Ear To The Ground is an agency with a really valuable consumer insight platform called the Fan Intelligence Network.
This is a collective of over 11,000 sports, esports and gaming fans from all over the world – all plugged into what’s going and with a finger on the pulse of local culture. It’s a powerful resource for getting up to date, qualitative insights, and for brands to co-create with.
ETTG have used this network for create the 2nd “Fan Intelligence Index” – a global ranking of the top 40 most culturally relevant brands in sport, esports and gaming.
I won’t repeat everything in the report here (if you’d like to see it, let me know) but this is the top 10.
One of the stand-out things for me is that the two most important factors in the ranking (as decided by the Fan Intelligence Network) are that brands need to Stand For Something and also be Driving Positive Change.
There were other important factors, but these two coming out on top seems to embed what we’ve seen in the last 12-18 months, firstly with the rise of athlete activism, and then with brands embracing and supporting the same causes.
It’s no surprise really to see Nike come out as the #1 brand here. Whether it’s by luck or design, some of their athletes have been the most vocal and visible around social causes (Kapernick, Rashford, Osaka, Biles) and Nike were quick to show their support.
New Balance has also made some good ground through smart partnerships with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Sadio Mané, with activation campaigns that lean into issues such as equality and racist abuse.
Likewise, EA Sports has made ground through some smart initiatives, showing support for gender quality, diversity and also the brilliant Kiyan Prince activity.
It’s important to note that this isn’t about brands adopting some vacuous “purpose” statement or virtue-signalling. It’s about brands genuinely doing what they can to make a difference to things that matter to their audience and to society as a whole.
Of course, standing for something and driving positive change aren’t the only things that matter, but all the indicators are that the new breed of fans (and especially younger ones) will continue to reward brands that do demonstrate these attributes.
Equality and social justice will continue to be issues at the front and centre of this, but as we come out of COP26 I think (and hope) that sustainability and climate change are going to become ever-more important to consumers and fans, and we’ll see brands in sport flexing their muscles to drive rapid change in this area.