YouGov Sport Stat of the Week

15 Oct 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

Every week, YouGov Sport brings us a new Stat of the Week. A useful and timely nugget of information gleaned from their unrivalled network of public polls from across the globe. Only YouGov Sport can tell you the public sentiment across such a wide range of topics and use its daily tracker to deliver the most up to date research. And now you get to know it too...

Thursday 14th January

When it comes to deciding the nation’s favourite footballer, most people’s opinions will be based on the team they support.

And with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominating the footballing landscape for the last decade and more, UK-based fans have had two outsiders to choose from - allowing them to choose a player who doesn’t play for their own team... without the bitterness of choosing one of their rivals.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week bears out this theory, with 27% of UK football fans choosing Messi as one of their favourites. However, the Barcelona legend’s status at the top was challenged from an unlikely source.

Just behind Messi on 26% is Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford. The England international’s recent work campaigning on behalf of children - along with his efforts to promote reading among young people - have seen him shoot up in the public eye, seemingly bridging the partisan divides usually seen in English football and proving the power of the athlete voice.

Messi and Rashford find themselves clear at the top, with England captain Harry Kane and Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne also receiving plenty of love.

Cristiano Ronaldo also features, as does Kane’s Tottenham teammate Son Heung-Min, but it’s Liverpool who dominate the list, perhaps splitting the vote somewhat. The Premier League champions provide no fewer than four of the nation’s favourite players, perhaps reflecting the team effort that saw the Reds win their first title in 30 years in 2020.

Friday 8th January

The turn of the year brought fresh lockdown measures to stem the spread of the pandemic, but with elite sport continuing, it will bring entertainment to fans throughout the winter months.

The Christmas period is always a big time for sport, with festive football and rugby fixtures as well as the darts World Championship taking centre stage.

For the first YouGov Sport Stat of the Week of the new year, we decided to look at the sporting properties generating the most noise across the festive period… with some surprising results.

Perhaps there are no prizes for guessing who comes out on top in December: the Premier League’s festive calendar is always one of the highlights of the Christmas period but this season has created an enthralling title race.

Below that, however, is Formula 1’s British Grand Prix - an event which traditionally takes place in July.

With the end of the Formula 1 season taking place in Abu Dhabi in early December, Lewis Hamilton took the title once again, bringing him level with Michael Schumacher on seven world titles. By the end of the month, Hamilton was knighted in the 2021 New Year Honours list, and will take to the Silverstone circuit in 2021 not just as F1 Champion, but as a knight of the realm - creating quite a bit of noise amongst fans. 

Formula 1 is the only sport to contest football in YouGov Sport’s December Buzz list, with the Scottish Premiership - where Rangers sit a full 19 points clear of nine-in-a-row title winners Celtic - and the UEFA Champions League taking their place. 

Elsewhere, January brings the traditional giant-killing opportunity of the FA Cup Third Round, where anticipation was building even before the new year had started.

Friday 18th December

Sport learned many lessons from 2020 - a year in which the certainties which we took for granted were upended, and events were cancelled en masse.

But we also learned that fans will not stop craving sport even when there is none to watch. Esports, watchalongs and archive footage proved to be hits this year, while sports documentaries were some of the biggest cultural hits of lockdown. It was a big year, too, for podcasts.

New data from YouGov Sport shows just how well the medium can translate into the world of sport. 

Almost a quarter of tennis fans, for example, get a regular fix of their favourite sport from podcasts at least once a week. That makes them the biggest cohort of sporting followers to listen to podcasts regularly.

Football fans are just behind, while almost one fifth of rugby union and cricket fans gain updates, analysis and entertainment from the medium as well.

Even when no live events were taking place, fans did not lose their appetite for sport. Now that they are beginning to return to venues, the desire for supplementary content hasn’t gone away. 

For more insights from YouGov Sport, click here.

Friday 11th December

As 2020 comes to a close, sport is looking to 2021 as the year which will bring an end to lockdown restrictions and the return of normality.

But when that does happen, many of the trends that were accelerated in 2020 will still be part of the discussion. Issues such as racial equality and the climate crisis have been pushed to the forefront: support for anti-racism has been a feature of sport this year, while a growing number of organisations are pledging to promote sustainability and aligning with globally recognised sustainability frameworks.

And this week’s insights from YouGov Sport show that environmental issues are the ones the public wants to see sport’s partner brands tackle most.

According to the data, a third of sport fans put environmental issues at the top of the list when deciding which type of issue is ‘most acceptable’ for brands to tackle.

That is followed closely by animal cruelty, with others, such as human rights featuring high on the list. 

