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 10th June
 
With a host of major sporting events on the horizon, this week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look at attitudes to various different sports across different demographics.

Sport’s digital transformation, as well as its place in the wider entertainment landscape, has placed a focus on how it appeals to younger fans.

In recent weeks, breakaway football clubs formed the European Super League, citing a need to attract Gen Z audiences as one of its reasons for doing so. The rise of esports has also fuelled the debate, while other forms of entertainment - such as on-demand film, TV, and music streaming, or social media platforms - are now seen as dangerous competitors.

But this week’s stat looks at which sports do the best at attracting that audience...

The data above covers just the ten overall most-popular sports in the UK, and is ranked in order of the differences in a sport’s relative popularity between the public at large (in purple) and younger audiences (in red). 

While a larger portion of young people follow football than boxing, the latter is the only one on our list with greater relative popularity among Gen Z and Millennial audiences - a finding which may delight Matchroom Boxing, which recently signed what it called a ‘game-changing’ deal with sports streaming service DAZN to screen fights for the next five years.

Football largely maintains its audiences as it goes down the age groups, while at the other end of the spectrum, golf and athletics are the sports which see the greatest drop off in younger audiences.

As you go further down the list, however, other sports emerge as being more popular among Gen Z and Millennials. YouGov Sport data shows that Basketball and Mixed Martial Arts are two sports which are more popular among younger audiences, while unsurprisingly esports also skews towards a younger demographic. 


Thursday 3rd June

The start of a new month means this week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look at the most recent Buzz Report - which ranks the sports properties that have generated the most noise among the general public in the last month.

With the regular seasons for sports like football and rugby now finished, and with a summer schedule now about to begin, the last month has seen the public begin to look further ahead.

Taking first spot in May, though, is The FA Cup. Fairytale Premier League champions in 2016 Leicester City lifted the trophy for the first time at Wembley, beating favourites Chelsea in the final - a feat which saw the Foxes best both Chelsea and Manchester City in a previous stat of the week (below, 20th May).

The FA Cup comes in ahead of Formula 1, which is enjoying one of its most exciting title  battles in recent years with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen currently ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who has won six of the last seven Championships, and the last four in a row.

But below the top two in this week’s rankings is some proof that the British public is looking ahead to a return to normality when it comes to a summer of sport.

Last year saw the cancellation of The Championships, Wimbledon, while a summer of cricket went ahead, but within a biosecure bubble environment.

Making its first appearance in a monthly Buzz Report this year is the British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa. The month of May saw the representative team announce its squad through the medium of augmented reality, while June will see the team play their first game on home soil since 2005, when they take on Japan at BT Murrayfield in a warm up match.

Rounding out the top five are two more stalwarts of the British summer, with the England Test cricket team - currently playing against New Zealand - and the Championships at Wimbledon both beginning to work their way into the public’s minds. 

The summer of sport is about to hot up, and events yet to take place are already creating a sense of anticipation amongst the UK public.


Thursday 27th May

As the summer approaches and coronavirus restrictions relax, sport looks ahead to a long summer of action with a host of rescheduled major events set to take place, as well as those already envisaged for 2021.

With social gatherings possible again, those hoping to enjoy sporting moments with family and friends again are likely to do so with a drink in hand. This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week looks at what those fans are most likely to order when getting the drinks in this summer.
 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with a strong interest in sport are vastly more likely than the general population to enjoy beer, with 26% of British sport fans choosing lager as their favourite alcoholic drinks, and 16% plumping for ale or stout.

Both are far higher than among those who say they have little to no interest in sport - though lager is still one of the most popular choices among that latter category.

Conversely, fans of sport are less likely to consume wine or gin, but perhaps surprisingly there’s a bigger drop off in enjoyment of gin amongst sport fans than there is in wine. Taken together, both red and wine comprise the second largest group of alcoholic beverages favoured by sports fans.

With an unprecedented summer of sport to look forward to, and with fans set to be in attendance for most of it, it might be wines as well as beers on trays when the rounds are served.


