With global sport more or less grinding to a halt in the last month, brands have been forced to reassess the role of sponsorships. In this opinion piece, BenchVote founder Adam Mussa [image below] shares his thoughts on how the outbreak will change sports sponsorships.
Before we even got to the point where global sporting seasons were put on hiatus due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Australian clubs were facing a receding sponsorship market. Sports and sponsorship industries will certainly survive, re-emerge and I think there will be a reshaping of how sports clubs work with brands for the better.
Having spoken to a number of sponsoring brands in the offseason, there was a growing sentiment that some clubs and rights holders were overvaluing their commercial assets, and underdelivering in tangible value.
Australian sports are operating in a buyer’s market across both sponsorship and broadcast, and we’ve already seen frustrated sponsors move their spending elsewhere at a time television broadcast deals look to be contracting. Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I thought we were well on the way towards a ‘sponsorship GFC.’
With the industry currently at a complete standstill, now is the time for a period of deep reflection and redefinition to deliver what modern, marketing-savvy brands are really after; a move away from one-to-many marketing to one-to-one personalised campaigns and conversations driven by content. Deep engagement gives sponsors an opportunity to build authenticity and trust when people are most engaged.
The traditional sports sponsorship model has always treated this as an afterthought – too much emphasis has been placed on placing a premium on jersey placements and signage, but I feel their true performance is difficult to gauge as the analytics around it are poor.
But while Australian sport is on its knees, now is the time to deeply integrate ‘always on’ digital sponsorship assets with the traditional to allow for two-way conversations and meaningful interactions with fans through things like interactive content, voting, trivia, quizzes, user generated content, coupled with data capture.
I foresee more and more sponsors moving to conversion, insights and data and customer acquisition as their KPI’s, but the vast majority of teams aren’t equipped to offer what an increasing number of brands are asking for: hard data acquisition and lead generation to realise an effective ROI from their sponsorship. Clubs have got to understand what the brand needs to achieve out of their sponsorship and become a vehicle to achieve it with their captive audience. That to me is where the true value in sponsorship will lie.
Only recently I had a conversation with a sponsorship manager at a ‘big club’ who lamented this exact scenario being forced upon them by a major partner. The need to adapt and evolve is a good thing from both the club and brand point of views in the long run.
So, where does this leave us?
It’s time to face the hard truth that we’re all competing for the same entertainment eyeballs and dollars. There is already some pain but the power is in the hands of the clubs, federations or rights holders during this time to come back leaner and better equipped to deliver what brands (and fans) will be absolutely desperate for when sport comes back later this year, or early next. This is an opportune moment for clubs and brands to become better collaborators.
Less reliant on the old, better equipped to deliver always-on experiences where fans truly live (their phones) and valuing them appropriately. The beauty of digital is that fresh and interesting inventory is infinite.
Although this is a truly difficult and unprecedented time for all of us, it’s also a rare gift and opportunity to pause, think and move forward better than we were before.
The rest is up to us…