DUBAI: Brands can achieve a significant uplift in sales and consumer trust in the Gulf by linking with high-profile athletes, regional industry figures have argued.

"The day an endorsement is announced there tends to be an increase in sales and in company stocks," Anwar Shaikh, head of business development Mena at KHP Consulting, a sports marketing agency in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

He estimated that a regional brand endorsement by an athlete could be worth as much as $2m, although he added that there were many variables to consider, including the profile of the individual and length of endorsement.

"Athletes are role models to millions around the world and can influence consumer propensity to purchase in a positive way," observed Mike Davis, director of Fast Track Middle East, a sports and entertainment marketing agency based in Abu Dhabi.

He added that brands tended to use global stars, such as KFC Arabia and Chrisiano Ronaldo, as there were few regional figures that were able to cut through multiple markets and demographics. "Not a lot of brands see the benefit of promoting through local high-profile individuals," he noted.

There are other indicators, as well as the financial return, that can be used to measure success, pointed out Max Roures, area manager Middle East for Spanish sports management firm Media Base Digital. One such indicator was consumer engagement, and he said that trust in a product or brand could increase by as much as 75% following a campaign with a sports star.

Sports sponsorship is also proving effective. Ben Faber, director of communications at Fast Track Middle East, told The National how HSBC, the bank which sponsors the Dubai Rugby Sevens, had seen specific returns.

He reported that 69% of non-customers who had attended HSBC's hospitality area at the event said the experience had made them think about starting to bank with it.

The level of sports marketing in the region is only likely to increase given the level of government investment in sport and Qatar's hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

"Sports tourism is enormous," said Faber. "There are four major international golf tournaments across Abu Dhabi and Dubai, three major tennis tournaments, the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi … and there is quite a lot of interest about when or if the UAE or Qatar or any other Gulf state will bid for the Olympic Games in the future," he added.

Data sourced from Gulf News, The National; additional content by Warc staff