that the consumer/fan really knows what we mean by sponsorship, experiential campaigns, activation etc. if we are to truly understand fan behaviour and work out what it is that fans want.

To emphasise my point, the Momentum Worldwide data discovered that 86% would not object to seeing even more sponsorship in sport, therefore highlighting that if delivered properly (i.e. in a way that the fans accept and crave) brands can utilise sponsorship to create new opportunities or experiences (as also reinforced by the fact that 88% agree that sponsorship can do this). Without sponsorships or partnerships those money-can’t-buy fan experiences wouldn’t be possible.

Additionally, I’d personally be pretty happy with 55% of respondents stating that they would consider trying a brand or product as a result of sponsorship. 20-30% is a more typical result for this style of question if the respondent is asked about a specific brand (obviously this will vary depending on the type of product / service – think bank Vs FMCG). Brands align with events, ambassadors, competitions or charities for example to introduce their product to new audiences, differentiate themselves from their competitors, tell their own story and ultimately sell more product. Any marginal gain therefore is surely to be celebrated, let alone if half of your (target) audience are willing to try your brand or product.

The good news therefore is that this kind of data can reassure us that activation of sponsorship is of paramount importance in order to create fan-focused genuine and authentic association!

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