Brands spending in sporting events sponsorship has been on the rise over the past decade, with brands recognising the benefits of being associated to the tangible and intangible benefits these events have to their consumers.
That said, whilst adding sports sponsorship to their marketing mix brings forth exciting activation opportunities, it is still vital for brands to adopt the right strategy in order to maximise their returns.
Ben Rynjah (Senior Director, Digital and Brand Marketing at SPORTFIVE Southeast Asia) recently shared his thoughts on this topic during a panel discussion at the GSIC Summit APAC 2022 in Singapore. He outlined the sponsorship areas brands should take note of in order to thrive at sporting events.
What’s in it for brands
Why has the sports sector become such an attractive market for brands?
Firstly, sports sponsorship helps to create brand awareness within a highly engaged audience group. Sports fans are generally more loyal and passionate – especially when it comes to supporting their teams or athletes – and will spend a considerable amount of time and effort to follow the sport and consume content related to and around the property itself. For brands of all sizes, there are ample opportunities to leverage marketing benefits and ultimately receive incremental brand exposure as a sporting event sponsor.
Secondly, brands have the opportunity to utilise sports to drive excitement around their brand. The unpredictable nature and competitive spirit of sports excites consumers and drives continuous conversations among the community, both online and offline. As a partner of a sports team, athlete or event, brands are placed right at the heart of these conversations and can capitalise on the engagement received.
Lastly, sports sponsorship can help brands expand their business, products or services into new geographies and markets. A brand is able to leverage their partnership with a sporting property if the property already has a strong presence or fanbase in their chosen key market. Whether they are looking to announce a new product launch, garner media coverage, or generate potential conversions, these partnerships allow an authentic entry.
Evaluating and choosing the right partnership
With a number of sports partnership opportunities around the world, brands need to evaluate their options thoroughly before determining where to invest. Ultimately, brands should find a sporting property that has a right fit and is relevant to their business in terms of their overall marketing strategy. Aligning on marketing goals of the brand and the property, as well as taking into consideration the markets that it operates in are good first steps.
Other metrics should then be considered, such as the potential reach of the sport and audience demographics. While audiences for various sports overlap, fans do have certain differentiators. For example, if the organisation’s objective is to increase its brand awareness amongst a more affluent audience group with a higher purchasing power, working with a sport such as golf might be more suitable than sponsoring an Esports event – which generally attracts a more millennial audience.
It is also important for brands to achieve a balance between reach and relevance. Jumping on a bandwagon to partner popular events without considering the relevancy to its brand values might backfire and risk the brand’s perception and reputation in the long run. The right sporting event should have shared values and association in order to deliver authentic, meaningful experience as well as allow for any content developed around the partnership to solidy and supplement their existing brand positioning.
Coming up top in this highly-competitive space
The sports sponsorship sector is competitive, with small, midsized, and established global brands all delving into the sponsorship market and competing with one another. Differentiating themselves by adopting smart, innovative solutions so as to stand out and engage consumers is a necessity for brands to maximise their return on investment. Creating bespoke digital activation is the way forward for brands to continue engaging with consumers authentically.
As we move towards an ever-increasingly digital world, it is no surprise that the sports sponsorship industry is changing. Technology and digitalisation have transformed the sporting landscape and how audiences consume sports content, bringing about new possibilities for brands to increase their visibility and affinity through innovative content. It is critical for brands to have digital exposure on multiple platforms as part of their activation strategy if they want to connect with their target audience.
One of the trends seen today is brands incorporating ways to personalise experiences, or create initiatives and activations that are individual to each fan. As a whole, fans are more digitally savvy, and it has been proven that the experience of being identified as an individual within a larger target audience and customising an experience around this do help brands build positive relationships with the individual, and ultimately, with the wider community of the sport as well.
The emergence of Web3 has also brought about new opportunities in this space, with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital collectibles being the next evolution in fan engagement. Virtual worlds are on the rise and the time spent in these spaces has been predicted to increase over the next decade. In sports, NFTs and digital collectibles offer a new unique avenue for fans to connect with their favourite sports teams, athletes or events, and because of this, more and more brands are looking to leverage the NFT space.
In Southeast Asia, SPORTFIVE and Be Media, a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, have partnered for the first time to jointly launch ONSIDE, the first non-fungible tokens (NFTs) digital collectibles for the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022.
The partnership is the first of its kind in the Southeast Asian sporting landscape and will see the prestigious ASEAN football competition come to life in the Web3 space through the minting and distribution of these digital collectibles. Living on the Polygon blockchain, the digital collectibles will be based on tournament assets and video highlights from the popular regional tournament. Fans will be able to own digital products such as stylised country Alpha masks and iconic match moments from the competition and gain rewards and real-world experiences, identified as ‘utility’.
Sporting events sponsorship is one of the most effective marketing tools for brands to promote their product or service, reach new audiences and grow their business in new markets. The world of sports sponsorship market may seem daunting to companies venturing into the space for the first time, but before going all-in, it is important for brands to understand their marketing objectives, work out the right approach and consider innovative digital solutions to ensure success.