News Analysis: Fans are Changing Global Sports Marketing

Updated: Mar 16

A new Nielson report reveals how new fan behaviours fans since the pandemic will impact sports sponsorship models, content distribution, the rise of crypto, esports and women’s sports in 2022.


Some of the key findings within the Nielsen Sports Report detail how a fan’s viewing experience has changed. With the growth of connected devices, 40.7% of global sports fans now stream live sports through digital platforms. In turn, this has led to the increase in over-the-top (OTT) media rights which includes a 19% jump 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.


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. And, sports viewership has become a multi-screen experience, with 47% of people who watch sports simultaneously interact with other live content, increasing by 5% over the last year.


Nielsen estimates there was 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. 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.


Says Marco Nazzari, Managing Director, International of Nielsen Sports : “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. With sponsorship sophistication rising, measuring effectiveness at every step is now expected by brands. Predicting ROI and sales lift will be key for sports rights holders to remain relevant and secure marketing budgets from brands going forward.”


Other key trends identified in the 2022 Nielsen Sports Report:

  • Sports sponsorship were up 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. Overall, Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising Study showed that 81% of global respondents either completely or somewhat trust brand sponsorships at sporting events.

  • 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.

  • Athletes have shown a higher potential to establish connections with fans, with 26% of avid sports fans who use social media for sports news saying that athletes are a great way to connect with brands and sponsors.

  • 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%.


“As traditional and digital worlds merge, the sponsorship lifecycle is now broadening, creating additional and more well-rounded monetization opportunities,” said Nazzari. “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. The fan is now the catalyst for huge change.”