With the growth of connected devices, 40.7% of global sports fans now stream live sports through digital platforms, according to the latest Nielsen Sports report. Titled, ‘Fans are changing the game’, the global sports marketing report reveals new behaviours fans have adopted during the pandemic to connect with the sports and teams they follow, whether through increased social media activity, betting, co-watching, or more. The report outlines how Nielsen predicts ‘Fandom’ in 2022 will impact sports sponsorship models, content distribution, the rise of crypto, esports and women’s sports.
With sponsorship sophistication rising, measuring effectiveness at every step is now expected by brands, Marco Nazzari, managing director, international, Nielsen Sports, said. “From our work as a data-driven company and by surveying thousands of fans, it is clear to see that sports fans demand new types of content driven by innovative delivery platforms. In turn, this impacts how rights holders and brands should approach audience engagement and sponsorship outcomes. Predicting ROI and sales lift will be key for sports rights holders to remain relevant and secure marketing budgets from brands going forward,” he added.
According to the report, over-the-top (OTT) media rights has seen a 19% increase for the top European football leagues over the last two years at the local level, and a 31% increase forecasted for the men’s tennis ATP Tour through 2023. Meanwhile, the demand for content overall remains high with non-event broadcasts, such as highlights, recap videos, and more, nearly as high as the event itself. Nielsen estimates that 39.4% of global fans will watch non-live content related to a live sports event.
With more women’s sports being televised, there are now increased sponsorship opportunities specific to women’s sport, which means that many brands are effectively reaching consumers that weren’t previously reached through sponsorships in men’s sport. Nielsen estimates a 146% year-over-year rise in unbundled sponsorship investment in women’s sports (UEFA, FIFA, World Rugby) compared to a 27% rise in 2020.
The report highlighted that sports sponsorship rose 107% in 2021, and through an analysis of 100 sponsorships in seven markets across 20 industries, Nielsen found that sports sponsorships drove an average 10% lift in purchase intent among the fanbase. Interestingly, blockchain companies investing in sports sponsorship is projected to reach $5 billion by 2026. This represents a projected 778% increase in sports sponsorship from the crypto, blockchain and NFT brand category.
“As traditional and digital worlds merge, the sponsorship lifecycle is now broadening, creating additional and more well-rounded monetisation opportunities. It will become vital for brands to leverage new technology and utilise digital platforms to develop fan-engagement strategies that didn’t exist before in linear broadcasting,” Nazzari said.
From an Esports perspective, Nielsen revealed that there were 2,254 publicly announced Esport sponsorship deals globally in 2021 compared to 1,785 in 2020 making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the global entertainment industry. In the last year, the female esports fan base grew by 19%, while the male fan base grew by 12%.