2016 was a landmark year for sport, headlined by Euro 2016, Rio Olympics and the Paralympics. Adding to its lustre were the fairytale moments for the underdogs who rose to victory – Leicester City (EPL), Chicago Cubs (World Series), Portugal (Euro 2016) and closer to shore, the Western Bulldogs' first AFL Flag since 1954 and the Cronulla Sharks’ first NRL Premiership.
2016 was also a memorable year for sponsorship in Australia. Three moments stood out.
• Nine AFL clubs signed up to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s responsible gambling charter, walking away from lucrative sports betting sponsorship revenue in order to protect their communities.
• Eleven new professional women’s teams were created to compete in the newly formed AFL and Netball competitions starting this year. Despite the increase in the number of teams competing for sponsorship dollars, all eighteen teams quickly attracted blue-chip sponsors both current and new to the market, expanding its overall size.
• With the sharing economy becoming mainstream, new categories and brands entered the sponsorship market en masse, such as Foodora, Uber and Airbnb, attracted to the large fan-bases of rightsholders. New rightsholders have also entered the fray, especially in the area of eSports, armed with massive participation numbers and a large sponsorship inventory.
So with the thrill of 2016 behind us, what should we expect in 2017? Here are three sponsorship trends that are likely to emerge:
1. Creating new digital/tech sponsorship assets and offerings
The evolution of sports consumption in the digital space is well and truly underway, fueled by technological advances and the proliferation of new platforms and channels like OTT streaming and Facebook Live. Rightsholders will need to grow their inventory and invest in new assets to keep up with consumer patterns and sponsor expectations.
But whether it is purchasing new hardware like VR headsets or creating software like chatbots (e.g. the Blackmores Well Bot recently featured at the Australian Open that we helped to develop), these assets must also fulfill the needs of the on-demand economy. Rightsholders must have the capabilities to utilise those assets, deliver personalised and prompt messaging to their supporters and service their clients in the process.
2. Data and analytics will transform off-field performance
Rightsholders have been collecting data from their supporters over the years, but are still grappling with how to extract actionable insights and ideas to pitch to sponsors. Providing mere demographic data is no longer sufficient.
Just as sports teams are crunching statistical data, ala Moneyball, to improve on-field performances, sponsorship departments will also need to invest in better data and measurement tools to take the guessing out of not only what their fans are thinking (e.g. psychographic data), but how they will behave and spend in future.
This can all be achieved through the use of cloud-based dashboards, data visualisation software, predictive analytics, and even machine-learning capabilities. The adoption of data analytics has already hit critical mass overseas (USA) and I expect Australia to follow suit this year and the next.
3. Collaborations and co-creations will flourish
Expect to see more brands use their marketing and sponsorship spend to collaborate with 3rd parties and create real things benefiting the community at large, through the lens of sports. Volvo collaborated with a Swedish startup to create a reflective safety spray for cyclists called Lifepaint which is invisible during the day but glows brightly in the glare of headlights at night. The product has nothing to do with selling cars. But doesn’t it? It reinforces the company's core brand value that Volvo is all about safety, not only for its drivers but other people on the road too.
Samsung collaborated with neuroscientists to create a wearable headband called Brainband to monitor concussions in rugby players, reinforcing their innovation credentials in the area of consumer gadgets. Similarly, Optus teamed up with Google and Shark Mitigation Systems to develop a piece of breakthrough shark detection technology called Clever Buoy to demonstrate the power of the Optus network.
These are some examples of successful collaborations which major brands have turned to, in lieu of just providing sponsorship money, to connect with fans directly.
I look forward to another eventful year of sponsorship in 2017. If you would like to hear more about what we do at Bastion EBA, you can reach us here or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read the full version of this article, you can do so on my Linkedin profile here.
Feature Image via Sporting News