Thursday 20th May
 
The end of the football campaign brings with it the culmination of a season’s worth of storylines, as well as the crowning of champions.

Within the past few weeks, English football has crowned its top flight champions in Manchester City, and its FA Cup victors in Leicester City. It will also have two of its sides involved in the Champions League final - with the blue half of Manchester joined by beaten FA Cup finalists Chelsea.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look at the Buzz each of these three teams have created over the past few weeks.

Despite not being one of English football’s so-called ‘Big Six’ clubs, it’s Leicester’s FA Cup triumph that generated the most chatter amongst the public, with a spike in noise coming on Saturday 15th May - the day they lifted the trophy at Wembley.

The final itself became the most-watched football match of 2021 so far as free-to-air broadcaster, the BBC, announced that 9.1 million people had watched the match on TV, with 2 million more tuning in on digital channels. 

Chelsea enacted their revenge in the Premier League, beating Leicester 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in a subsequent league match, which leaves them in pole position to get a UEFA Champions League place for next season - potentially at the expense of the Foxes.

Meanwhile, it was Chelsea’s opponents in this season’s Champions League final, City, who climbed above the west London side in this week’s YouGov Sport stat.

But depending on who triumphs in Porto later this month, that could change.


Thursday 13th May 

Viewing habits of younger sport fans have been in the spotlight recently, with declining attention spans and the competition of social media cited as one of the factors in the thinking behind the launch of the European Super League.

Outside of football, the PGA Tour has also cordoned off a prize pot for the golfers who have the biggest impact off the course, with digital and social media engagement, sentiment and coverage among the areas being incentivised by the Tour.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week shows how the habits of a younger generation of fans are shifting.

On the day that the Premier League announced it was set to roll over its UK media rights deals with current broadcasters on broadly the same terms, the headline appears to be that just 59% of younger fans are watching live sport on linear TV broadcast, a significant drop from the 74% of the overall population of UK sports fans.

But with 38% of those 18-34 year-olds watching on live streams - which in this case includes the likes of Sky Sports’ NOW, the BT Sport app, Eurosport Player, and BBC iPlayer - this is not necessarily evidence of the younger generation switching off entirely but rather switching to a different medium.

However, when it comes to other areas of coverage, it’s clear that younger fans are less likely to follow sport across the traditional suite of media.

Younger fans are less likely to tune into radio coverage (whether live commentary or talk radio), or read newspaper coverage (including the papers’ online websites). However they are more likely to follow on social media where news outlets and journalists are present. This may make up some - though not all - of the shortfall.


Thursday 6th May
 
The first Thursday of May sees the YouGov Sport Stat of the Week look back over the action of April, and sheds some light on the sports properties who made the most noise across the last number of weeks.

May will bring finals and season finales, as well as the return of major championships in golf and tennis and a cycling Grand Tour.

But April also saw FA Cup semi-finals and a Carabao Cup final take place in front of fans as well as the World Snooker Championships and the Grand National.

This week’s Stat of the Week uses YouGov’s Buzz tool, which measures the amount of noise generated by a sporting event by asking the public whether they’ve heard anything about it over the previous two weeks.

Last month’s ranking saw the Guinness Six Nations Championship come out on top with a healthy lead and a Buzz score of 15. This month, however, it was much tighter, with Formula 1 - fresh off the back of two events in May - edging out the Grand National and the FA Cup with a score of eight.


Thursday 29th April

With the British summer approaching, cricket fans will begin to fix their eyes on a new campaign, which will see the arrival of a new form of the sport as well as the build-up to a winter-time Ashes series in Australia.

The Hundred will begin this summer after its inaugural season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, while England’s men’s and women’s teams will have a full calendar to look forward to. And as government restrictions begin to end, fans may well be allowed back into stands in their numbers to watch live action later this year.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look at the players who will light up the summer of cricket - asking UK fans of the sport who their favourite player is...
Memories of the summer of 2019 loom large in the Great British public’s choice, it seems, as the star of the Ashes series and England’s last-ditch, home-soil victory in the Cricket World Cup final comes out on top.

