TicketManager | Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Responding More Positively to Sponsorship

When assessing sponsorship performance, nothing can compare to data and research pertaining to a specific partnership and the reaction to it by the brand’s target audience and the property’s fans, followers or other stakeholders.

However, general market research into sponsorship’s overall impact—which the industry has been lacking for quite some time—can provide corporate marketers and sports and entertainment rights holders with important insights and direction. Such is the case with the just-released Sponsorship Performance survey from Montreal-based Elevent, a provider of sponsorship management software tools, consulting services and research.

The company surveyed 5,010 U.S. adults to get their perspective on multiple aspects of sports sponsorship. The biggest headline from the results is that compared to Elevent’s first such survey two years ago, the percentage of consumers who said they would buy from companies sponsoring a favored sport or sports organization grew significantly from 59 percent to 66 percent.

In its summary of the survey, Elevent reported the purchase-intent results for fans of the NBA, NFL and women’s professional hockey: Seventy-nine percent of NBA fans would buy from the league’s sponsors, 75 percent of NFL fans would do the same and 88 percent of women’s pro hockey fans would do likewise.

The finding that stood out the most to me was the fact that one in five consumers said they had chosen to do business with a brand only because it sponsors a sport or sporting organization they like. Twenty percent is a shockingly high number considering all of the factors that go into a purchase decision, including such heavyweights as price and quality.

In addition 28 percent of consumers have recommended a sponsor of a sport/organization they like to a friend.

Less surprising, but critically important, are the survey’s findings that support the idea that partnering with smaller sports organizations can provide benefits that the biggest leagues and events cannot.

As Elevent’s summary, states, “The 2024 Sponsorship Performance survey reveals that the most popular sports have a less engaged fanbase, whereas the least popular sports (in terms of number of fans) typically have a more engaged fanbase.

“For example, less than seven percent of survey respondents identified as fans of women’s professional hockey, but, of those fans, 53 percent identified as strongly open to engaging with sponsoring companies. In contrast, the most popular sport—the NFL with 69 percent of survey respondents identifying as fans—reveals that only 27 percent are strongly open to engaging with sponsors.”

A likely reason for that disparity is something that other researchers have uncovered about sports fans over the years: They are more likely to support and be interested in sponsoring brands when they perceive that those partners are critical to the success of the property, something that is more likely to be true with a smaller organization than a larger one.

The survey also saw growth in the percentage of consumers who were positively inclined toward a number of types of activation, as well a decline in the number of fans with an aversion to sponsors:

  • The percentage of consumers who said they liked to receive product samples at events rose from 58 percent in 2022 to 68 percent this year.
  • Those who like trying sponsor products grew from 44 percent to 53 percent
  • Those who like getting information about sponsor products and services rose from 40 percent to 45 percent
  • Those who like participating in contests to meet celebrities grew from 34 percent to 37 percent
  • Those who avoid sponsors at sports events declined from 34 percent to 31 percent

Conducted in the first quarter of this year, the online survey’s margin of error is plus or minus two percent.