With Saudi Arabia’s sporting footprint growing, Nielsen Sports has found Gulf brands and events are increasingly using sports data to hone their offerings.

The sports and entertainment landscape is changing significantly in the Middle East. The emergence of commercial events and properties in Saudi Arabia has meant that established right-holders and brands in the UAE and the rest of the GCC are having to review and fine-tune their own offering, as the consumer leisure environment becomes increasingly competitive. 

In Europe and North America, where strong industry competition has developed over decades, sports data has become invaluable and a core component of all commercial decision-making processes. Major rights-holders and brands invest hugely in data and expertise each year to arm themselves with business intelligence. 


Nielsen Sports has worked with Formula One stakeholders globally for three decades, and having been re-appointed by F1 owners Liberty Media as the preferred research provider, the partnership focuses on driving F1’s sponsorship exposure and media valuation programme. 

Matt Roberts, Research & Analytics Director at F1, believes the importance of sports data cannot be underestimated.

“We’re delighted to be working with Nielsen Sports and over the past two seasons, F1 has continued to innovate and push boundaries to help grow the sport,” Roberts says. “Nielsen’s data and insight have played a fundamental role in our quest to unlock commercial growth and reach new audiences.”

The partnership enables F1 to access global audience and media evaluation analysis through the use of Nielsen Sports’ unified measurement platform, Sports Connect, with F1 also receiving round-by-round insight reports delivered by Nielsen Sports’ in-house motorsport, digital and consultancy experts. 

“Greater regional industry competition has led to an increased appetite for data, and for more sophisticated measurement approaches. “

Rob Balsom, Nielsen Sports Director MENAP, feels that regional Middle East clients are now accelerating their use of data.

“Our experiences and expertise from more developed industry regions really benefit our clients locally in the Middle East,” Balsom tells Sport Industry Insider. “For 10 years Nielsen Sports has been supporting Middle East sports and entertainment stakeholders with data and advice”.

However, Balsom is noticing a big industry shift, adding: “Over the last few years, we are seeing the greater regional industry competition lead to an increased appetite for data, and for more sophisticated measurement approaches. This is driven by rights holders wanting to make more sustainable and measurable commercial progress, and by brands requiring clearer insight as to the impact and return of their sponsorships.”


An example of such a leading rights-holder in the Middle East who has embraced data, is the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), who has been a client of Nielsen Sports for over 5 years. The current UAEJJF research programme focuses on social media performance, digital fan engagement, and media evaluation across 18 UAE events on the UAEJJF annual calendar.

Mohamed Hussain Al Marzooqi, Director of Marketing and Communications at UAEJJF notes: “Nielsen Sports are an invaluable trusted advisor, providing data and insight that has allowed us to better engage with jiu-jitsu fans through our digital channels, and through robust media measurement data and expertise that has increased our partner ROI, greatly supporting our commercial discussions.


“The data Nielsen Sports supply is now woven into our stakeholder conversations. It allows us objectively to measure our performance and commercial impact, and to make intelligent and progressive decisions.”

Balsom feels the UAEJJF’s exemplifies how embracing sports data can help an organisation.

“Supporting the UAEJJF over so many years has really highlighted to them just how useful data can be,” Balsom explains, “Implementation of our experts’ recommendations, developed from work and learnings in other regions, has allowed UAEJJF to advance commercially and to better reach their fanbase.”

As the industry in the Middle East continues to mature and innovate, and more challenging decisions need to be made, Nielsen Sports predict data demand will increase further. Rights-holders and brands alike, as is the case in Europe and North America, will depend on data and independent advice to make better informed and smart decisions day-to-day.