22 Apr 2022

By: Sport Industry Group

Sport is the latest part of society to try and change the impact it has on the environment. Sky and the Premier League have recently play ‘Game Zero’, the world’s first net zero carbon major football, and Extreme E, a sport built around raising awareness of climate change, continues to grow. On Earth Day, Charlie Dundas, Commercial Director at YouGov Sport, explores the view of the sports fan…

Ahead of Earth Day 2022, we dive into YouGov Profiles data to examine the share of fans of various sports who consider themselves environmentalists. We also try to understand whether environmentalist sports fans respond positively to brand purpose in messaging.

More than a third of Brits who follow any sport say they consider themselves environmentalists (36%). This share is actually identical to that of the general population that identifies as environmentalists.

But a breakdown of the sports-following group reveals that this share can vary substantially among fans of different sports. Out of the 15 most-followed sports we explore in this piece, football fans, alongside motorsports enthusiasts are least likely to think of themselves as environmentalists, with only a third of them indicating the same (32%).

Fans of the types of sports that could also be classified as ‘activities’ are more likely to view themselves as environmentalists. Fans of cycling (46%), running (45%) and swimming (44%) lead the way with at least four in nine of them identifying as environmentalists. Two-fifths of gymnastics (42%), tennis (39%) and athletics (39%) fans also regard themselves similarly.

Fans of rugby union (38%), rugby league (37%), pool (37%), cricket (37%) and golf (35%) closely reflect the share of all sports followers in Britain (36%) who see themselves as environmentalists. The list bottoms out with fans of boxing (34%), horse racing (34%), motorsport (32%) and football (32%).

For sports sponsors, especially those with an environmental tilt in their branding, it is prudent to gauge how environmentalist sports fans feel about brands addressing social issues in their messaging.

Our data shows that, to some extent, there is a correlation between likelihood of the fanbases to identify themselves as environmentalists and the likelihood of their acceptance of brands that get involved in social issues. Swimming (64%), running (63%) and gymnastics (62%) again top the list.

While motorsport-following environmentalists (48%) remain at the bottom of this chart, their football-following counterparts are placed slightly higher with five in nine saying they like brands that are willing to get involved in social issues.

It is also worth noting that the sustainability of goods and services can influence the purchase decisions of sports followers. About five in nine say they don’t mind paying more for products that are good for the environment (55%).

As sports bodies ramp up their pro-environment initiatives and with sponsors increasingly adopting environmental messaging, it is useful for them to consider the impact these moves could have among sports fans.