Using Media Z Anna Breslauer, MEC, examined the audience perceptions of the two iconic sporting events and how these affect brand partnerships.

Every four summers, a global audience is treated to a spectacular international football event. The World Cup is highly anticipated by the public for months leading up to its commencement, and for brands, even years. Another favourite each year, particularly in the UK, are the Wimbledon Championships – valued by partner brands but in a contrasting and understated way. This summer we witnessed the World Cup and Wimbledon simultaneously allowing for comparison of the distinctive approaches to advertising and sponsorship. With 20.5 million viewers watching the World Cup final and 10 million watching the Wimbledon final in the UK, (BBC, Wimbledon,) these properties are highly sought-after for sponsorship, and for the World Cup, prime television spots on ITV.

Examining data from MEC's brand health study MediaZ provides a unique insight into consumer attitudes on potential sponsorship properties based around particular characteristics, enabling brands to assess their fit with the property and conclude whether particular sponsorship reflects how consumers perceive their brand. FIFA is known for its colossal fees, granting brands exclusive category rights which limit the number of potential and existing partners. These partners include Adidas, Visa, Hyundai/Kia, Emirates and Sony, as well as its most prominent partner, Coca-Cola, which represents the qualities of athleticism, travel and entertainment which are associated with the World Cup.

Looking at the attributes of the World Cup, four out of five of the highest scoring attributes have positive connotations, with the fifth, 'Straightforward' being neutral. The World Cup is viewed as being 'Fun' (50%), 'Adventurous' (41%), 'Playful' (40%), and 'Desirable' (37%). By comparison, Wimbledon's partners reflect its more refined and perceived premium status as a sporting tournament, comprising of brands such as IBM, Lavazza, Evian, Rolex and Lanson. Whilst Wimbledon's highest scoring attributes include 'In control' (43%), 'Straightforward' (39%), and 'Trustworthy' (35%).

Wimbledon is perceived to be 30 percentage points more 'Trustworthy' than the World Cup by MediaZ respondents, which is a reflection on the aforementioned premium brands, whist the World Cup only scored 5%. This quality is illustrated by its strictness in upholding traditions including the all-white apparel rule. Trustworthiness is also reflected in its long-standing partnership with Rolex, whose official timekeeper status dates back to 1978 – exhibiting qualities of tradition and precision. This partnership also reflects the 'In control' attribute that MediaZ respondents recognise in Wimbledon with a score of 43% – double that of the World Cup. <.p>

Comparing the World Cup and Wimbledon championships
Source: MediaZ, MEC

MediaZ shows that Wimbledon is perceived to be 12 percentage points more 'Fun' than the World Cup with a score of 62%; an arguably surprising statistic given that brands associated with happiness and entertainment such as Coca-Cola are principal and longstanding sponsors of the World Cup. The most recent Wimbledon partner is Stella Artois, which this year was the first Official Beer of the Championships. This new partnership with a beer brand, a product associated with socialising and enjoyment, is perhaps an action taken to help shift perceptions of the brand to that of a more premium status. Although it is trialling new partnerships, Wimbledon strongly values its existing ones, namely Slazenger which has been a partner since 1902. The longstanding nature of this partnership heightens its premium nature.

As well as sponsorship opportunities, the World Cup offers some extremely desirable advertising spots. ITV shared coverage rights this year with BBC and saw its net ad revenue rise by 11% to £322m (BBC).

It is vital for advertisers to understand how people perceive these events if they are considering sponsorship to ensure they are targeting the correct audience and that the event and the brand complement each other.