With brands and rights holders increasingly incorporating social issues into their messaging in 2021, fans might expect to see more emphasis on the areas above.

Friday 4th December

The festive period is a busy time for sport and entertainment - but perhaps even more so in 2020. With the pandemic still curtailing social activities, many will turn to the combination of sport and OTT streaming services more than usual this Christmas.

With most sporting events played out behind closed doors - or severely restricted numbers of fans - online streaming services are playing a key role.

This week’s data from YouGov Sport shows that both Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer are leading the way when it comes to the streaming of live sport.

According to the insights, it appears most fans are still watching their sport on linear channels, however when it comes to streaming services, the growing portfolio of sporting content on the BBC and Amazon Prime Video - from Premier League football to the Six Nations and Autumn International rugby - puts those platforms ahead of the likes of Sky Sports and BT Sport when it comes to streaming.

The pair, however, are separated by Netflix - which is an interesting inclusion in the data.

Respondents weren’t just considering the live sport they’ve consumed on streaming platforms, showing that the non-live documentary content housed by OTT services - such as Netflix’s The Last Dance and Sunderland 'Til I Die - is playing a growing role for fans of sport.

Friday 27th November

Next week’s end of lockdown signals a return to a small number of fans in some parts of England.

With up to 4,000 fans allowed into stadiums in tier one areas - with most sport taking place in front of, at most, 2,000 fans in tier two regions and none at all in the strictest tier 3 parts of the country - it will be just a small glimmer of hope for clubs and leagues, who have held events behind closed doors since March.

However, it does show there may be light at the end of the tunnel for sport. With good news on the vaccine front, and the return of at least some paying spectators, 2021 could see stadiums filled once again.

But, given fans have been away for so long, is there an appetite for a return? In other areas of life - such as the success of home working - the last eight months have revealed there are some parts of pre-pandemic life the public doesn’t miss quite so much.

New insights from YouGov Sport, however, show that sport might be able to expect fans to return in numbers similar to 2019 levels.

Some 43% of sport fans overall say that attending live events is important to their quality of life - a number which rises to 53% among football fans and 52% among cricket fans.

This number is consistent with previous YouGov Sport data, which shows that, between November 2018 and November 2019, some 49% of people who consider themselves sports fans had attended at least one live sporting event in that period.

Aside from promising a return to full stadiums, it also looks like fans will be trying to get their hands on the small number of tickets available over the Christmas and new year period.

Friday 20th November

As we enter Safer Gambling Week (19th - 25th November), sports organisations and their betting partners have mobilised to take the message of moderation to their fans and customers.

The week comes as club football - which has come under increasing scrutiny for its gambling partnerships - returns after the international break. Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers partner Football Index has donated its shirt sponsorship of both clubs to the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), while Southampton has teamed up with to raise awareness on how to gamble more safely.

New data from YouGov Sport shows that 13% of UK football fans place a bet at least once a week, with almost one in five gambling on the sport every month.

Safer Gambling Week comes at a time when the UK government has called for a review of the Gambling Act, with speculation that the legality of betting sponsorships in football could be up for discussion. 

The news comes at a time when the sport - especially in the lower divisions - finds itself in a financial crisis due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the EFL has recently backed its betting partner Sky Bet, who it says devotes 70% of its matchday inventory to safer gambling messages.

Friday 13th November

Football’s international break has seen the Home Nations in action, and Scotland seal a place in their first major tournament since 1998. But it’s also a good time to take stock of the state of play in the club game.

All eyes will be on the return of top tier domestic teams when the Premier League returns, and one of the most famous battles in the sport will resume again.

Manchester United may not have challenged champions Liverpool for the title last season, but the pair are very much doing battle for top spot in the ratings war.

According to new data from YouGov Sport’s FootballIndex tool - which monitors public opinion around 40 British and European clubs and the sentiment around them each day - it’s the Red Devils who come out on top as the most-watched team this season amongst UK fans.

16% of the British public have watched at least one of their live games since the season began, just pipping champions Liverpool into top spot. 

The identity of the top two may not surprise many, with English football’s traditional powerhouses out in the lead, followed by Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur some way behind. 

The traditional ‘Big 6’ dominate this table, even if the likes of Leicester City and Southampton find themselves spoiling the party at the top of the Premier League so far this season, with Arsenal just off the list in sixth. Premier League newcomers Leeds United, meanwhile, have also proved the biggest attraction of the newly promoted teams, coming in at eighth. 

As the season progresses and races for the title and the European places begin to heat up, check back in again to see who’s leading the way among the public.

Friday 6th November

As the UK enters a second lockdown period, elite sport will continue to play its role in lifting the mood of the nation, even if it will still be played out behind closed doors.

