Sponsorships are an effective marketing strategy that many brands use to boost their brand image, increase awareness, and drive consideration. However, the results a brand gets from sponsoring a sport or team can vary significantly based on the sport, team, and competitive landscape. In this article, we will make a case for how brands who sponsor certain sports get different results on brand image attributes, awareness, and consideration based on the sport and team they decide to sponsor while also considering the competitive landscape in their industry. 


Exclusive sponsorships and their impact on brand image and awareness 

Let’s consider the case of Brand X who decided to sponsor a sport with no other competitors in its industry actively sponsoring sports. As a result, we observed a significant increase in brand awareness during the active season of the sport. Specifically, in the two periods analyzed, brand awareness increased by 70.4% and 96.5% for fans of the sport. Even for those who watch the sport infrequently and are not as engaged as to call themselves fans, the brand awareness was respectively 48.1% and 41.4% higher during the same active seasons. It’s important to note that brand awareness for both watchers and fans increased throughout the year, indicating that the impact of the sponsorship was long-lasting and effective on the upper funnel. 


Additionally, the sponsorship had a positive impact on the brand image attributes. The sponsored sport registered a boost in reliability, quality, ease of use, and most notably, distinctiveness. This could be due to the fact that Brand X was the only company in its industry sponsoring this sport, giving it a unique and memorable positioning. There was also an increase in attributes related to being forward-looking, such as being smart, digital, up-to-date, and future-oriented. This demonstrates how different sports can impact various brand image attributes and how choosing the right sponsorship can have a significant impact on the latter. 



Communicating sponsorships and the effects it has on the brand 

Now, let’s consider the case of Brand Y who decided to sponsor a popular sport in a highly competitive landscape where many of its competitors also sponsor sports. We analyzed the impact of the sponsorship on Brand Y’s brand KPIs after they added the sponsorship to their advertising campaigns, while the other elements in the ads remained the same. 


We observed that the addition of the sponsorship made the ad more attention-grabbing, original, and appreciated by viewers. However, there was nearly no impact on memorability or ad credibility. The new campaign also communicated higher levels of originality, brand credibility, and historicity as the popularity of the sport contributed with its own reputation attributes. 


It’s important to note that different teams and sports will likely impact different attributes of a brand image. More niche sports could communicate exclusivity, while usually successful teams could communicate reliability. Sponsoring players, teams, or sports that have been around for a long time and are dear to their fans could communicate a strong sense of closeness to the brand and give a perception of competence. 




Famous case studies 

Research has shown that sports sponsorship can have a significant impact on a brand’s image and perception, particularly when the sponsorship is exclusive or when it is associated with a popular and relevant sport. For example, Red Bull’s well-known sponsorship of extreme sports has helped to establish the brand’s image as youthful, dynamic, and exciting, while Nike’s sponsorship of high-profile sports teams and athletes has reinforced its image as a reliable and competent athletic brand. 


According to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2017, sports sponsorship can have a significant impact on a brand’s performance. The study found that companies that increased their sponsorship spending by at least 10% saw a 7% increase in brand preference and a 6% increase in purchase intent among consumers. Similarly, a 2019 Forbes article stated that sports sponsorship can lead to increased brand equity, customer loyalty, and social media engagement. The article cited a case study of Nike’s sponsorship of the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick, which resulted in a 31% increase in online sales for the brand thanks to the revolutionary stance he had taken against police brutality and racial inequality, jeopardizing his career for a cause he deeply believed in. In this instance, by sponsoring Kaepernick, Nike chose to align its brand to his values and the company was rewarded by consumers.  


In conclusion, sponsorships can have a significant impact on a brand’s image and reputation, and choosing the right sponsorship can make all the difference. Brands should carefully consider the landscape of their industry, their competitors’ sponsorships, and the attributes they want to communicate to their target audience when deciding which sports or teams to sponsor.