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Brands who hit the Bullseye

From record-breaking viewership to brand association, find out how sponsors like Wickes and Paddy Power undoubtedly benefitted from sponsoring the UK Darts Championship.

Shaun Austin Head of Media 16 January 2024

I, along with many others in the UK, have been swept away by the darts this year. The story of Luke Littler, the 16-year-old participating in his first tournament making it all the way to the final – knocking out previous winners along the way – was quite the story.

The final was watched by 3.7M on Sky Sports, breaking multiple viewership records and making it the most-watched non-football sport event to date on Sky and NOW.

Whilst some brands might be wary of being associated with the Darts, there are significant benefits for those that did get involved.

Wickes sponsored Sky Sports’ coverage of the Darts, with idents being shown at the start and end of each of the ad breaks. Paddy Power had the naming rights for the tournament, and pledged to donate £1,000 for every 180 points thrown during the tournament to Prostate Cancer, as part of its The Big 180 initiative. Prostate Cancer’s branding was also emblazoned across Luke Littler’s shirt throughout the tournament.

For years now, Savanta has been evaluating many sponsorships for brands and media owners; now, we are looking to identify any impact brands have seen from being involved with the PDC Darts World Championship. Using BrandVue, Savanta’s daily brand tracking tool, we can have a look at each of the 3 aforementioned brands and if their affiliation with the darts has had an impact on their brand associations.

Let’s start with Wickes – the primary broadcast sponsor on Sky Sports.

Positive Buzz

Broadcast sponsorship is well known for increasing brand awareness – it’s an opportunity to remind people of the brand, at the start and end of every ad break, where other brands that advertise are only appearing once.

Positive Buzz refers to the percentage of consumers that have heard something positive about a given brand in the last month. The below chart looks at Wickes’ Positive Buzz; we’ve split the data to identify any discrepancies between the general UK population, and Sky viewers.

Prior to the tournament, Wickes’ Positive Buzz remained stable. But like clockwork, when the PDC World Darts Championships kicked off on the 15th December, we observed a noticeable deviation in the Positive Buzz trajectory for Sky viewers and the general population, which had previously been relatively in tandem.

As the tournament progressed, Sky viewers were more likely to report having heard something positive about Wickes in the past month compared to the UK’s general population – as the graph above shows, there’s an immediate spike in Positive Buzz specifically among Sky viewers.

Brand Love

At Savanta, we believe that Brand Love is an incredibly powerful metric; when a consumer genuinely loves a brand, they’re more likely to engage in loyal behaviours, such as repeat purchasing, or positive word-of-mouth.

We also know that when brands sponsor events or programmes, they can inherit attributes associated with the media they’re sponsoring – this is something we call ‘brand rub’. So, if there’s a lot of positive sentiment towards a programme, the brand sponsoring is likely to benefit too.

During December, Brand Love for Wickes increased for both the general UK population and Sky viewers. If we look at these scores among Sky viewers, we see a 42% increase in Brand Love (from 13% at the start of December up to 18.5% by the month’s end) just as the finals were starting to reach their crescendo.

But did the increases in Positive Buzz and Brand Love translate into any change of behaviours toward the brand? Amongst the general population, Consideration (% of consumers stating they’d consider using a brand in the future) for Wickes was declining, but among the Sky audience, we actually saw Consideration trend upwards – indicating that the sponsorship was paying off.

Altering someone’s behaviour towards a brand (i.e. converting sceptics into buyers) is one of the hardest things to master, and often only happens in longer term partnerships such as an ongoing channel sponsorship. So, to see any kind of movement on a metric such as Consideration is a real positive, especially as research has shown that Consideration is strongly linked to sales.

What about the tournament title sponsor: Paddy Power?

Brand Love for Paddy Power increased throughout December, hitting a 3-month peak at the end of the month as the championships started to get to the serious stages of the competition. The increase for Sky viewers was even greater, with Brand Love for Paddy Power standing at 9% at the start of December and hitting 15% by the end.

In the same period, this demographic’s Consideration for Paddy Power increased to 18% by the end of December.

Finally, did Prostate Cancer benefit at all?

Brand fit and authenticity are paramount when it comes to sponsorship. Against the backdrop of The Big 180 initiative, it was nice to see the most 180s were thrown by Luke ‘Cool Hands’ Humphries, whose girlfriend’s father was recently diagnosed with the disease.

Humphries threw 73 maximums, with 914 thrown in total across the tournament, and Paddy Power rounded up the donations to £1 Million, with the champ also pledging a generous portion of his winnings to the charity.

BrandVue data shows perceptions for Prostate Cancer UK increased in December (relative to November) around being Trusted, Caring and Committed.

Typically there is a perception that if a brand can afford to advertise on TV, then it must be successful and if a brand is making a commitment publicly through the medium of TV, then it will have to follow through with it – so to be associated with the largest non-football sporting event on Sky, and seeing a public commitment from Paddy Power to donate to Prostate Cancer, and having a truly authentic reason to be involved (given the personal link with eventual winner and number one player) will all have helped to boost perceptions of Prostate Cancer.

In addition to the boost in perceptions, the proportion of those that claim they’ve supported Prostate Cancer increased that month – with the proportion of Sky watchers stating they’ve supported Prostate Cancer increasing by 19% over the course of December.

So, it looks like everyone was a winner from the Darts. Prostate Cancer raised funds and awareness alike, the general public watched a new hero emerge, Sky saw record-breaking viewing figures, and the brands involved experienced boosts in awareness and positive perceptions.

The Darts World Championship turned out to be the first big sporting event of 2024, but this year will continue to be big for sport – perhaps the biggest event of all is the Olympics, but we also have UEFA Euros, a Cricket Twenty20 World Cup in the US for the first time, alongside many of the regular annual sporting events like Six Nations Rugby, UEFA Champions League, Formula 1 and the Tour de France. In addition to traditional sporting events we are also seeing eSports take off more than ever before – check out our gaming report here, for more information.

If you want to know more about how sponsorship and brand partnerships can help your brand – then please do get in touch.

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