Empty stadiums may now be the norm, but the action has remained compelling. October saw Rafael Nadal win his 20th Grand Slam at the French Open and Lewis Hamilton win his sixth Formula One Drivers Championship, with both greats cementing their places in the pantheon of their respective sports. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, young British cyclist Tao Geoghegan Hart won the Giro d’Italia, one of the sport’s major Grand Tours, following the thrilling finish of this year’s Tour de France.

With all of that fresh in our minds, YouGov Sport’s Buzz ranking - which measures the levels of cut-through that events are generating amongst the general public - shows that it was England’s double triumph at the Guinness Six Nations which made the most noise this month, with both men and women lifting the trophy.

Narrowly beating out Formula 1, where Hamilton’s Mercedes team also sealed the Constructors’ Championship, the delayed finish to the Six Nations generated the most noise this month, with a thrilling final day which saw three teams in with a chance of victory.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Premier League, and the return of the Champions League did not made their way into October’s top five, which is rounded off with England’s cricket series against Pakistan. The early stages of the competitions may have attracted less interest, while both tournaments came to their 2019/20 conclusions just weeks before the new campaigns launched - perhaps dampening their impact.

November, meanwhile, will also see rugby return with the new Autumn tournament, broadcast on Amazon Prime. With lots to look forward to, including golf’s Masters Tournament, football’s Nations League, and tennis’s ATP Tour Finals, rugby will have lots to do to keep top spot.

Friday 30th October

The Women’s FA Cup final between Everton and Manchester City will be the sixth final of the competition to be played at Wembley, but it will be the first with Main Partner Vitality.

The health and life insurance brand has further invested in women’s sport in recent weeks, as well as picking up the naming rights to the domestic cup competition and solidifying partnerships with a host of Barclays FA Women’s Super League teams.

Data from YouGov Sport’s BrandIndex tool (below) shows how the brand’s strategy in recent years has had an impact. Its investment in sport has grown in that time, forming a broad portfolio of sponsorships which span from mass participation events like Parkrun and the Vitality Big Half through to T20 cricket and the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 - which picked up no fewer than two accolades at the Sport Industry Awards 2020.

In the above graphic, YouGov Sport has charted the public’s awareness of the brand, showing it is on average 50% higher among fans of sport than it is within the general population. Over the last two years, Vitality has steadily grown in overall awareness, but there is a much sharper upward trend amongst fans of sport - especially since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The subsequent health crisis has clearly ensured the brand is a relevant one, but with its wide portfolio of sport sponsorships, and a growing number of deals placing it at the heart of women’s sport, it’s no surprise to see its awareness growing faster among sports fans of all stripes.

Get more insights from YouGov Sport here.

Friday 23rd October

Europe’s top football clubs returned to UEFA Champions League action as the group stage of the competition signalled the start of a new season.

Ahead of the kick-off, European football’s governing body and its partner Mastercard renewed their long-standing partnership. A new three-year deal between the pair will take their association up to the 30-year mark.

This week, data from YouGov Sport’s BrandIndex tool shows that the long-term nature of the partnership is having a continued positive impact for the brand. According to the data, fans of the competition are, on average, almost a third more likely than the general population to take the brand into consideration when in the market for financial services - YouGov Sport’s ‘Consideration’ metric.

The above chart shows an uplift in Consideration for a selection of sponsors, including Mastercard.

Taken as a whole, sponsors of the Champions League tend to score around a third more highly for Consideration among fans of the competition than they do among the general population - with the biggest winner being Heineken (which has also been a Champions League partner since 1994, the same year as Mastercard).

Having been a partner of the competition for so long, and having given young fans the chance to become player mascots for decades as part of its Priceless campaign, Mastercard appears to have been successful in translating its association with the competition into greater consideration amongst its fans.

Friday 16th October

This time, the Stat of the Week looks at this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup Final between Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92.

Saturday night will see a new name crowned champions, adding to the list of teams to lift one of club rugby’s most sought-after prizes. So we asked, given this final will produce a new winner, is the tournament appealing to a new generation of rugby fans too? YouGov Sport’s data certainly suggests so. 

YouGov Sport asks respondents if they have heard something positive or negative about an event, before creating a net% score - which they call Buzz. And ahead of the final this weekend, younger audiences are much more likely to have heard Buzz around the event, according to the data.

That makes the Heineken Champions Cup stand out against some of its competitors. The Premier League’s Buzz chart, for example, looks more like a pyramid, with its core audience sitting somewhere in the 35-49 demographic – and achieving proportionally less cut-through among the younger audience. 

So rugby’s sponsors and rights holders will have an excellent platform to work from this weekend and beyond.