Asian sports fans less cynical than overseas counterparts but issues remain for sponsors

fanreportSports fans in Asia are far less cynical than their Australian or European counterparts when it comes to sponsorship as a study claimed only 18 per cent of fans around the world will recommend a brand to a friend.

A Fan Revolution study by sports marketing research firm Repucom sampled 10,000 people across eight countries – the UK, USA, Germany, China, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Mexico.

It identified seven sub-categories, with the aim of discovering what motivates them and where sponsors and rights holders should be focusing their attention.

But while a lack of cynicism in Japan, China and Malaysia will be welcomed by sponsors, there are other problem areas for brands.

The study found three groups to be receptive to sponsorship; ‘trend positives’ – people who watch sport to identify as a member of a group; ‘game experts’ – those who want a deep understanding of the game and ‘connection fans’, described as those who enjoy sports for the opportunity to come together with friends/family.

The four other groups are harder to reach, the report said.

They are classed as ‘armchair fans’ who like to connect more widely while watching from home; ‘busy’, a group who have too many other priorities to care; ‘disengaged’, who have little interest in sport except as something to watch on TV with friends, and ‘cynics’, who ignore sponsorship and view it as “a necessary evil”.


The research found fans in Asia were dramatically less derisive that their overseas counterparts with cynics only representing seven per cent in Malaysia, six per cent in Japan and only three per cent in China. The global average was 11 per cent with Australia the highest at 18 per cent.

While encouraging on one hand for sponsors, there were other less positive results.

Japan sporting groups


Malaysia sporting groups

In Japan, only five per cent were deemed ‘trend positives’ – the group “most likely to act as a result of being exposed to sponsorship” – while in China and Malaysia, just four per cent and eight per cent respectively were game experts, who are also receptive to sponsorship if activations “enhance their appreciation of the detail”.

The global average for game experts was 13 per  cent.

Malaysia was also well below the 25 per cent average for the connection fan, a group who, according to the report, “account for the largest proportion of all sponsorship response”. Just 17 per cent of Malaysians fell into this category, with Japan just 13 per cent, the lowest of all the markets studied.

China on the other hand had the highest number of connection fans, with 36 per cent, while it was above the nine per cent global average in the trend positive camp with 17 per cent.

Malaysia also has a higher than average trend positive showing with 13 per cent which, the report said, demonstrates a propensity to “use sponsor brands to show off their association with their favourite teams”.

“Sponsorship is not only accepted in Malaysia, it is welcomed,” Repucom said, although the report added, significantly, that the attitude was particularly prevalent in football and F1 formula racing but did not extend to the country’s most popular sport, Badminton.

China sporting groupsMeanwhile, Japan’s armchair fan group – described as a “harder audience for sponsors to activate” – hit 30 per cent, almost double the 18 per cent average. The figure highlighted how Japan remains one of the hardest markets for sponsors to crack despite its lack of cynicism.

“Japan’s ageing population, hence the high proportion of armchair fans, provides rights holders with an ongoing challenge,” the report says.

China and Japan also had high percentages in the ‘busy’ category (25 and 22 respectively) with Japan and Malaysia also possessing a higher than average ‘disengaged’ fan base with 12 and 14 per cent respectively.

Steve Jones


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