Over three quarters of 18-24 year olds claim sports sponsorship has no impact, with just 8% correctly identifying Puma as Usain Bolt's sponsor

Over three quarters (77 per cent) of 18-24 year olds said association with a sports star wouldn’t make them any more likely to consider purchasing a brand, suggesting that sponsorship of top sporting stars is failing to make an impact on young consumers.

Only 8% of 18-24s could identify Puma as Usain Bolt's sponsor

The research undertaken by One Poll for multi-channel marketing agency Threepipe surveyed 1,941 UK 18-24 year olds and found that 68 per cent rarely or never noticed the brand that individual athletes wear on the field of play, with 30 per cent saying that they sometimes noticed brands being promoted by a particular athlete in the media.

Just eight per cent managed to correctly associate Usain Bolt with his long-term partner Puma with 15 per cent wrongly identifying Nike as Bolt’s sponsor. Fourteen per cent linked Wayne Rooney with Nike and less than seven per cent correctly recognised Adidas as Lionel Messi’s sponsor.

Non-sporting brands associations with sports stars fared slightly better with 38 per cent of respondents recognising Jessica Ennis-Hill’s association with Santander, followed by 31 per cent partnering Usain Bolt with Virgin Media.

“Brands make big investments in athlete sponsorship deals and often spend large amounts communicating their association through various channels. We wanted to get an idea of what impact this actually has on consumers and in many cases it seems that brands are struggling to convert their sponsorship into awareness or desire to purchase,” explained Threepipe co-founder Eddie May.

“An association with a top athlete should be one of the best ways to engage with this audience, so brands may need to take a step back and evaluate their communication strategy to enhance awareness and to better explain why a connection with an athlete should make their brand more desirable to the consumer.”

Football players were deemed to be the most likely to have a positive impact on brand perception according to 18-24 year olds with 31 per cent saying that kind of association would make them more aware of a brand. 13.5 per cent said tennis players made the best brand ambassadors with 10 per cent choosing rugby players and athletes. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) did say that an association with an individual sports star would make them more likely to consider purchasing a brand.

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