Sports! Addicted enough?


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Australia vs England at the Ashes, India and Pakistan cricket rivalry, scintillating Federer vs Nadal five setters, zooming race between Ferrari and McLaren at F1 and an el clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. These are sporting events that catch a fan’s best and wildest attention.

It is intriguing to observe and learn the behaviours from these sports; be it the players, the fans or the team owners. In the early era, a sport was limited to an international arena and the competing nations used to play each other intermittently. The players struggled, slotting into the team due to high competition for limited team positions and getting enough games under their belt. The crowd was limited to those who had interest and played the sport themselves. The game coverage was confined to only a few localities without any media hype. This has changed; all credit to globalisation, technology and social media. Some of the sports, such as football and basketball have seen the local and national level clubs growing in prominence over the international teams themselves, which is just fascinating. The clubs, their owners and their sponsors make humongous investments to capture a fan’s mind share.

Latest Football sponsorships

During the UEFA Champions League finals played between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the fans worked their way towards the Wembley stadium in their bright and colourful team jerseys. The commercial colours were as visible as the team ones. Massive Adidas footballs dangled over the German supporters. There was a young female workforce holding onto placards bearing sponsor names, such as Gazprom and Heineken, and welcomed the guests to their pre-match hospitality. Sponsorship at top sporting events is clearly booming, even though many other marketing strategies are failing. According to the World Sponsorship Monitor, Football as a sport has attracted about $4.5bn in global sponsorship in 2012 – significantly more than any other sport and two-thirds more than in 2011. Arsenal, which is the 4th largest football club in the world, extended its annual shirt and stadium sponsorship deal for £30m annually. Manchester United signed the largest jersey sponsorship deal in history – a seven year deal worth $559m with General Motors. In April, the club sold the rights to its training ground, training shirts and overseas tours for $30m per season to Aon, the insurance group. Organisations such as Nike, General Motors and Pepsi spend multiple million dollars in sponsorships every year and they believe that sport advertising is a big value proposition. Some claim it is a bubble, but these sponsorships makes you wonder, what is the big hullabaloo regarding the economic crisis.

Consumption behaviour and sponsorship rationale

What is the reason behind these sponsorships? A few years ago, a sponsorship would have been immediately associated with a charitable act. This is no more the case, as the organisations are involving and engaging in sports for connecting with their existing and potential consumers through the sport they love. A sponsorship objective includes promotional marketing, enhancing community relations, building a favourable brand, aligning sports with their respective products / services and gaining publicity. A sponsoring organisation can instantaneously connect with the fan’s emotions through various activities such as distributing sports accessories with their logo, conducting team tours to locations where there is a strong correlation between the team’s popularity and the sponsor’s revenues, developing sports academies to enhance the popularity of the game and even recruiting staff who are big fans of the sponsored club. For example, Ashburton Grove is the home for Arsenal Football Club and is named the Emirates stadium with the players wearing jerseys that have ‘Fly Emirates’ prominently mentioned. This was after the airliner won the naming rights along with the sponsorship. The airliner is an official aircraft of the team and also provides discounts to fans who are members of the football club. This enhances the consumer’s mindshare for a brand and generates instant revenues for Emirates.

An Arsenal fan wearing the team jersey – Nike and Emirates sponsored

A sponsorship that creates and delivers a message or an image, that creates goodwill and which has the ability of managing its target population’s perceptions can clearly differentiate itself from its competitors. If managed well, a sponsorship can be developed into a competitive advantage for the sponsor.

Consumer’s psychological influences
Studies have been conducted to examine consumer responses to sponsorships. It has been put forward that there are three basic psychological factors that influence consumer behavior – information processing, learning and change in attitude and behaviour (Blackwell et al., 2001).

  • Information processing helps in detailing as to how a consumer receives the information, processes it and makes sense of information (Blackwell et al., 2001). Messaging which is well directed and reinforced, increases consumer awareness of the product / service being offered. A sponsorship should ensure that the consumers are exposed to some sort of stimuli that connects to the human senses.
  • Learning concerns the change in a person’s behaviour due to an experience through various drivers such as stimuli, cues, responses and reinforcement. There are two types of learning that occur:
    1. Associative learning is a feature that considers many elements involved in a sponsorship, organised through a form of an associative network. For example, if a sports fan gathers 100 points by consuming sponsor’s products, he knows that he can redeem them for a reward.
    2. Cognitive learning concerns of processing the information in a short-term memory that is stored in a long-term memory. This theory is of the view that learning involves intricate mental processing of information. For example, when a fan reads the sports section in a newspaper, he recollects what he already knows (who won the playoffs, what to read about, etc).
  • Another psychological process that consumers undergo during the consumer decision making process is the change in attitude and behaviour, which is dependent on consumer’s attitudes and beliefs. Research has found that the repeated and reinforced sponsor’s exposure influences a positive increase in consumer attitude and behaviour. Sponsors are keen to learn consumer’s attitude towards a specific product or a brand which will affect the consumer’s buying behaviour.

Sponsored. Now what?

Last few decades, sporting events have developed from a peaceful weekend activity into an intricate business proposition. Frank Copper, Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo pointed out: ‘Brands have moved from serving a transactional and functional purpose as shorthand for identifying what is in the bottle, to conveying image and appealing to emotion, to now being a source of meaning and trust. Technology has caused a huge change as to which social institutions provide meaning. People now get meaning from each other and from other brands. This is a massive reorientation of the social context.’ Sponsors are exploring the use of Analytics for understanding the complex sports fan’s behaviours and develop associations with the consumption of sponsor’s products and services. The social media, including Twitter and Facebook plays a critical role in discovering a team fan’s attributes such as measure of digital activity, consumer diversity and demographics, loyalty, purchase and emotional behaviours during games. More tweets signify more followers and higher influence. The volumes tend to magnify during the game days and when the team performs well to get a good result, as the fans like to show off, provide player ratings and sometimes ridicule rival team’s performance. It is interesting to note that a fan’s behaviour is proportional to his team’s performance on the field, except in the consumption of food and beverages which has similar consumption patterns irrespective of the team’s feat. The response might vary across genders, age groups and demographics. Analytical inferences can helps sponsors identify the influencers and measure their influence through solutions such as Klout and Kred scores. For example, Lloyds Banking Group who was the 2012 London Olympics Games sponsor claimed that among the customers aware of its sponsorship, 30% were likely to recommend the bank. Other analytical inferences such as awareness and attitudes towards brands, response to promotions, lead generation and ideation of new product / service features can help the sponsors optimise their marketing spends.


Sport marketing is a growing and a flourishing concept that is being used these days to carry out effective promotional campaigns, to have an edge over competition and to have the organisation / brand viewed in a positive way. As per the IEG Performance Research 2013 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey conducted across 110 sponsoring organisations, 33% organisations will increase their sponsorship spends, while 22% will decrease and the remaining 45% will remain constant. The surveyed organisations have 18% of their marketing budgets as sponsorship spends; and with 87% of the respondents feeling the need for measuring the ROI, it is crucial that these organisations leverage Analytics in making the most from the sponsorships.

Hansen Menezes
Tata Consultancy Services
Hansen is a Consultant with techno-functional expertise in Credit, Portfolio and Risk Management within the Banking and Financial Services domain; and has worked extensively in the area of Operations Management, Analytics and Customer Engagement. Disclaimer: The content described and the opinions expressed in these blogs are Hansen's and does not reflect those of his organisation.


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