The Influence of Sports

Learn everything brands need to know about the evolving landscape of sports and luxury marketing with insights from Karla Otto and Lefty’s ‘The Influence of Sports’ report. Catch up on the market opportunities and data that define the industry's future, including how influencer marketing and social media has amplified the impact of sports and introduced a new era of brand-conscious athletes to the world.

The Influence of Sports

Sports Impact Soars by 35% YoY

Sport is undeniably at the height of the cultural zeitgeist. This summer’s events, from Wimbledon to the Women’s World Cup, have shattered viewership records, boosting Sports EMV (Earned Media Value) by an average of 35% YoY, according to Lefty data.

LVMH Goes for Gold

Ticket sales and broadcast figures are now only a drop in the ocean. Social media has catapulted sport to the top of the agenda. Consequently, partnerships are flourishing as brands compete for a slice of sports’ expansive influence and meet consumers where they’re spending time. This is illuminated by luxury super-conglomerate LVMH’s significant partnership deals in the upcoming 2024 Olympics and Paralympic Games, spanning from fashion to hospitality. Meanwhile, athletes and sports clubs are forging deeper links with the creative sphere, gracing high profile events such as Men’s Fashion Month, or appointing Creative Directors to build innovative, creative strategies such as influencer partnerships and merchandising opportunities.

Athletes Are the Ultimate Influencers

But what makes athletes such successful influencers? Authenticity reigns supreme. Their endorsement of products is often linked to their performance, lending everything they touch unmatched validity. Additionally, community is central to sport, often with religious-like followings, making athletes some of the most engaging icons worldwide. 

Sport in the Age of Social Media

Social media has only perpetuated the influence of sports, introducing a fresh wave of diverse, socially savvy, brand-conscious athletes to its platforms. This surge brings with it a new wave of cultural relevance and untapped partnership prospects.

Clockwise from left: Jenna Ortega for Adidas. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton from the Mercedes- AMG Petronas F1 Team. Earling Haaland playing with EA Sports FC. Carlos Alcaraz for the Louis Vuitton Men’s New Formal Collection. Lionel Messi for Budweiser. All Images: Instagram

Football Fever

The Most Powerful Sport in the World

Football (or Soccer,) is the world's most powerful sport, boasting an astounding 3.5 billion fans globally (Sporstmonkie, 2023). It's not just the fan base that's unmatched; it's the colossal reach in broadcasting rights, sponsorship deals, and media value. The 2023 UEFA Champions League alone raked in $2.47 billion in Earned Media Value (EMV), marking a remarkable 69% year-over-year growth, as per Lefty data.

A Sponsorship Playground

With a sizeable and diverse fan following (which is ever diversifying, thanks to TikTok trends such as #blokecore) football finds itself in the height of the cultural conversation and the enviable position of choice when it comes to brand partnerships. Particularly in European leagues, teams and players are awash with official sponsors, encomassing sports brands to banking, food, beverages, entertainment, travel, and hospitality.


F1 Accelerates Impact

F1’s Fashion Joyride

F1’s growth has prompted a wash of investments of cross-sector sponsorships, partnerships, brand activations and placements, including car livery sponsorship, after-parties, on-site hospitality and VIP dressing. Naturally, automotive companies lead in EMV, generating $19.1M in 2023, while luxury fashion closely follows at $18.8M EMV, holding nearly a quarter of the share of voice.

Luxury fashion generates $18.8M EMV, holding nearly a quarter of the share of voice.

Lewis Hamilton stands out as a constant value-driver for luxury brands. While endorsing Tommy Hilfiger ($4.99M EMV) — the sponsor of the Mercedes-Benz team — Hamilton consistently drives media impact for luxury labels as varied as Louis Vuitton to Saul Nash. The driver is now a front-row favorite, even starring in high-profile campaigns such as Valentino, making him F1’s most valuable driver in terms of media impact at ($186.4M EMV).

Sports & Style: A Clear Win

All Eyes on the NBA and NFL

As reported by Sports Business, beyond traditionally elitist sports such as F1 and tennis, luxury brands are recognizing the mass appeal of style- savvy stars in the NBA and NFL. NBA stars, in particular, are rewriting off-court style with their legendary 'Tunnel Fits,' showcasing directional styling from the likes of Rick Owens and Thom Browne. Their impact has caught the eye of major fashion brands: in Men's SS24, athlete rankings surged from #14 in AW23 to #5 in SS24’s show attendees, with Lefty monitoring a remarkable 120 athletes throughout the season – 37% of whom were NBA stars. LeBron James alone generated over $1 million EMV with his appearance at Louis Vuitton.

LeBron James wearing Thom Browne. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Women Rising

Empowering Shifts in Female Sports

The release of the “Barbie Movie” alongside the Women’s World Cup heralded a fresh wave of female empowerment in 2023. Amidst the historically male-dominated sports arena, change is in motion. 

Brands Embracing Female Athletes

Industry leaders like Nike are driving transformation. During the prestigious Haute Couture Week, Nike’s ‘Goddess Awakened’ performance united a cohort of Nike athletes in a dance narrative of feminine expression. This event, according to Lefty’s data, generated over $650K EMV, epitomizing Nike’s significant investment in women’s wear and women athletes. As the impact of female athletes grows in tandem with increased viewing of women’s sports, opportunities for brand partnerships are expanding in the sector. Several brands swiftly recognised this potential. Martine Rose partnered with Nike, outfitting the USA squad in formalwear, while Prada did the same for China’s team. Emerging designer Grace Wales Bonner crafted Jamaica’s team kit for the tournament. However, the opportunities aren’t limited to fashion: Lefty’s data presents the proliferation of market categories entering partnerships with women – beauty, for one emerges as an under explored market opportunity.


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