Sporting Events | Thought Leadership

Kicking off the New Year: a winning sporting calendar for 2024

Author: Sophie Marsh
Date: 22/01/24

Kicking off the New Year: a winning sporting calendar for 2024

It’s winter, the nights are cold, the days are dark and summer still feels very far away.

However, lighter evenings and warmer days will soon be upon us, bringing with them an exciting season of sport. To kick off 2024, we’ve picked some key sports to look out for, and using our unique Fan Emotion Index™, shown how the drivers of fandom behind each are nuanced.

UEFA Euros 2024

The Men’s Football Euros have now returned to their 4-year cycle, after being disrupted in 2020. Host nation Germany will commence the tournament on 14 June as they face Scotland in the opening game, and England will look to go one better than their 2021 runner-up finish.

As we prepare for another ‘summer of football’ to sweep the nation, the sense of ‘belonging’ that unites a football-mad nation like ours will be visible on flags, TV screens, and in pub gardens across the country. The Fan Emotion Index™, our proprietary insight tool that measures what fans truly feel, places ‘belonging’ as one of the top human needs met by football fandom.

Fan-emotion-index-pie-chart

As the eyes of the nation will be on the football fields of Germany this summer, sponsors and partners of the tournament and teams should be looking to connect to football fans through these implicit drivers of fandom, harnessing those that best suit their own brand and messaging, whether this is a need for ‘belonging’, ‘novelty’ or ‘pleasure-seeking’. Goals, wins and star players are of course important, but it’s the subconscious drivers behind our fandom that sponsors who want to stand out from the pack will need to harness. If you’d like to find out more about what motivates a football fan (or any fan for that matter!), you can watch the replay of our Fan Emotion webinar here

The Olympic & Paralympic Games

2024 is an Olympic year and this summer, the focus of the world will be on Paris for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For athletes, the Olympic gold medal represents the pinnacle of a sporting career. For fans, the Games offer the ultimate athletic showcase. The event is unique in that audiences are treated to an array of sporting endeavours, from thousands of participants, across hundreds of nations. There simply isn’t anything else like it.

The talent on the field is not the only way in which the Olympics is unrivalled. According to our Human Understanding Lab, the phenomenon of ‘belonging’ that is intrinsic to many sporting fandoms is replaced by the human driver of ‘idealism’ when it comes to Olympic fans.

Why? Well. We know that the Olympic Movement strives to build a better world through sport. As a result, the Games intersect local, national, and international rivalries, and competition is embedded in the Olympic values of excellence, respect, and friendship. As such, sporting fans acknowledge the higher purpose of the Games that extends beyond the individual and the tribality of other sporting spectacles.

This sense of idealism and purpose offers an opportunity for The Olympic Partners and all brands associated with the Games to laser focus on purpose-marketing activations in the lead up to Paris 2024, and really maximise their sponsorship opportunities.

Fan Emotion Index - General vs. Olympic Fans - pie chart

Solheim Cup

Typically taking place every 2 years, it was announced that the women’s Solheim Cup will now be played every two ‘even years’, in rotation with the men’s Ryder Cup, and will be gracing our screens again in 2024.

This revised schedule will allow the spotlight to shine on the Solheim Cup in its own right. The 2023 Solheim Cup was the most watched iteration of the competition to date, with a peak audience of 734,000 tuning in to watch the tournament-deciding singles on Sky. These figures meant that the 2023 Solheim Cup became the 4th highest viewing peak ever for women’s sport on Sky Sports. Sky have reported continued growth for other women’s sports such as The Hundred, The Ashes, and the Women’s Super League.

When it comes to golf fandom, it’s one of the few sports where ‘the need for respect’ is one of the key implicit drivers. Golf fandom is seen to help gain respect within a fans peer group, and it’s a sport where having an opinion is important. Sponsors looking to leverage the game need to understand these needs and meet them through their activation.

Golf as a sport is steeped in values, traditions, and a high level of respect. 2024 is shaping up to be the year that the women’s edition of the famous intercontinental clash is set to really receive the respect it deserves.

Tennis

The Wimbledon Championships 2023 saw 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz reign supreme over world current no. 1 Novak Djokovic, following a thrilling 5-set final on Centre Court. This was the first time since 2002 that the Grand Slam was not won by one of the ‘Big Four’ (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Murray).

While in the women’s game, 19-year-old Coco Gauff also won her first Major at the 2023 US Open and reached a career high of number 3 in the world rankings. As well as Gauff, eyes are on the likes of Swiątek, Sabalenka and Rybakina, with tennis pundits and fans alike considering the rise of a new ‘Big Four’ in women’s tennis.

Our Fan Emotion Index™ signals that feelings of ‘novelty’ and ‘play’ are far stronger emotional drivers for tennis fans than feelings of ‘winning’. It could be that this new dawn of rising tennis stars may breathe a newfound sense of excitement and interest into the sport, which has long been dominated by the same big names. A sense of this was felt with the roar of the crowd in support of Alcaraz in SW19 last summer... as well as the launch of the Break Point series on Netflix which chronicled the season of top emerging stars.

F1 Academy

2024 will play host to the second season of the F1 Academy – a motorsport league designed to increase the number of women in the top level of motorsports – and with Susie Wolff at the helm, the upcoming season is already shaping up to be even better than the last.

Broadcast arrangements for 2024 are still to be announced, so it is not yet known if, or where, the upcoming F1 Academy season will be available to watch. Viewing figure records witnessed by the likes of the Solheim Cup, the Ashes, the Women’s Super League, and Coco Gauff’s US Open victory suggest that there is incremental growing demand for women’s sport.

Here at Sport UNLIMITED, we’re looking forward to seeing which broadcasters are set to grasp this exciting opportunity, one that would offer brands and sponsors the chance to reach an even wider audience, driven by engagement with women’s sport. Although this wider audience is not limited to female fans only, we know that the ‘female fan opportunity’ is one not to be missed. If you’d like to find out more about what we mean by this, you can read our insights into the Female Fan here.

2024 is shaping to be a thrilling and somewhat move-making year for sport and the opportunities for brands and rightsholders to capitalise on the changing tides in this arena cannot be understated. To find out more about how your brand can play to win in this space, contact Senior Account Manager, Sophie Marsh at Sophie.Marsh@unlimitedgroup.com.