Almost half of the UK’s cricket fans name Ben Stokes as their favourite player, after epic performances for his country in both the red and white-ball versions of the sport in recent years.

A battle for second place, meanwhile, ended in a dead heat, between Joe Root and James Anderson, who were named in the list of favourites by 39% of fans, well below the 48% who named Stokes.

Jos Buttler, Stuart Broad, and Jofra Archer were all named by 30% of the public, with AB De Villiers the highest ranked non-England player.

Meanwhile, England skipper Heather Knight came in as the highest ranked female player, named by 9% of respondents.


Thursday 22nd April

This week’s news agenda has been dominated by one sporting story that monopolised both the front and back pages of news outlets for three full days.

The launch of the European Super League, a group of 12 European football clubs who came together to create an alternative competition to the UEFA Champions League, generated the sort of media frenzy, high drama, and social media chatter that any competition would see as a major success - if only it had anything to do with action on the pitch.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week shows one of the impacts the story had on the Premier League’s top football clubs.

With success on the pitch eluding both Arsenal and Tottenham this season, their YouGov Sport Buzz rating started off at the lowest ebb, while Liverpool’s recent on-the-pitch problems meant they too had a below-zero score - which means the net-sentiment at the time was negative.

The fluctuations over the previous week are part and parcel of life in the Premier League, with fans and the public reacting to matches, transfer rumours and manager comments as normal - however that all changed late in the evening of Sunday 18th April, when news broke after 10pm that the European Super League had launched.

By Monday morning the Buzz ratings of all six clubs had gone below zero and did not stop dropping, even after all of the English clubs withdrew from the competition on Tuesday night.

Wednesday saw the further collapse of the competition, to the delight of fans. However the reputational damage that the Super League launch has done to the clubs might take some work to fix.


Thursday 15th April

The UK’s most popular sport has always been up for debate, with the nation’s attention divided when it comes to the big events: this summer will see an Olympic Games, a men’s football European Championships, The Hundred, and a Lions Tour compete with yearly set pieces like Wimbledon and Formula 1.

But this week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look specifically at the sports favoured by women in the UK.

The data shows that tennis is the most-followed sport amongst women, with almost one-fifth citing it as the sport they follow. 15%, meanwhile, regularly watch football, putting it just behind in the number two spot, before a big jump down to other sports below.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week also shows that the top five sports among women in the UK are all Olympic disciplines, with a Team GB side competing in women’s football and across both genders at the rugby sevens competition in Tokyo this summer - as well as in tennis, athletics, and gymnastics.

Meanwhile, as grassroots sport returns in the UK, charity Women in Sport says some 82% of teenage girls want to get more active after lockdown, while also highlighting the impact the pandemic has had on physical activity.

With outdoor sporting activities - such as tennis and football - now allowed again after lockdown, sport has the opportunity to convert its female followers into participants, particularly as a packed summer of sport approaches.


Thursday 8th April
 
As football leagues around Europe gear up for title showdowns, and as continental club competitions reach the quarter final stage, this week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week looks at the footballers from across Europe making an impact on UK audiences.

Our two old favourites, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, feature highly when football fans are asked to name their favourite player, but only one name trumps the duo - who have dominated the sport over the past decade and more - in the minds of the British public.


Mohamed Salah came out on top when UK Premier League fans were asked to name their favourite player this month, with the Liverpool forward having led his team to a domestic title and UEFA Champions League glory in recent years.

This season may have been more of a struggle for the Egyptian and his team, but his performances have still been enough to see him sit second in the Premier League top scorers list, while his away goal against Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarter final may yet prove crucial for his side.

Elsewhere on the list, England pair Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford feature highly as fans look forward to EURO 2020, which will take place this summer a year later than planned. But with a semi-final and final set for Wembley, England captain Kane may well see his popularity boom again with the chance to lift his country’s first major honour in 55 years on home soil.

