3 min read

Are U.S. Sport Sponsors Getting Their Money’s Worth?


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recent survey by Forbes and PSB Research on the U.S. national brands that have partnerships with either the MLB, NFL or NBA has shown fans have a tough time recalling league sponsors.

The survey covered the automobile, insurance, credit card, wireless, and technology sponsor categories, asking people who “don’t watch” the specific league, “don’t watch often”, “watch often”, or “watch all I can” if they can identify the official league sponsor when only one correct answer exists.

The highest overall recall for any of the 18 official sponsors that were included was for State Farm, with 40% recall.

The high percentage for State Farm came primarily from people who don’t watch or don’t watch often however, with 45% of people who don’t watch often identifying the official NBA sponsor.

Alarmingly, only 34% of NBA fans who watch as much as they can identified State Farm as an official NBA sponsor, just 1% above the chance recall rate of 33% based on the number of answer options.

Across the three leagues, the average recall percentage was 33% for the MLB, 33% for the NFL and 35% for the NBA, putting doubt into the value of major sports sponsorships, with Forbes reporting many official sponsors overspend in both national advertising and sponsorships because they already have very strong personalities.

The verdict from Forbes is that brands that are partnered with each league already are in the long-term memory and are identifiable by fans, and these partnerships are wearing out their messaging, with the same ads or messages they already see elsewhere.

Out of the report came seven ‘fast facts’, covering the areas of ‘Mobile’, ‘Gender’, ‘Age’, ‘Brand Use’, ‘Ethnicity’, ‘Education’, and ‘Income’:

  1. Mobile: Mobile users have more accurate recall for MLB (35% > 31%) and less accurate for NBA (32% < 39% ) than desktop/tablet users responding to the poll.
  2. Gender: Males are more accurate in recalling NBA sponsors (36% ) than females (32%), but gender doesn’t matter for MLB or the NFL.
  3. Age: Those over 65 have more accurate recall (36%) of MLB partners than 18-to-24-year-olds (28%). No differences in other leagues.
  4. Brand use: Current use of sponsoring brands has no effect on recall accuracy, debunking a common myth that people just pick the brands they use.
  5. Ethnicity: Respondents of Hispanic, Spanish or Latino descent have higher MLB (35% > 32%) and NFL (37% > 33%) recall accuracy compared with others.
  6. Education: College graduates (37%) better recall MLB sponsors than do high school graduates (28%) or those with some college education (31%). No impact on NFL or NBA sponsor recall.
  7. Income: Members of higher-income households ($100,000-plus) have lower recall for MLB (27-30%) compared with those in the $25,000-to-$99,000 range (34-38%). Similar but less clear pattern for the NFL. No effect on the NBA.

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