What are the opportunities, and challenges, that 2019 is going to bring the sports marketing world? Here are my top five:
Esports – 2019 will continue to see esports boom, kicked off just last week with the announcement that the UK Research and Innovation department has awarded £4m to the Weavr Consortium with a two-year demonstrator grant for esports broadcasting.
So where are the opportunities for brands within esports? For those looking to target a certain demographic – male and under 35 – esports can tick the box. Major global brands including Mastercard and SAP have grabbed this opportunity to diversify and reach a new audience. Mastercard, for example, are using their partnership with League of Legends to offer ‘money can’t buy’ experiences as part of their MasterPass loyalty reward programme. From what I hear, the esports organisation right now might not be as slick as some of the other major rights holders, but the opportunity is there for those who want to be early adopters – get in now, stake your claim and work with the esports organisers to grow the commercial potential as the results will be worth it. *
Content, content, content - We all know that content is key. But what makes good content? With our attention span now down to just 8 seconds (about the time it has taken you to read this sentence) – impactful content is output that can stand up against all the other distractions there are around us. Good content reaches the right audience, at the right time, with the right messaging and has the desired impact|action. With a partnership that is authentic and genuine, the best creative directors will marry the needs, desires and interests of the audience with the needs, desires and interests of the brand and bring them together to …. to do whatever is required – it could be to educate, inspire, challenge or provoke. But before each and every piece of content that is created (and content is not just video – it can also be imagery or words) it should go through a stringent process that starts with the simple question of ‘why’.
Branded content doesn’t just have to come from a sponsorship brand. User-generated content is hugely powerful and athletes are becoming more and more savvy to the value they bring their team or sponsor and audiences love to hear first hand from these sporting superstars. Check out The Players Tribune founded by American baseball star Derek Jeter, Religion of Sports created by NFL superstars Tom Brady and Michael Strahan and filmmaker Gotham Chopras and Uninterrupted founded by LeBron James.
Women’s sport – this will continue to boom in the UK and about time. We’ve written about the opportunities for brands here. But what will be key to really evening the playing field (excuse the pun) between women’s and men’s sport will be the requirement for a huge uplift in media coverage. Nielsen Sports Women’s Sports research reported a 37% increase in the annual number of women’s sports sponsorship deals announced between 2013 and 2017 with a 49% increase in the average monetary size of deal in same period but women’s sport currently receives just 5% of coverage compared to 77% for men’s sport. This means that brands investing now in women’s sport will have to work their rights fee investment so much harder to justify the return.
Cause related campaigns – Brands that align themselves to a cause and then a sports team are seeing a really strong uplift in returns, both emotional returns with their consumers but also finding a great way to inspire an internal workforce. A credible tie-in (for example the Volvo Ocean Race with their Ocean Summits conferences and on-board scientific data collection and Sky with their Ocean Rescue campaign) will reap rewards for the brands and rights holders. Changing public behaviours, making changes internally (thanks to its Ocean Rescue campaign, Sky has committed to be single-use plastic free by 2021), inspiring a workforce and using the power of sport to raise awareness of the issues, it’s a really positive shift for the future of sports partnerships.
Measurement - If you don’t know what value a partnership brings, how do you know whether it is worth it?
We’ve written several times about the topic of measurement and will continue to do so this year as we develop ways to give our clients more insights in to the value of their partnerships. It’s dry, it’s unsexy, it’s spreadsheets, but get the budget in place from the outset and invest the time to understand the data clearly so when it comes to re-negotiation, or to justify the spend internally, you’ll be grateful you took the time to set it up from the start. You can read the latest two blogs written by Mallory Group Director, James Toller, on this topic here and here.
2019 brings lots of promise and lots of challenges for our industry – and we can’t wait to get started.
* I fought the ‘but is it sport?’ comments for many years when I worked for the Professional Darts Corporation. My personal opinion that if my kids said they were going to go and do ‘sport’ and then sat in front of the TV gaming I would not be happy. But sport is entertainment and gaming and esports is entertainment. You can fight it, but will be left behind. So embrace it and get on with it :-)
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