Meanwhile, YouGov Sport’s data shows that the most-loved female player among those who consider themselves fans of the men’s Premier League is Manchester City star Lucy Bronze, with 5% of fans picking her as one of their favourites. That number puts her just behind the likes of PSG star Neymar and Borussia Dortmund prodigy Erling Haaland on the list, who both picked up 7%.


Thursday 1st April

Another new month brings with it the easing up of UK lockdown restrictions and a return to grassroots sport and outdoor physical activity.

But the start of April is also a chance for us to reflect on a month of March which saw the return of Formula 1 and the UEFA Champions League, as well as international football in the form of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week looks at the Buzz ranking for March, revealing which sporting property generated the most chatter amongst the British public this time.

That accolade went to the Guinness Six Nations, which ended in thrilling fashion in the month of March.

Wales, denied a grand slam by a late French surge, then had to wait another week to claim the title itself, having to watch Les Bleus finish their tournament a week later than planned after positive coronavirus tests postponed their earlier game with Scotland.

The extended Championship week saw intense build-up to the final match as France needed a bonus point win by a margin of at least 21 points to secure the title. And although it didn’t happen, the scenario saw the men’s Six Nations shoot to the top of the Buzz rankings by a huge margin.

Second in the list was the ever-present Premier League, with football’s FA Cup and UEFA Champions League also featuring in the top five.

Meanwhile, taking third place was Formula 1, whose season opener in Bahrain saw Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton fend off Red Bull Racing challenger Max Verstappen to claim his first victory of the year in thrilling fashion. That race may set up a battle for the rest of the season, and could shoot the racing series further up Buzz rankings throughout 2021.
 


Thursday 25th March

Club football may be on a break this week, but when it does return there will be title races, cup finals, promotion and relegation battles, and a host of clubs fighting it out for the minor placings. 

There will also be five English clubs still active in European competitions, both in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week looks at fan attitudes to those European competitions, and how fans of the different leagues around the continent take differing attitudes to them.Despite seeing their clubs reach the latter stages of the Champions League and Europa League in recent seasons - including taking up all four berths in the finals of both competitions in 2019 - fans of the Premier League are less likely than their counterparts in the other ‘top five’ leagues to consider themselves fans of the Champions League.

Instead, it’s fans in Spain and Germany who are more likely to refer to themselves as fans of European competition.

Strong regional rivalries throughout the Premier League perhaps account for less interest in continental competitions, while those who support clubs in Spain, Germany, France and Italy may be more likely to set aside their differences and embrace their compatriots.


Thursday 18th March

The disruption of the last year has ensured that the world has become more digitally aware, with everything from social get-togethers and live events to business meetings taking place through video chats.

While sport has been no stranger to digital transformation over the past number of years, 2020 may well have marked a shift in live-streaming as well.

A recent YouGov Sport study looked at the rise of live-streaming - and where in the world it’s at its strongest (link) - and this week’s Stat of the Week takes a closer look at habits in the UK specifically.

Among fans of individual sports, it’s perhaps surprisingly cricket fans who are most likely to live-stream the action, with 43% saying they will use streams to watch the action.

With traditional broadcasters like Sky Sports and BT Sport putting significant investment into OTT capabilities, fans of sport have the option of watching on streams whose quality rivals linear broadcasts.

After cricket fans, football fans are next likely to watch on streams, with motorsport, rugby union, and tennis fans all taking advantage of internet-connected devices - including smart TVs and streaming sticks as well as mobile phones and tablets - to watch live sport.


Thursday 11th March

The Formula 1 season is just a few weeks away, with the season-opening race in Bahrain taking place on the final weekend of March.

This weekend, though, will see drivers return to the track and give fans a glimpse of the 2021 cars as pre-season testing begins. After that, the eagerly-anticipated Drive To Survive documentary series will land for its third season, showcasing the drama of a 2020 season that unfolded like no other, and building up to the 2021 campaign.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look at the UK’s attitudes to F1 teams - asking the British public which constructor it supports.

