Culturally Connected: Sport

With last night’s depressing loss of the Cricket World Cup, do not despair. We have a fantastic year ahead for sport, including the football Euros, the Olympics and Paralympics, plus the usual stalwarts such as the Grand National and Wimbledon. The diary is fairly packed.

However, for every diehard fan, there’s a nonchalant, non-plussed individual who would rather spend their time watching paint dry. So what is it about sport which polarises Brits? We took to our Your Voice community to ask a selection of Brits all about sport.

Q: Do you participate in, watch and/or support any type of sport? (Source: OMD UK, Your Voice)


The first thing we noted was that most of our community were armchair viewers, with a smaller proportion actually participating themselves. This aligns with our country at a broader level. TGI data notes that 35m adults watch or follow sport, but only 31m participate themselves in some way (source: GB TGI 2015 R1).

Not a dramatic difference, but it does leave four million people who have an interest, but don’t translate this to action.

Why is this?

Age and injury are repeat offenders. Many of our respondents’ sporting aspirations were shortened by the limitations of their own bodies.

“I used to participate regularly in sporting activities such as hockey, badminton and tennis and loved doing so but unfortunately age crept up on me. As a consequence I began to sustain injuries which prompted me to re-evaluate my actions…I have also been known to play a bit of football but that came to an abrupt end when I was playing in goal against my son and he broke my wrist with the power of his shot – embarrassing!!!.” – Sally, 58 years old

“I enjoy jogging/walking (a mixture of both). I got into it as a way of keeping fit after having to give up football because of health problems (Epilepsy). I find that it keeps me a bit fitter as well as a way of relaxing” – James, 55+ years old

For a few, it was the gender agenda which held them back. Not surprising. As we saw in our Future of Families research, women are 32% less likely to do sport with their family and men are 2.4x more likely to consider themselves the “sports coach”. However, it’s a topical issue, when you consider last year’s successful This Girl Can campaign:

“I am totally obsessed with cricket because since childhood I saw that all men in my family were crazy about cricket especially the World Cup so I started developing an interest in it. As a teenager I used to play it with my family in the garden and always enjoyed it but now I watch cricket on TV or in the pub and love to go to stadiums to see live cricket. Being a woman restricted me from playing it outside because it is mainly considered a man’s game.”Maya, 35-44 years old

Regardless of our personal activity levels, watching sport can be an incredibly emotive experience. We asked our community about sporting moments which have really affected them. Some are a matter of national or local pride:

“If you support Wales rugby team you will know that so often they’ve messed it up in the last minute then nearly every close game  is a nervous ticking of the clock”Brendan

“The main sporting moment for me was England winning the Rugby World Cup in 2003. It’s the first major sporting tournament England have won in some time and was totally gripping right to the final minute. Since then, the 2012 GB success at the Olympics was great as it was held in the UK and so it felt very close to home and the community spirit increased across the country” – Laura, 28 years old

However, others are much more personal, highlighting how important sport can be in bringing families, communities and friends together – as well as the wrath of a parent scorned:

“I have been to various sporting occasions to watch the kids…No one big thing stands out, just small triumphs and defeats; gold medal in Junior Highland Games for Highland dancing, just being picked for first team cricket aged 13, becoming a lifeguard even though you hate swimming, new belt at Karate, etc. One thing guaranteed to get me screaming is if anyone puts in a hard tackle on any of my children on the rugby pitch. It’s a protection thing that most parents on the sideline do.”Andrea, 54 years old

What does this mean for brands?

Interestingly, quite a lot. We asked our community members to name brands that came to mind when they thought about sport. Despite requesting NO clothing brands, the response looked something like this:

Sport 2

The underlying message is that if there is no clear link between your brand and the sport, or your involvement is short-lived, then you aren’t going to be top of mind in a cluttered category.

Interest in sport is multi-faceted, as should be a brand’s relationship with a particular sport or event. The sponsorships and partnerships which have passed the test of time include Robinsons & Wimbledon, Barclays with the Premier League and Red Bull with Formula 1.

There is an assumption from consumers that big events and fixtures will feature some form of brand involvement, but the attention they are paying those brands is minimal. Marketers need to truly tap into and understand the emotions, the feelings and the communities that exist around their sport and activate their partnerships in a way which support, validate and embrace these, lest they get lost in a sea of logos and 5” idents.


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