Football players have the worst reputation of any sports players, while tennis players have the best, according to new research by PRWeek/OnePoll.
The survey of 2,000 members of the UK public comes as the Rugby World Cup kicks off. Twenty per cent of those asked said tennis players had the best reputation of any sports players, while 15 per cent said rugby players did. Athletes were seen as the best role models for young people by 18 per cent of those asked.
Footballers have the worst reputation, according to 82 per cent of those asked, despite it being the most watched sport among the general public.
Two-thirds of respondents said stories about footballers' affairs had damaged the reputation of football. Eighty-two per cent said brands were right to drop sponsorship of sports players who misbehaved, while 50 per cent said they would be less likely to buy a brand's products if it used a badly behaved sports player as an ambassador.
Coca-Cola (23 per cent), sponsors of London 2012, and Barclays (22 per cent), sponsors of the Premier League, were named as the brands respondents associated most with sports. These were followed by Aviva (nine per cent), O2 (seven per cent) and Mastercard (seven per cent).
Sky Sports was named as the broadcaster with the best reputation for sports coverage by 32 per cent, while BBC Sport came second with 30 per cent.
Cricket was seen as the most 'middle-class' sport by 20 per cent of respondents.
Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll
HOW I SEE IT
Rebecca Hopkins, Managing director, ENS
For those of us who live by the adage that sport is not about life or death, it is much more important than that (apologies to the late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly for the poetic licence), the thing that is most immediately staggering about these stats is not whether Federer is more lovely than Rooney, or whether the LTA has out-PRed the RFU, but the sheer lack of interest the numbers reflect.
Sport is as much about celebrity as about performance, so is often front-page news, attracting attention - if not passion or understanding - beyond its traditional fan base.
'Sports fan' is not a one-size-fits-all label - it spans connoisseurs and 'pub experts' alike. During the Rugby World Cup, there will be those who can name every team's fly-half, as well as casual pundits who want to join in a debate but don't know their openside from their offside.
What this survey reveals is that most people have a deeply held opinion on sport but sometimes that opinion is 'ultimately, I couldn't care less'.
EFFECT ON SALES
50% said they would be less likely to buy a product if a sports
personality used by the brand misbehaved
35% of respondents said they watched football most frequently
23% said they associated Coca-Cola more than any other brand with sport