Vodafone Serve An Ace For Tennis Fans


Feel the Connection


In an era of content overload and attention scarcity, sports are more vital to marketers than ever. Sport builds passionate communities and draws the kind of big, engaged, in-the-moment audience that makes a CMO’s heart beat faster. Sports sponsorship puts brand assets on the bodies of the athletic elite and in front of the eyes of the world. And sporting stories are a natural fit for emotional advertising – what else creates those intense highs and lows? From the brands who spend billions on the Olympics to Ryan Reynolds’ rollercoaster ride at Wrexham FC, sports and marketing are inseparable.

So ads with sports sponsorship and sporting content should work really well. But should isn’t enough – we need to know how well sporting assets work in ads, both among the general public and the fan audiences who watch or play the sport in question.

System1 has now teamed up with sports and entertainment agency FUSE to answer exactly these questions. How effective is sports marketing? What works best? And how do we measure the particular impact of sporting assets among the fans who love the game? The answers are in a report from FUSE and System1, The Sport Dividend.

The main finding of The Sport Dividend is in the title – there’s a Sports Dividend for advertisers which lies in the boost to effectiveness among fans of the sport in question. If you’ve read our Feeling Seen report on diversity and inclusion in advertising, it works in a similar way. The best sporting adverts do well among the general population. But among fans – people who have played or watched the sport recently, or plan to soon – we often see a big effectiveness boost.

This Vodafone ad is a great example. Produced to tie in with Wimbledon, it looks at the difficulties, triumphs and intense pride that come from being the parent of a wheelchair tennis Wimbledon champion. The ad mixes voiceover, in-match footage and family memories in a film that goes from sadness to relief and joy.

We showed it to a general audience and to tennis fans. For a general audience the ad performed well – a solid 3.1-Star score. That’s already well over the 2.2-Star average for mobile networks, so we know this is a good, uplifting ad, which is also Exceptional on Brand Fluency and short-term Spike. Job done for Vodafone. But show the ad to tennis fans and it’s clear Vodafone has served an ace.

This is a 5.0-Star ad for people who play or watch the sport: a +1.9 Star Sports Dividend. This difference from the general audience is stark when you look at the ad’s emotional response on Test Your Ad Pro. There’s a massive swing away from Neutrality (which goes from 47% to 26%) towards Happiness and Surprise, the two emotions that drive long-term effectiveness. That’s alongside a big jump in the intensity of the emotion felt. A glance at the reasons for emotion shows plenty of mention of tennis among the fan sample – the sport is driving the response.

And that’s not all. When we look at the key associations tennis fans and the general audience hold, we see something very interesting. It’s the general audience which sees the ad and thinks “Wimbledon” and “tennis”. The tennis fans, engaging with it more emotionally and intensely, focus on the story and associate the ad with “support” and “inclusion”. In other words, by grabbing the fans’ attention, the tennis content gives the ad a chance to communicate with them on a deeper level.

The research for The Sports Dividend happened before Vodafone’s ad came out. But its huge success with tennis fans is a beautiful illustration of the report’s central point – sporting assets unlock effectiveness among large and valuable fan audiences.

For more findings, case studies, and advice from System1 and FUSE on how to use sporting assets for gold medal effectiveness, access The Sport Dividend.

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