World of Sport

Are sports sponsorship deals a waste of money?

World of Sport

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Some of the biggest stars of the sporting world make the majority of their income through lucrative product endorsement deals - but are the companies paying top dollar to make the likes of Lionel Messi and Usain Bolt commit to wearing their clothes or advertise their product really getting their money's worth?

Research commissioned by multi-channel marketing agency Threepipe suggests that sponsorship of top sporting stars by brands is failing to make an impact on consumers.

The survey of 18-24 year olds, an important target audience for many brands involved in sport, found that 77 per cent claimed that an association with a sports star does not make them more likely to consider purchasing a brand.

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.

This lack of impact appears to be borne out when the audience was asked to identify which brands sponsor a selection of high-profile sports stars:

  • Just eight 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 and just 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.

Eddie May, co-founder of Threepipe, said: “Brands make big investments in athlete sponsorship deals and often spend large amounts communicating their association through various channels.

"We wanted to get an idea of what impact this actually has on consumers and in many cases it seems that brands are struggling to convert their sponsorship into awareness or desire to purchase.

“An association with a top athlete should be one of the best ways to engage with this audience, so brands may need to take a step back and evaluate their communication strategy to enhance awareness and to better explain why a connection with an athlete should make their brand more desirable to the consumer.”

Check out the below infographic from Threepipe for more information:

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