LONDON: Sports fans have a mental inventory of major brands they associate with major events but they don't necessarily know which brands are sponsoring which events.

Over half of the brands most associated with the 2016 European Football Championships, for example, aren't actually sponsors according to new research from marketing technology business RadiumOne.

It polled 1,000 people in the UK interested in Euro 2016 and asked them to spontaneously cite (i.e. they weren't given a list) five brands they most associated with the tournament.

Although sponsors Coca-Cola (12%) and Adidas (10%) came top, non-sponsor Nike was third (9%) and five other brands not sponsoring the tournament – MasterCard, Heineken, Visa, Barclays and Budweiser – also featured among the ten most associated.

Carlsberg (5%) and McDonald's (2%) were the only other sponsors in the top ten.

Three of the sponsors – telecoms operator Orange (0.7%), Chinese consumer electricals brand Hisense (0.6%) and automaker Hyundai (0.4%) – barely registered, while another three – tyre brand Continental, Turkish Airlines and SOCAR (Azerbaijan's national oil company) – didn't feature at all among the 24 brands spontaneously cited.

Things got marginally better when respondents were shown a list of the ten sponsors, but only three – Adidas, Coca-Cola and Carlsberg – were associated with the tournament by over half of people interested in it.

The average level of prompted tournament association among fans across the ten sponsors was just 36%.

"With only three weeks left until the tournament starts, sponsors still have much work to do to activate their investment in terms of consumer association," said Rupert Staines, RadiumOne's European Managing Director.

"Particularly as non-sponsors are achieving a significant 'halo' effect from other football-related sponsorships, such as MasterCard and Heineken from the Champions League and Barclays from the Premier League."

He added that sponsors ought to be thinking about tapping into "the huge levels of second-screening" he expected during the tournament.

"Syncing online and TV in this way delivers a sustained series of 'moment marketing' opportunities and plays to the gravitas of the association, which non-sponsors won't have."

Data sourced from RadiumOne; additional content by Warc staff