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Study: Athlete advocacy posts could drive US$1.2bn in media value by 2023

Rise of athlete influence cited as one of Nielsen’s five global sports marketing trends for 2021.

16 February 2021 Sam Carp

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  • Athlete advocacy posts generating 63% more engagement for brands compared to other social content, according to Nielsen
  • Rights holders with sustainability agendas expected to see 11% increase in sponsorship revenue in next three to five years
  • Chinese brands anticipated to account for one-third of all growth in global sponsorship market over next decade

A new Nielsen study has predicted that the sponsor media value generated by athlete advocacy posts on social could grow to as much as US$1.2 billion by 2023.

Research provided by the analytics firm shows that 95 per cent of athletes with more than five million followers used their platform to support a social cause last year, which collectively generated some US$314 million in media value in 2020, an increase of 80 per cent on 2019.

Nielsen is now expecting that figure to be four times as much by 2023, with athlete advocacy posts now said to be generating 63 per cent more engagement for brands compared to other owned social media content.

The continued rise of athletes as influencers was cited as one of five global sports marketing trends for 2021 in Nielsen’s report, titled The Changing Value of Sponsorship, which also highlighted new entrants, digital channels, more fan touchpoints and the use of sales impact as a measurement metric as other key drivers of value.

Among the other headline findings in the report is that brands are increasingly looking to partner with socially conscious sports properties. To that end, Nielsen predicts that those rights holders who have an authentic sustainability agenda can expect an 11 per cent increase in sponsorship revenues over the next three to five years.

Elsewhere, Nielsen anticipates that Chinese brands will continue to accelerate their investment in sport, and will be responsible for one-third of all growth in the global sponsorship market over the next ten years.

It is also expected that some of the virtual sporting experiences rolled out while events take place behind closed doors will continue even when spectators return to venues, with Nielsen’s research suggesting that 53 per cent of fans are more likely to consider brands that enhance the viewing experience at home.

In addition, Nielsen is predicting that esports will continue to be an increasingly attractive proposition for brands, with the report forecasting that the competitive gaming industry will see sponsorship revenue climb to US$824 million by 2025.

“Changes in the global economy are directly impacting the ways sponsorships are planned and defined,” said Samantha Lamberti, head of consulting in Europe and the Middle East at Nielsen Sports. “Because the needs and behaviours of sport and entertainment fans drive the value of sponsorship, measuring those behaviours across channels, platforms and experiences consistently and accurately must be the main focus of sport stakeholders.

“Moreover, with increasing attention to sponsorship’s ‘value for money’ and its efficient integration into a brand’s marketing mix, metrics like sales impact will become more prominent and widely utilised in sponsorship measurement frameworks.”

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