The year when technology and sport collided
In a year where Adidas and Budweiser pinned their sponsorship hopes on investments in social media and mobile respectively, sponsors everywhere started adopting a use it or lose it approach when it came to content. The shift comes amid the war for attention between sponsors and non-sponsors looking to exploit the cultural conversation around events to drive sales. Tactics such as social media command centres and location-based ads are becoming more commonplace as sponsors such as Coke and SSE look to make the most of Winter Olympics and the Commonwealth Games being significant consumption drivers.
Elsewhere, wearable technology established itself as the next battleground for sports brands. Adidas and Under Armour joined Nike in their attempts to fuse fashion with technology to glean deeper customer insights.
Rights holders working harder
The 2012 London Olympics showed the sports marketing world what could be achieved when brands and rights holders work together to improve the consumer experience. Organisers took this on board in 2013 with the likes of FIFA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Team Sky taking steps to minimise wastage around their commercial packages. FIFA announced it would for the first time offer regional sponsorship packages from the 2018 World Cup onwards, emulating a model successfully implemented by Premier League champions Manchester United. Rights holders are hoping the move attracts commercial partners with the funds and appetite to mount substantial rights activation campaigns in order to be perceived as the number one sports property.
Sponsors creating their own platforms
The ongoing tussle between rights holders and brands over how much content fans have access to peaked this year with the latter opting to create their own sponsorship platforms. Vodafone and LG turned away from the broad reach of Formula One in favour of smaller-scale, regional strategies capable of delivering more one-to-one engagement to fans. Underpinning this shift is the realisation from marketers that to have an impact beyond awareness, their activations need to make a difference to people’s lives. Red Bull demonstrated what could be achieved when brands move beyond traditional sponsorship structures with its Stratos 2012 space dive stunt.
Brands hearing the sweet sound of music sponsorship
Music and marketing are long-time bedfellows but over the last 12 months some of the country’s biggest sponsorship agencies made moves to enhance their understanding of its changing role in the marketing mix. From Mondelez’s Twitter-powered music show to Budweiser’s first global music marketing campaign, brands dialled up their efforts as a way to reach consumers who are tuning out of traditional forms of advertising in favour of digital media. Meanwhile, Yahoo used its sponsorship of this year’s Wireless Festival to put the brand’s Flickr, Tumblr and OMG services at the heart of content around the event. With brands such as Vodafone and LG focusing on smaller activations, industry experts predict branded festivals and live music events could become more commonplace over the next 12 months.
The UK’s adoption of connected venues faced numerous setbacks in recent years, however this changed in 2013 when Manchester City, Liverpool, Celtic FC and Rangers FC introduced high-density Wi-Fi networks. In an age where sharing has become a key part of the event experience, sponsors and rights holders are jumping at the opportunity to target fans with real-time promotions during games. Critics say the rollout is in danger of denting the atmosphere at live events. However, Cetic sponsor Magners is understood to be looking at how they use the technology to monetise the full 90 minutes of a match.
Real-time marketing comes of age for sponsors
With the Winter Olympics and World Cup taking place next year, 2013 saw brands such as Puma, Coke and Heineken road-test global real-time marketing plans in preparation. But for every Oreo hijacking the Super Bowl there was a torrent of ill-conceived real-time branded content. Coke and Sony are hoping to avoid this through amplification of their mobile and social channels around next year’s tournament in Brazil. Both have been using analytics tools, created by MediaCom Sport, in recent months to gain a deeper understanding of the role events like the World Cup can play in the lives of shoppers. With this in mind marketers are set to monteise the social media and digital traffic they get around events.