Understanding Socially Responsible Sports Fans

Social activism is on the rise and sports fans expect industry leaders and sponsors to champion change

By Angela Kryhul

Sports fans around the globe expect sports industry leaders and sponsors to lead the way on social issues, according to the YouGov Sport white paper Global Sports 2022: Uncovering the Socially Responsible Sports Fan.

Social justice, anti-racism, diversity, equality and inclusion and the environment are just some of the issues on sports fans’ minds these days. “With activism on the rise, and awareness around these issues constantly growing, younger generations in particular are expressing a preference for brands that deliver on those purpose statements,” the report says. “The brands that sponsor or are involved in sport have an opportunity to create positive associations in the mind of the consumer by tailoring their communications to this highly engaged audience.”

What matters to Canadian sports fans? Here’s where they stand on the following statements:

> Sport needs to be more inclusive (nearly 70% agree)
> Diversity and inclusion should be considered when putting on events (over 60% agree)
> Sponsorship is a way to maintain social relevance (nearly 40% agree)
> I try to buy only from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible (36% agree)

When YouGov asked socially conscious sports fans in the U.S. which issues are considered acceptable in a brand’s communications, respondents listed these in order of priority: 

1: Human rights
2: Environmental issues
3: Animal cruelty
4: Education
5: LGBT+ rights
6: Local issues
7: Gender issues (Me Too, feminism)
8: Aligning with specific charities
9: Immigration
10: International issues

The white paper authors conclude that, among the social issues studied, equal pay in women’s sports seems to show the most room for improvement, with 71% of Canadian sports fans agreeing that the salaries of professional sports people should be based on skill, not gender.

In addition, 51% of global sports fans agree that the winner of the FIFA Women’s World Cup should earn the same as the winner of the men’s FIFA World Cup. When it comes to tennis tournaments, 56% of global sports fans agree the prize money should be the same for both male and female winners.

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