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Sports sponsorship provides high ROI brand building opportunities

Sports Marketing


Pierre Justo

皮埃尔 朱司徒

General Manager for International Business & Sports

CSM Media Research (Kantar Sports Asia)




With the change of the media landscape and the development of data demand from the media industry, CSM Media Research launched the cloud service tool of V+Scope in 2019, which enables CSM's better and new services including media integration research, sports media research, big data research and audience-consumer integration research and etc. With CSM's cloud service of V+Scope, TV stations and other data users can have a better understanding of the new media and will perform better in the mobile media market.

CSM结合市场需求和行业新技术,同步开展媒体融合传播效果研究,体育与媒介研究,收视数据与消费数据融合研究等多元化业务,继续丰富产品体系,提升服务质量。2019年CSM重磅推出融合媒体数据云平台V+Scope, 综合多渠道新媒体大数据,帮助电视媒体更好的了解新媒体领域,占领移动传播新阵地。www.csm.com.cn/en

Sports sponsorship provides high ROI brand building opportunities

Marketing raises awareness, improves image, lifts sales

Sports sponsorship is a part of the complex marketing mix that brands use in China to build awareness and purchase intentions for their products and services. Sports has several marketing advantages. First, sports is a relatively low risk, safe topic for any brand in China to link with. Second, investment in sports directly benefits Chinese consumers because it leads to more events and new facilities. Third, investing in sports aligns with the national goal of promoting sports as an aspect of health and wellness and a way to develop Chinese athletes who can succeed in international competitions and project Chinese soft power.

Although Chinese consumers sometimes consider traditional ads a nuisance, they view sports sponsors positively, as partners of the events that provide entertainment. Sports sponsorship consistently ranks high in key measurements of ROI. Among local and foreign brands that have sponsored sports leagues, clubs, or events in China, some raised awareness, others improved their image, and nearly all experienced stronger sales. Finally, and critical for brands in today’s complex China media market, the investment in sports sponsorship is still relatively inexpensive.

It’s no wonder that China’s brand giants are in a frenzy to partner with top sports global events and why foreign brands are looking with renewed interest to Chinese local sports properties. This interest is confirmed by two phenomena: the high renewal rate of sports sponsorship deals in China in recent years, over 90 percent despite a drastic rise in deals fees; and the rapid rise of global deals including Chinese brands eager to develop abroad. Sports sponsorship is becoming integral to the marketing strategy of any brand that wants to reach the new Chinese consumer.

A rapid change

Like just about everything in China, change happened quickly. Who would have believed even 10 years ago that global sports properties would regularly tour China or be broadcast live? The European football leagues (EPL, La Liga, Serie A), the US big players (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL), and the global sports events (FIFA WC, Euro, IRB World Cup, Formula 1) are now part of the Chinese consumers’ life.

Similarly, who could have imagined a decade ago that the FIFA World Cup and Euro World Cup would have Chinese brands as key commercial partners? Half the sponsors of the recent FIBA Basketball World Cup were Chinese brands. Can anyone remember any Chinese sponsor for a global or local sports event prior to the Beijing Olympics?

Demographics is among the key factors driving the national interest in sports and the growth of sports sponsorship.

Over 400 million middle-income Chinese consumers earn enough to purchase cars and houses and spend on leisure and travel. Around 60 percent of Chinese live in urban areas. Our research shows that the interest in sports in China is increasing regularly since 2003, especially among young, educated, middle- and high-income urban consumers. The other key drivers are:


The Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics created a unique opportunity for local brands to become associated to a major sporting global event and learn from the experience. As a brand director of an Olympic sponsor confided, the success of the Games (massive interest, strong participation of Chinese, huge financial returns) convinced Chinese brands that “there is definitely something to do with sports to help us develop.”


Following the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese Government decided to promote development of a sports culture in China. Like Chinese leadership in technology or the accomplishments of Chinese culture, sports is one more way for China to demonstrate global stature and soft power.

Against this backdrop of steady and long-term investment in the sports industry, China will eventually become the world’s largest sports consumer market, which will benefit both local and international brands. When visiting China, many global top sports leaders or foreign players like to claim that China will win the FIFA World Cup one day. Who knows? However, if China lifts that trophy, and if the Chinese sports market keeps on growing until that day, sports marketing will experience a long and robust future.