The best-supported team in Britain is none other than Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes outfit, which has won both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in each of the past seven years.

Some 45% of UK F1 fans support the Brackley-based team with fellow British outfit McLaren coming in second, rivalling Mercedes with 35% of the nation’s support.

Another British-based team, Williams - which has recently been taken over by US private equity group Dorilton Capital - makes the top five this week, just behind Mercedes challengers Red Bull and just ahead of Italian favourites Ferrari.


Thursday 4th March

As we enter into March, sport begins to look forward to a return to live events and fans in attendance, but February saw another month of action taking place behind-closed doors.

The continuing lockdown saw sport take centre stage once more as a form of entertainment, with a number of high-profile events.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week takes a look at the events which created the most Buzz in the month of February - tracking the sports properties that generated the most noise among the UK public.

The start of February saw England’s Test Cricket tour of India generate chatter amongst the public - buoyed by a historic England victory and the return of the sport to free-to-air TV - but the final few weeks of the month was dominated by the Guinness Six Nations.

The yearly championship returned to the screens, and has treated the public to high drama on the pitch, even without the customary off-the-pitch rivalries between fans.

The Guinness Six Nations took top spot, while England Rugby and the RFU itself took fifth spot.

Meanwhile, football’s Premier League finds itself in fourth place in the February Buzz list, overtaken by the FA Cup - which reached the Fifth Round in February, and featured free-to-air coverage on the BBC as well as a 5-4 thriller as Everton beat Tottenham after extra time.


Thursday 25th February

As sport gets ready for a return to full stadiums - as envisaged by the government’s roadmap for reopening after lockdown - fans up and down the country are relishing the thought of cheering on their teams and feeling the thrill of a live sporting experience once again.

This summer’s sporting calendar - which will see a full grass-court tennis season and the return of Wimbledon as well as the launch of The Hundred, and the myriad live events that the British summer entails - could well be played out in front of packed grandstands.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week shows what fans really think of going back to live sport - with just over a quarter of British adults saying they feel comfortable attending a sporting event right now.

With fans expected to have a phased return to events across May and June, before a fuller reopening later in the summer, the overall number may rise as vaccination take-up grows and the public takes its first steps out of lockdown number three.

According to YouGov Sport’s data, it’s football and cricket fans who feel the most confident going  back to at the moment, perhaps a good omen for the rescheduled UEFA EURO 2020 which will stage its semi-finals and final at Wembley, and for the ECB as it looks to stage its inaugural The Hundred and attract a new generation of fans in the process.

Meanwhile, around a fifth of those who identify as rugby, motorsport and tennis fans also say they would attend events right now. The 2021 British &  Irish Lions Tour, still scheduled to take place in South Africa this year, could play out in front of capacity crowds at home instead, if restrictions in the host country aren’t relaxed before then.


Thursday 18th February

The first rest week of the Guinness Six Nations is a good time to take stock of the competition so far, which has already thrown up upsets and thrillers, while a number of teams are still in a position to win the tournament.

Despite a lack of fans in stadiums - something those watching at home are getting used to - the spectacle of the Six Nations is still providing a chance for the public to get its sporting fix on free-to-air TV, providing entertainment during the ongoing winter lockdown.

This week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week shows that the much-loved event is having an impact for its Title Partner, too.

Across the first two and a half weeks of February, Guinness has seen a 51% uplift in ad awareness amongst rugby fans.

A brand long-associated with the sport of rugby, this is only the second season that Guinness has been the Title Partner of the tournament itself. 

Last year’s truncated tournament, which was postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and finished in October, saw the brand gain exposure at multiple times in the year. This time, it is front and centre again at a time when the whole country is staying at home and free to watch the tournament without distraction.


Thursday 11th February

January and February always sees a sweep of sporting events take centre stage, but arguably even more so this year. The UK lockdown has thrust sport even further into a position of entertainment as the nation waits for spring.

