Formula E fans drive sponsorship agenda


Analysing the relationship between fans, CSR and brands

Robin Meakin, Head of Insights

It is safe to say that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now firmly on the agenda of people and businesses around the world. CSM’s market research shows that CSR is front of mind for many sports fans too. This is particularly true of fans of Formula E, a sport created with a very specific CSR mandate around environmentally sustainable motorsport.
We commission an annual research study among sports fans – one of the largest of its kind – in which we survey 18,000 people aged 16+ from 18 countries around the globe asking questions about how they follow the sports they love, what products and services they buy and their broader attitudes towards society.
Two questions from our most recent survey, published earlier this year, show how fans will drive the sponsorship agenda for Formula E and how brands wanting to promote their CSR credentials will find a receptive audience among Formula E fans.

The first of these questions asked people the extent to which they aspired to own all the ‘best’ brands. ‘Best’ for most people is a combination of quality, design and desirability (and probably more expensive or premium as a result).
We used a seven-point scale where people could ‘disagree strongly’ at one end or ‘agree strongly’ at the other.  Our results show Formula E fans were very likely to strongly agree with aspirations to owning the ‘best’ brands.
  • 66% in the top 2 boxes vs. 36% for general population
In the second question, Formula E fans were in very strong agreement that a high degree of corporate social responsibility is key in their decision when choosing a brand.
  • 71% Formula E fans in the top 2 boxes vs. 38% for general population
So, are the people who aspire to owning the best brands the same people who place a high importance on CSR?
Analysis of the data tells us that there is a large group of fans who agree with both statements. Indeed, 75% of Formula E fans choose the top 3 boxes for both, meaning they have some degree of agreement with both statements – see graphic below.

What does this mean?
Our research suggests that Formula E fans are aspirational and want a relationship with what they consider to be the best brands. However, their definition of ‘best’ clearly has a filter relating to whether the brand meets their expectations for demonstrating a focus on CSR. This could be anything from a general sense of whether the brand is operating ethically to something more specific around, for example, their level of support for diversity in the workplace.
While you might expect Formula E fans to place a high priority on CSR given that it is one of the cornerstones of the sport, our research shows that fans of other sports also see it as being important albeit at a lower level than Formula E. Our data show that fans of Formula 1, football, basketball and many other sports all place greater importance on CSR than the general population.
This means that brands with a CSR story to tell will find a home among sports fans in general and Formula E fans in particular. The flip side, of course, is that brands without a CSR agenda may be increasingly less likely to achieve cut-through with sports fans.
Get in touch if you want to know more about CSM’s data on sports fans and how we can help you learn more about using sport as a way of engaging with consumers.