Serving up sponsorship dollars

As advertising and marketing strategy has evolved over the last 30 years, the world of sports sponsorship has undergone a big transformation from the time when brands merely paid to be associated with “cool” events or people in sports and entertainment. With habits changing and consumers watching less live television, brands are forced to shift advertising spend to find new ways of engaging potential customers.

As a marketer, sports fan and New Yorker, it’s hard not to notice the various sponsorships and new technologies employed to engage tennis fans as the U.S. Open, which kicked off August 26 and concludes Sept 9, is in town. The U.S. Open is a signature tennis event. It is the fourth of four grand slam events, or majors, in the sport, and it is the only tennis grand slam in the U.S.

Given the audience in attendance and viewing elsewhere, the event draws premier sponsors including American Express, Chase, Citizen, Emirates Airline, IBM, Grey Goose, Mercedes-Benz to name a few. Worldwide spending on amateur and professional tennis tournaments this year is predicted to top $700 million for the first time, up 18% from 2009, according to IEG. These sponsorship deals do not include contracts between individual players and companies — Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova are just a few of the big names who participate in this event and see huge endorsement deals. In fact, Roger Federer ranks 2nd on the Forbes World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, Maria Sharapova is at #22 and Serena Williams is #70.

So what does this mean for brands making investments in the sport and its athletes? Tennis fans* are a highly engaged advertising audience for starters; they are:

  • 50% more likely to say they are more likely to buy products that sponsor sports teams and sports events
  • 97% more likely to have noticed non-video ads in sports stadiums and arenas
  • 84% more likely to have noticed video ads in sports stadiums and arenas
  • 41% more likely to rely on their cell phone to keep up with news & sports
  • 38% more likely to agree they are likely to purchase products they see advertised on their cell phone
  • 34% more likely to say that they find TV advertising interesting and quite often it gives them something to talk about

According to Experian Marketing Services’, tennis fans are 58% more likely than average to say that they like to buy the same products that celebrities use. So as the tournament nears the finals this weekend, monitoring search activity around particular athletes can provide deeper insight on who captured the interest of Americans and the information people want to know about them. As players advance, who can maintain their fan following?

In the week prior to the start of the tournament, the top 10 list of U.S. Open athlete searches appears to be the usual top performers.


Source: Experian Marketing Services’ Hitwise U.S.

After the first week, we saw 17-year-old Victoria Duval’s surprise win in the qualifier catapulted her to be the top-searched U.S. Open athlete. Will the hype around her withstand now that she was eliminated last Thursday?


Source: Experian Marketing Services’ Hitwise U.S.

The top websites receiving traffic from the athlete-related searches are mostly media sites, with Twitter and Wikipedia in the top 10, as consumers are likely trying to find out more about the players.


Source: Experian Marketing Services’ Hitwise U.S.

As marketers evaluate new opportunities to engage today’s highly-connected consumer, insight about consumers’ attitudes and behavior will help design, plan and deliver better brand experiences that are more personal, convenient and fun. 

Get more insight on what you need to know to infuse your marketing campaigns.

*Tennis fans are defined as adults who watched tennis on TV in the past 12 months, attended a tennis match, or are very interested in tennis. Source: Experian Marketing Services Winter 2013 Simmons Connect

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