Guest post: Sports sponsorship is still a very relevant medium

Dette indlæg er skrevet af Kenneth Cortsen, ph.d.-studerende i Sports Management ved Aarhus Universitet (www.kennethcortsen.com).

Jeg bad ham tale sportssponerings sag, da jeg selv ofte bliver ret kritisk over for sporten og prædiker Luk Logoland.

Sports sponsorship is still a very relevant medium

Given the popularity of sports and its heartfelt appeal, sports sponsorship continues to prove its role as a potent marketing platform. This is not expected to slow down anytime soon if you ask me. The platform is simply too effective if applied appropriately and recent changes in the macroenvironment that surrounds the sports world have added fuel to this development.

Technology is one area that has affected the business of sports and thus derivatively affected the area of sports sponsorship. In a world characterized by increasing media fragmentation, it is paramount that parties in sports sponsorship solutions choose the right media platforms to accompany their sponsorship implementation and activation programs. Sponsors are not just interested in visibility or raising profiles, but in deeper engagement with target audiences. Consistent with practitioners such as IEG, PWC, Advertising Age and other leading players in the business of sponsorship, sports sponsorship still has a leading position in the distribution of sponsorship spending.

This also means that sports along with entertainment define the highest growth areas within the context of sponsorship. Social media brought along a media revolution, which has also guided the business of sports to an even better position in terms of taking advantage of the #EmotionalEquity tied to sports for commercial reasons and this trend blends perfectly into sports sponsorship and inserts additional value creation in the sports sponsorship process for rights holders as well as for sponsors.

Paradigm shift
Moreover, we have seen a paradigm shift in sports marketing and sports sponsorship in recent years. The process has gone towards becoming more data-driven, i.e. practitioners in the fields of sports marketing and sports sponsorship have given greater priority to implementing technology solutions (read: Internet, social media platforms etc.) as helpful tools to gain in-depth understanding of optimal ways to reach and engage with specific audiences. This can help corporate sponsors and sports entities to accomplish objectives like meaningful visibility, effective brand equity enhancement, improved fan retention and engagement, increasing ticket sales, better activation programs and augmented brand and sponsorship experiences and transformations that create significant ROIs. The investment to include these data provided via different technology platforms into an integrated system may be what differentiates and takes good sports sponsorship experiences to superb ones.

Basically, it is all about utilizing and optimizing all relevant touch points to give sports entities and hence corporate sponsors the opportunity to connect and communicate with fans and if that communication is updated and grounded in relevant data there is a higher probability that the ‘sports entity-sponsor-fan interaction’ is more meaningful and profitable. So if done properly, the new technology platforms, which are available in the modern era and around the sports world hold the capacity to boost sponsorship as a unique medium with ‘emotional equity’ levels second-to-none.

Data-driven partnerships
To give an example, it means a whole lot that the parties in a sports sponsorship partnership (e.g. rights holder and corporate sponsor) are cultured enough to apply data-driven knowledge to compensate fans, to retain them or to find new fans since these things are vital indicators of the success of sports sponsorship and something that can take the partnership to the next level so that all parties optimize their resource allocations. Tracking fan behavior in relation to sports also proves to be a very valuable asset for corporate sponsors in sports for the reason that fans are highly receptive of branded messages linked to purchase-intentions under circumstances where they have the right state of mind. Proper tracking devices also prevent sports entities and corporate sponsors from miscommunication, e.g. preventing a situation where a fan buying merchandise and signing up for a team newsletter does not receive two promotional team messages instantly. It is better for the team to know if there may be an overlap.

Connecting with fans in a fragmented media landscape
The intersection between sports media content and sports sponsorship is boosting the sports industry and each other in a hybrid interrelationship (Cortsen, 2013). The fragmented media landscape has increased the competition for sports rights, intensified the amount of sports content and forced sports entities to think about delivering quality content 24/7 365 days per year. Thus, we find ourselves in a time where sport is all-pervading in our society. Corporate sponsors cannot ignore these trends so they take part in this gigantic show business. As it is with sports right holders, corporate sponsors must also strive to commercially find and exploit new sponsorship inventory elements and that affects this context in a way that will shape the future growth rates of sports sponsorship positively. The latter is written with respect to my varied knowledge and understanding of the business of sports. Although, the sport media nexus presents a very fragmented environment, sports sponsorship is still very powerful due to the fact that sport has the rare ability to generate massive amounts of free PR and reach target audiences with their guards down.

Furthermore, sports motivates to communicate due to its dramatic and ‘real time’ character – remember Carlsberg’s ROI linked to the ‘miracle match’ in Istanbul (UEFA CHL Final, Liverpool vs. AC Milan) – and this communication may take place in multiple forums like the Internet, work places, traditional mass media, in activation campaigns and so on. Therefore, we will still see sports sponsorship connect with people’s feelings and hobbies in the future.

By Kenneth Cortsen