Uncovering the European Sports Fan

Uncovering the European sport fan

Often when we think of the Olympics, we think immediately of athletics and field events, but less of traditionally high profile sports such as football, rugby and tennis. However, these are all an integral part of the Games, with rugby making an appearance for the first time this summer in the form of rugby sevens.

Outside of the Olympics, all of these sports leave their own huge footprint and represent enormous commercial opportunities to brands who can effectively tap into the passion they generate. Across some of the biggest western European markets (Great Britain, France, Germany and Spain) the ebb and flow of consumer engagement with these sports is of crucial importance to marketers looking to efficiently unlock the power of association.

Using in-depth consumer data from our TGI studies, we can see what makes those with an interest in football, tennis, rugby union and athletics distinct from other adults across these markets and how they can be most effectively engaged.

Football’s popularity is clear, but even it sees big variations in interest by country

Football – of course – is particularly popular across Western Europe, though its popularity nonetheless fluctuates widely by country. TGI data shows that in Germany nearly two-thirds of adults have an interest in it (64%), dropping to 54% in Spain, 47% in France and 43% in Britain.

Athletics, tennis and rugby all see vastly different levels of interest between markets

Other sports are rather more polarised by market. Athletics, for example, is especially popular in Germany, with a quarter of the adult population interested in it, compared to just 15% of adults in Britain. Conversely, tennis is followed by 37% of consumers in France and 32% in Spain, compared to just 12% of Germans. Rugby is of course far more popular in Britain and France than Germany and Spain.

High net worth sport fans

Aside from football, which appears to cut across age ranges through its sheer popularity, TGI data reveals most of these sports show a strong tendency in each market towards the older consumer. Not only do they tend to be older, but they are also more likely to be relatively well off. Fans of each sport across markets are significantly more likely to have a high household income compared to the average adult.

High profile sport sponsorship works as a longstanding affair for some brands

Of course, with assets and a relevant likelihood to be heading towards - if not already in - retirement, financial prudence towards savings and pensions will be front of mind for many fans. For example, in Great Britain, TGI data reveals fans of each of rugby union, tennis and athletics are 20% more likely than the average adult to agree ‘I look for profitable ways to invest my money’.

Little wonder then that banks and financial companies are prominent partners at some of the most high profile sporting events in Europe – RBS sponsorship of rugby’s 6 Nations and BNP Paribas’ sponsorship of tennis’ Davis Cup and the French Open are a couple of notable examples.

The reason why the attitude around checking the financial pages in a newspaper, rather than other media, comes through so strongly is in part an echo of the age bias in these sports fans. For example, in Germany, tennis fans are 37% more likely to be amongst the top 20% of consumers of newspapers, in Spain football fans are 28% more likely to be heavy consumers of newspapers and in Britain the equivalent newspaper figure for athletics fans is 37% more likely.

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