Chess is the Sleeping Giant of the World in Popularity, Sponsorship!
admiration for the game.
Across the board, chess players and non-players alike rank chess significantly higher than any other game or sport for attributes such as intelligence, sophistication, strategy, perfection and complexity, confirming top branding agency Pentagram’s view that: “Chess is about Thinking and Winning.”
Also Read: Making Chess Glamorous, Exciting: The Guardian on Andrew Paulson
Most surprising is the percentage of adults who currently play chess (either weekly, monthly or during the past year): 12% in the UK, 15% in the U.S., 23% in Germany, 43% in Russia, and 70% of the 121 million Indians considered ABC1 by advertisers. From The Wire and The West Wing to Harry Potter and Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, chess remains ubiquitous in popular culture as a metaphor for conflict and power.
In the real world, when Enrique Peña became the new president of Mexico in July, the New York Times attributed his success to “the same attention to strategy he applies while playing chess”. And, when US trader Boaz Weinstein cleaned up after JP Morgan lost $1.8bn, the NYT explained: “He is a chess master.”
But the numbers themselves are astonishing: six million, 35 million, 16 million, 50 million and 85 million people in the UK, US, Germany, Russia, and India (ABC1), respectively, are playing chess regularly and more than half are aged 18 to 34.
And, when YouGov dug deeper, they found out how people who play chess regularly differ from those who don’t.
Chess players are better informed than those who either used to or have never played chess: they are five times more likely to read The Guardian (UK) or The New Scientist; 2.5 times more likely to read The Week, the Wall Street Journal or The Economist; and 2.2 times as likely to read the New York Times (source: Havas/TGI).
Although chess has very low barriers to entry and is played across the socioeconomic spectrum, in the US 78% of regular chess players are university graduates and among households with incomes over $120,000, 21% are regular chess-players.
Despite their popular image as reclusive ascetics, chess players consume immoderately: in categories traditionally used to measure affluence (cars, watches, air travel, branded alcohol consumption, online purchasing), global research organisation TGI (part of WPP) reports that chess players are 40 to 100% more likely to purchase a luxury item than a non chess-player.
These findings from YouGov and TGI were commissioned by Agon, the commercial enterprise that was accorded the rights to the World Chess Championship Cycle earlier this year by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
Entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, founder of Agon, said: “In an official International Olympics Committee (IOC) submission a few years ago, FIDE cited the number of chess players worldwide to be 605 million. I wanted to know if this was true and who and where they were. I was happily surprised; the results far exceeded our expectations.”
They confirm the premise from Steve Martin, CEO of M&C Saatchi Sports, that chess is the “sleeping giant” of the sports/entertainment world. “It’s rare to get something so untainted by previous branding,” he said.
Agon, founded by the London-based entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, has been granted the long-term, exclusive rights to organise and commercialise the World Chess Championship Cycle by FIDE, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs.
Agon will restore World Chess’ high profile in traditional print and broadcast media, consolidate a global audience with more accessible online and mobile products, curate gripping live events, and bring together government and business partners in a rarified atmosphere. Agon also actively supports local, municipal initiatives, especially the Chess in Schools Movement, opening up competition venues to 200 youngsters every day of play for competition and instruction.
Audience: Chess is regularly played by a demographic that is the holy grail of sponsors (affluent, young, educated men), and is more closely attributed with qualities such as intelligence, sophistication, strategy, intensity and perfection than golf, poker, tennis, video games, football, basketball, ice-hockey, cricket and motor racing. In the U.S., more people play chess than either tennis or golf.
Games: The games will be held in a purpose-built ‘cockpit’ (created by Pentagram Design) before an intimate live audience and broadcast in various formats to the public via cable, online and mobile platforms. ChessCasting, a new application developed by the former Director of Interactive Design at the BBC, Vibeke Hansen, will transform chess into a spectator sport: both the live and remote audiences will be able to understand games through the eyes of a grandmaster and approximate the emotions of the players themselves. A true hybrid of game and sport, the audience will be able to watch and play at the same time.
Social Media: Chess is not a ‘casual’ game. Unlike other sports, chess content remains vital and engaging long after a game is over and the results are known. Technology has transformed chess over the last 30 years, but has not yet tapped into its huge social potential; as soon as it is easier and more exciting to play with friends than against a computer or a mobile phone, this audience will engage and could become one of the largest groups in social media.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Unlike other games, chess has an educational value recognised by governments in dozens of countries, including the European Union, to improve test scores and fight against Attention Deficit Disorder, and is now commonly included in school curricula. During the World Chess Championship
Cycle, 200 children will be invited to participate in tournaments and instruction each morning before the competitions begin.
Events: The World Chess Championship Cycle will bring together municipal and national government, the diplomatic corps, global brand partners and local corporate representatives.
Sponsorship: Agon will collaborate with brand partners from diverse sectors – but with similar reach, values and aspirations – to make this a sustainable business. Sponsors will derive value not just from association with those who play chess regularly (12 to 70 per cent), but also with those who have played chess (69 to 91 per cent) and continue to attribute the game with such rare and admirable qualities.
• The US survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc US panel of over 1,000,000 individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. An email is sent to panellists selected at random from the base sample according to the sample definition, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey. [The sample definition could be “US adult population” or a subset such as “US adult females”]. YouGov Plc normally achieves a response rate of between 35% and 50% to surveys, however this does vary dependent upon the subject matter, complexity and length of the questionnaire. The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data.
• The methodology for the UK, Germany, Russia and India surveys was the same as for the US, conducted using online interviews administered to members of the YouGov Plc UK panel of 350,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys, the YouGov Plc German panel of 120,000+ individuals, the YouGov Plc Russian panel of 77,000 individuals, and the YouGov Plc Indian panel of 8,000+ individuals.
NB: All figures, unless otherwise stated in the footnotes, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample sizes were 4,161 adults (UK), 2,024 adults (US), 953 adults (Germany), 2,013 adults (Russia), and 1,018 adults (India). Fieldwork was carried out between 16 to 18 May (US), 30 March to 02 April (UK), 02 July to 06 July (Germany), 09
to 23 July (Russia), and 03 to 12 July (India). All surveys were carried out online. All sets of figures for the UK, US, Germany and Russia have been weighted and are representative of each country’s adults (18+). The figures for India are representative of the online Indian adult population. “Online population” is defined by YouGov as “anyone who has accessed the internet”.
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