Why digital-first brands are discovering sports sponsorship for themselves

With improved CRM, AI and ML, and an omnichannel presence, digitally oriented brands are narrowing the gap between businesses and customers by meeting consumers where they already are - online.

No wonder these companies are one of the winning industries in recent years. To compete, these digital-first brands are increasingly relying on rapid awareness and creative activations. The potential in sports sponsorship is particularly attractive for digital-first brands - if a few simple rules are followed.

Digital-first Brands in Germany

Germany is a stronghold for startups: In 2021 alone, 3348 new startups were founded, a full eleven percent more than in 2020. The wave of startups did not slow down in 2022 either. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, 815 new startups were launched. According to the German Startup Monitor 2021, two-thirds of the companies belong to a digital business model. Here, the "software-as-a-service" model is the most popular, followed by online platforms and software development. These digital-first companies are increasingly finding their way into sports sponsorship. And there is a reason for that: Sports offer an optimal platform to quickly become better known to a larger target group - and startups often want to reach the general masses quickly. According to a report by Nielsen, brand sponsorships of sports events enjoy higher trust among the target group than classic advertising on TV, social media advertising or product placement without a sports connection. The best cases of Trivago and Chelsea in the Premier League, as well as the exceptional case of Homeday and Hertha BSC, show that sports sponsorship can be particularly successful for such brands.

What to look out for in sports sponsorship

While digital-first companies and startups are increasingly getting into sports sponsorship, they should also make sure that they fit the sponsored party. "Of course, companies want to increase their numbers with such a partnership and tell a vision together with their partner - the target group fit has to be right," says Christian Kothe, Vice President Sales / Premium Partnerships at SPORTFIVE.

Of course, companies want to increase their numbers with such a partnership and tell a vision together with their partner - the target group fit has to be right.


Trivago and FC Chelsea as Best Case

One best case in digital-first partnerships is Trivago's collaboration with Chelsea FC. The travel portal announced its partnership with the British soccer club in May 2021 and secured the right to advertise on its training gear. What seems unspectacular at first glance is actually an excellent idea to achieve a high reach. While the main sponsorship on the chest can only be seen during matches, the Trivago logo is shared millions of times via social media when photos and videos from training are posted. With the partnership brokered by SPORTFIVE, the travel portal can reach nearly 92 million followers through Chelsea's channels and another 190 million people through the footballers' accounts. According to OMR, the market value of the advertising space on the training jersey is consequently up to 40 million euros. In addition to the sheer number of people that can be reached, the communication channel is also hugely important. If Chelsea fans see the Trivago logo on social media or via the website, they can be redirected to the travel portal's channels without having to change devices.

“One of the reasons why digital-first brands are entering into sponsorships is that they want to become tangible. This isn’t all that easy for a purely digital brand, but sponsorship enables you to create a certain amount of tangibility and brand experience,” says Kothe.

Creating such a special touch was also a good reason for the collaboration between Autohero and the German Handball Association. The online store for used cars has been a partner of the DHB since the beginning of 2022 and since then can be found with their logo on the jerseys of the national handball team. "Lots of handball fans had not yet come into contact with the concept of buying a car online. Thanks to our partnership with DHB, we’re enabling people to experience and feel Autohero as a brand – and reinforcing the company’s position as the number one choice when buying a used car in Germany," says Hamza Saber, Managing Director of Autohero Germany, about the sponsorship.

One of the reasons why digital-first brands are entering into sponsorships is that they want to become tangible.


HOMEDAY's success story

But you don't have to get involved with clubs or organizations from the top, international spheres of the sports world to be successful. Even a collaboration with a regional partner that is solidly in the Bundesliga can ensure marketing success. A good example of this is the partnership between Homeday and Hertha BSC Berlin.

The digital brokerage company secured a spot on the jersey beginning of 2021 - the company's first involvement in sports sponsorship. Both partners are based in Berlin and have their finger on the trigger when it comes tp digitalization. In the first five months of the collaboration alone, Homeday increased its awareness ratings from 18 to 32 percent - an increase of 78 percent. This main sponsorship not only influences Homeday's communication goals, such as image, relevance or employer branding. In collaboration with the traditional Berlin club, the company was able to show social commitment and underline its own charitable corporate goals with joint campaigns.

Autohero, Trivago, Homeday and others have already discovered the potential of sports sponsorship for themselves. If digital startups want to get into the fast lane, it can be worthwhile to look into a partnership in sports. In the highly competitive market, pure performance marketing is no longer enough to stand out from the competition with other digital brands. Christian Kothe: “The first few brands are now signing up for partnerships, but this sector hasn’t fully discovered sports sponsorship yet. I’m sure there are many more new sports sponsorships with digital-first brands to come.”

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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