Digitally Activated: Sports Centered

A Look at Online Sports Activations

Can VW sell more cars because of its MLS sponsorship?

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Volkswagen was recognized as the Official Automotive Sponsor (OAS) of Major League Soccer by 55.0% of the 202 Major League Soccer fans I surveyed in the past month.  To put that into perspective, GM is the OAS of MLB and the NFL.  GM’s 2009 recognition levels for those two properties were 31.4% and 30.0%, respectively (SportsBusiness Journal, Feb. 15-21, 2010).  Additionally, a SBJ and Turnkey Intelligence poll conducted the week prior to this year’s Super Bowl, revealed 30.7% of Avid NFL Fans could correctly identify GM as the leagues OAS (SportsBusiness Journal, Mar. 1-7, 2010).  If I were to use a similar guideline to distinguish Avid MLS Fans – fans stating that their MLS team is their 1st or 2nd favorite professional sports team, and have attended 10 or more MLS matches in their life – Volkswagen would have a fan-recognition level of 61.4% (70/114).  It would be difficult to postulate that a MLS sponsorship is more effective than a sponsorship with MLB, NFL or NBA; however, with the statistics from my survey, we can begin to examine the merits of a MLS sponsorship. 

Here is a brief description of how I recruited survey participants:

202 Major League Soccer (MLS) fans were surveyed from March 10 – April 15th, 2010.   Respondents were recruited via the Facebook Fan pages of the: Los Angeles Galaxy; Houston Dynamo; Major League Soccer; New York Red Bulls; Real Salt Lake; and Seattle Sounders FC.  A small percentage of the 202 respondents were recruited through LinkedIn and Twitter.

Survey participants were active and engaged MLS fans: 69.3% had visited their MLS team’s Web site within 24 hours of taking the survey, 81.2% stated that they will definitely attend a MLS match in 2010, and 56.9% attended 5 or more matches during the 2009 season.  Furthermore, the survey required respondents to take two deliberate actions to participate.  First they had to become a Fan of a MLS team on FB, and then they had to click a link posted on the team’s FB Fan Page.   These fans actions indicate they will be more responsive to a sponsor’s message, and more likely to change their purchase behavior because of a sponsorship.  If a brand can establish a presence within MLS, its brand equity will increase because of the league’s status with the consumer. 

VW, like every other MLS sponsor I studied, is leveraging its MLS sponsorship to increase its brand image with Hispanics.  A noble and wise ambition.  Hispanics/Latinos represented one-quarter (50/202) of survey respondents, and VW has an established presence in Latin America that has not translated into sales with Hispanic-Americans.  However, VW’s recognition numbers decreased with Hispanics to 48% (every sponsor experienced a decrease in recognition with Hispanics).  Not a large decrease – VW was the sponsor with the highest recognition rate amongst Hispanics – but one that can, and should be improved upon. 

Hispanics were 41.3% more likely to “regularly consume/purchase a product if that product/service is an Official Sponsor of MLS” than White/Caucasians respondents (Whites/Caucasians represented 65% of survey participants).  Granted, sponsorships are not as effective in changing consumer behavior for large purchases such as cars – due to the likely involvement of another party – but this is a significant result.  If your goal is to change consumer behavior, you should target those who are willing/eager to embrace your brand.  Furthermore, opportunities exist for brands to establish themselves with the next generation of Hispanic consumers.

76% of respondents identifying themselves as Hispanic/Latino had at least one parent born outside of the United States.  The other 24% of Hispanic/Latino respondents were born outside of the United States.  Their offspring will grow up rooting for a MLS team, opposed to a team in Mexico’s First Division or another foreign league.  The next generation of Hispanic MLS soccer fans should be arriving shortly.  92% of Hispanic/Latino fans are under the age of 37, with 42% between the ages of 19-25 (note: this could be attributable to the survey being conducted on FB, but only 26% of Caucasian respondents were between the ages of 19-25).  

VW might be selling a lot more Jettas in 2030… Heck, you might be seeing more Tigans, Routans and CCs at your kids AYSO games.  

**** I am only using the SBJ numbers as a reference point.  It would be irresponsible to make a correlation between their numbers and mine.  Their methodology and respondents are too different.

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Written by Peter Amador

April 21, 2010 at 6:18 PM

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