Op-Ed: How attitudes to sport differ across Europe

08 Oct 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

A new report from YouGov Sport has highlighted the differing attitudes to sport throughout Europe. There are differences of opinion across the continent depending on the country, demographic and property, according to the organisation.

Bruce Cook, Director - Consulting, YouGov Sport delves into the numbers to show why marketers should take time to understand, fans, and particular sports as they make strategic decisions.


European political integration may have been taking place for more than half a century, but data from our new report tells us that sports fans have been taking no notice.

Markets across Europe remain resolutely different and our Many Faces of Sports Fans Across Europe report outlines exactly why – and how - marketers can tailor their strategies to maximise their returns. 

Let’s start with the perspective of a brand looking to invest in a partnership in Europe. What’s the continent’s favourite sport? Well, it’s complicated as our graphic below shows (properties that appear more than once are colour-coded).

Football certainly makes its case, with 21 spots in the collective top five rankings but skiing takes two top spots, as does cycling, with F1 and tennis both performing decently too. There’s no doubt that football is wildly popular in Europe but there are plenty of other fan favourites too.

But as we always advise, size isn’t everything, and that’s why it’s important to track other metrics too.

For example, looking at the most prestigious properties in each market (infographic at the bottom) tells an almost completely different story. Only one country’s most prestigious property is also its most popular - the Bundesliga in Germany. 

And it’s not just fan preferences that are different in each country. It’s also the fans themselves. 

From their gender (for example, only 26% of sports fans are female in the UK, compared to 48% in Denmark), to how old they are (French fans tend to be older, younger British people tend to be less likely to be sports fans), there are some stark differences which marketers should note. 

Behaviours, too, differ greatly between markets. Take media consumption, for example. German fans are much more likely to spend long stretches in front of the TV than anyone else. Conversely, Spaniards are the least likely to do so. 

Beyond the fact that everyone everywhere is on Facebook, there are big differences in social media consumption habits too (see the chart below). German fans are less likely to use social media than any other group – almost a quarter of them tell us they have not visited any sites in the past month. Spain is the only country where the three most popular platforms are visited by over 40% of sports fans. Across most of our markets, Instagram is a leading medium among fans. But wherever you look, there are differences.

And as the report shows, all these differences translate into what fans think about brands. We show how perceptions of brands differ not just between the sports fans in different markets but also between fans of different sports within a market.

So, while for example Volkswagen is the only brand from the automotive sector to perform well in every market, perceptions are not uniform across fans of every sport. This in itself is perhaps no surprise but it shows how important it is for marketers to understand territories, sports fans and fans of particular sports as they make strategic decisions. As the EU’s leaders consistently find out, Europeans can still find plenty of ways to be different from one another. The same goes for sports fans.