Study: 53% of UK fans say sponsors key in rebuilding live sports experience

  • 19% of Nielsen respondents comfortable returning to live events when Covid-19 vaccine is available.
  • 48% of UK population aged 16-29 have an increased interest in socially responsible brands
  • 51% of respondents believe they will be comfortable attending live events within six months
  • Men less cautious about returning than women

More than half of the UK population believes that sponsors will play an important role in rebuilding the live sports experience both in stadiums and at home, according to research and consulting firm Nielsen Sports.

The study suggested there is growing recognition in the UK of the role sponsors will have to play in the resumption of live sport in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. When asked in June, 49 per cent of people believed that their favourite sports team or league would need the help of their sponsors to rebuild the live experience for fans. When asked again in July, that number had risen to 53 per cent.

Nielsen’s research also revealed that nearly half of the UK population have an increased interest in brands who have shown to be socially responsible during the Covid-19 pandemic, suggesting there are increasing opportunities for those companies to reach engaged and appreciative audiences.

Of those asked in July if they had a greater interest in brands who have been socially responsible and ‘do good’ more than before, 45 per cent of respondents agreed they did, an increase on the 41 per cent who said so in June.

Young people in particular appear to be the drivers of this new way of viewing sponsors and brands, with slightly under half (48 per cent) of those aged 16 to 29 claiming to have an increased interest in socially responsible brands. This compares to 46 per cent of 30 to 49-year-olds and 34 per cent of those aged between 50 and 69.

Nielsen’s research also revealed that almost one in five people (19 per cent) in the UK will only be comfortable returning to live events – including sports and music – when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

A similar proportion of people (17 per cent) believe they will be comfortable returning in six to 12 months’ time, regardless of whether there is a vaccine or not. 

The responses appear to be largely dependent on age group, with 28 per cent of those aged 50 to 69 preferring to wait for a vaccine before returning to live events. This is compared to just 14 per cent of those aged 16 to 29 and 14 per cent of those aged 30 to 49.

On a brighter note, however, the data found that 51 per cent of people believe they will be comfortable returning to live events within six months. This figure rose to 59 per cent when taking into account male respondents only, compared to 43 per cent of females, suggesting men are less cautious about returning than women are.

Further cause for optimism was found within younger people aged 16 to 29, with 65 per cent saying they will feel comfortable returning within six months, compared to 54 per cent of those aged 30 to 49 and 38 per cent of those within the 50 to 69 age group.

Spencer Nolan, Nielsen Sports’ managing director, UK and Ireland, said:

“It’s particularly striking that one in five people in the UK will not feel comfortable returning to live events until a vaccine is available.
“This accelerates some of the trends we have seen in the live event offering, with brands putting more of their energy into digital activations rather than in-stadium marketing, and anyone thinking that we’ll be ‘back to normal’ by the end of the year will need to think again.
“There’s no doubt that brands and rights holders are going to continue to reap the benefits of finding creative ways to reach audiences who are watching sport from home and/or following live action via second-screen experiences and social media.
“The results in relation to how consumers feel about brands who they deemed to have acted in a socially responsible way throughout the pandemic is also reflective of a broader change we are seeing, particularly amongst younger demographics, to favour brands who are seen to be ‘doing good’ or who champion causes that align with consumer values.
“It will be interesting to see how this develops longer term and how significantly brands react to this clear shift in consumer attitudes.”

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