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Unlocking the true value of sports fan engagement

4 minute read | Glenn Channell, Product Leader Nielsen Sports Australia and Kate Kopczynski, Associate Director, Nielsen Consumer & Media View | July 2019

Australian sporting bodies, rights owners, venues, agencies, publishers and brands face increasing competition for fan engagement as they battle through the fragmentation of audiences and proliferation of brands available to them. To enable the sports industry and associated brands to better understand sporting fans’ everyday behaviour as well as measure the ROI of sports sponsorship efforts Nielsen has launched FANLINKS.


The definition of a sports fan has evolved through the growing need to capture active sports consumers, in addition to general claimed sports fandom. By understanding avidity and engagement behaviours it allows for a more accurate assessment of fan reach and engagement across the total sports landscape. At a topline level, Nielsen FANLINKS key metrics include:

  • Claimed sports fan – a stated personal interest in itemised sports
  • Active sports consumers – measures whether an Australian actively engages with a sport (if not claimed fans). This is based on past 12 month behaviours – consumed the sport on TV or online (more than 30 minutes), attended an event or actively sought information in the media
  • Total Fan Base (claimed fans + active consumers) – a measure of the overall health of the sport and total available audience

Based on this fan identification framework, AFL ranks as the nation’s most popular sport, attracting over 9.5 million potential consumers. Further to this, the top 18 sports nationally attract a minimum total base of over 4 million Australian consumers, highlighting the broad array of consumer connections available to brands within market.


Beyond the first layer of general sports interest exists a plethora of behavioural options that brands can choose to engage with fans. Below are examples of behaviours Nielsen FANLINKS can breakout so that marketers can create plans to specifically target fans by their unique offerings and cut across all major domestic team fan bases.


Ultimately, the inherent value derived from target consumers will be driven by the ability to cut-through and connect in a meaningful way. Below are the percentage of fans who were able to recall the primary sponsors of BBL, AFL, NRL and Supercars. Ascertaining behavioural variants at a category and brand level helps determine the net commercial gains that can be achieved via sponsorship connections directly.

Case Study: Wallabies Fans Positively Connecting With Qantas

65% of avid Wallabies fans positively identify Qantas as a sponsor of the national team, equating to close to 1.4 million consumers. Within this Wallabies fan segment, ‘positive travel intentions’ and ‘preference towards Qantas’ strongly over-index against the Australian population norm – resulting in a net 4.3% (% point) market share uplift for Qantas (domestic and/or international ‘very likely’ brand travel intention).

Itemising variances in key performance metrics within a desired target audience allows sporting marketers to decipher the true value of fan engagement. In turn, this delivers a partnership appraisal that removes general market conditions for a brand from the end equation.

Overlaying detailed travel behaviours including time frame, destinations, spend, transport and brand intentions, enables incremental revenue return projections derived for Qantas against the targeted Wallabies investment.

Itemised results from Nielsen FANLINKS, amongst avid Wallabies fans aware of the partnership, project an estimated revenue return of over $30.2m for the brand.



FANLINKS Australia brings together two existing Nielsen data sets, Nielsen Consumer & Media View (CMV) and Nielsen SportsLink, providing a unique and in-depth market understanding of Australian sports fans and their connection & behaviour towards key industries and brand categories. By fusing these data sets together sporting bodies, rights owners, venues, agencies, publishers and brands will be able to identify, plan, execute & measure their sports business initiatives.

FANLINKS is a versatile information source that supports practical applications and decision making – linking the value of sports fans to commercial growth objectives.

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