Alongside winter’s normal football programme - with the FA Cup and Premier League in full swing - the build-up to the Six Nations and the NFL’s showpiece Super Bowl take pride of place in the sporting consciousness.

The YouGov Sport Buzz rankings show just how much chatter sports properties have generated amongst the public, and this data aggregates that score from across the month of February so far.

All of the above sporting properties are present, but taking top spot isn’t one of the usual winter gems….

England cricket Tests are a fixture of the sporting summer in the British Isles, with winter tours to far-flung destinations like India often drawing less of a following than the home matches later in the year.

That changed this year, with England’s famous first-Test victory over India in Chennai, in a match broadcast on the free-to-air Channel 4 - the first live Test on ‘terrestrial’ TV since 2005.

A culmination of factors may have been at play to thrust cricket above England’s traditional winter sports, such as rugby and football. People’s work-from-home schedules may have made Test cricket more acceptable to watch in the background, while its presence on a free-to-air channel will have stoked some interest.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s appearance in YouGov’s UK Buzz ranking does show the growth of a US sport on these shores is continuing apace, despite the cancellation of the 2020 London Games.


Thursday 4th February

As the NFL season approaches its climax, history will be made as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, with the former becoming the first team to play at home in a Super Bowl.

The set-piece event will also see Tom Brady take part in his 10th Super Bowl match, going up against last season’s champions and fellow quarter back Patrick Mahomes.

Despite restrictions on both fans and the London Games in 2020, UK fans tuned into the NFL to watch the season unfold. Prime time matches have been a draw for fans in Britain and Europe for a number of years, but with flexible working hours becoming more common during the pandemic-induced lockdowns more of the public has had the chance to tune in to the league this year.
 
 

New data from YouGov Sport ahead of the event shows that the NFL reached some 5% of UK adults across the entire population this season.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s American football that leads the way when it comes to audiences of US sports in the UK, with the NBA, MLB and NHL all trailing the NFL in terms of reach.

This weekend’s event will be watched around the world, providing a fitting end to an NFL season which taken place in front of a US backdrop which has included pandemic restrictions, a Presidential election and a national conversation around racial equality which subsequently spread across the world.


Friday 29th January

The Six Nations was at the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak in 2020, with matches postponed from their original February and March slots and completed in October in empty stadiums.

In 2021, the tournament will also be pandemic-hit, with travel restrictions and behind-closed-doors games once again hampering the prestigious event.

As we begin the build-up to the tournament, which starts in Italy on 6th February, this week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the week looks at the UK’s favourite players.

Asking the British public to select a number of their favourite current players, England captain Owen Farrell comes out on top in a list dominated by English players.

Farrell finds himself the undisputed favourite of the nation at the top of the list, picked by almost one fifth of those who say they are Six Nations fans, followed by England teammates Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, and Manu Tuilagi, as well as Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones.

Yet the lack of unanimity shows the rivalries that will exist across the country over the coming weeks and the team nature of the sport. Despite fans remaining outside stadiums for the duration of this year’s tournament, there will be no lack of rivalry on the pitch or off it.


Thursday 21st January

As the world’s top tennis players get ready for the Australian Open, this week’s YouGov Sport Stat of the Week looks at the British public’s attitudes towards the planet’s elite.

Perhaps it is no surprise to hear that almost half of the British public name Andy Murray as one of their favourite players.

The Scot has won three Grand Slams in his career, but his most recent comeback from what appeared to be a career-threatening injury appears to have solidified his place above Roger Federer as the nation’s favourite.

The Swiss legend, who has won the Wimbledon singles title more than any other man in history, is Murray’s nearest challenger, with Rafael Nadal coming in third and Novak Djokovic trailing some way behind the other three men’s players in fourth.

The best-placed female player in the list is Serena Williams. The American legend leads British pair Johanna Konta and Heather Watson in the hearts of the British public.


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 Sportsbet.io 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.