Sponsorship is Going Digital and Teams Need to Adapt

“Change before you have to.”, as legendary CEO Jack Welsh has advised.

The digital age is upon us, and sport sponsorship is rapidly evolving with it. Traditional sports sponsorship today amounts to $60 Billion globally, but less than 10% of that accounts for digital currently.

To dive deeper into how this trend is happening, first it’s important to understand sports sponsorship in its simplest form — which is when a brand uses the community around the sports team to engage with their target consumers. The three core stakeholders causing this change are: fans, teams, and brands. 

Sports Fans

It’s 2016 and consumers are smarter than ever. They know what they want and they know where to search for it: on their smartphone. Preferred source for content consumption is shifting to digital fast, and fans no longer pay as much as attention to TV ads and in-stadium billboards anymore. Today there is no other marketing platform as effective and as undervalued as brand engagement on mobile. 

The content created by fans with BriziCam, for instance during the 2016 NBA playoffs, are a prime example of this. Typically, fans would simply take a selfie and post it online, but that content is disconnected from the team and sponsors. There is no way to track this content, or let alone monetize the content.

Using BriziCam, brands attached their messaging as graphic overlays on top of photos they triggered from robotic cameras installed from across the stadium. Without changing any existing fan behaviour, teams created authentic mobile brand exposure through digital. The reach and engagement amplified exponentially as these photos were shared by the fan on social media. Attaching brand messaging to relevant fan content is the most effective form of digital sponsorship.

Teams & Leagues

Professional teams and leagues are showing their ability to adapt. For instance, the NBA is leading the way in terms of both fan engagement and technology adoption where almost half of current franchise owners come from a technology or entrepreneurship background, where taking risks is just the natural thing to do.

The mindsets of these owners such as Mark Cuban, Steve Ballmer, or Paul Allen are all focused on constant improvement of the status quo. Together, the NBA teams have been forerunners in adopting stadium Wi-Fi, Mobile apps, Virtual Reality, Beacon, and Camera Technology. Not only does this philosophy reward teams with increased fan loyalty, revenues, and experience over time, but it fuels the entire league in embracing innovation.

Brand marketers

As consumer behaviour shifts to digital, marketing has followed into the digital realm, and so has brand sponsorships. 

In order to make a lasting connection with consumers, brands need to do more than slap a logo on a billboard for recall. Digital sponsorship platforms on Google and Facebook provide marketers with extreme flexibility for targeting segments because of the information they have on the end user’s profile. Facebook most likely knows your age, your gender, your hometown, etc…, while Google knows everything you’ve ever searched for or wondered about, and can make an intelligent guess about the consumer’s profile.

Within sport sponsorships, how do we provide marketers with that same level of rich user data and insights? BriziCam usage creates a database of fan insights and data on over 200 fans each game due to their interaction on mobile inside the arena. Marketing partners can now learn the exact demographics that engaged in their activation, as well as what Google or Facebook would have been able to tell them about these users’ purchase preferences, and what brand pages they’ve “liked”.

This data can be used to create fan segmentation profiles, adjust brand messaging and understand sponsorship ROI. Once this is achieved, the marketing becomes much more targeted and efficient, creating a cycle of conversion metrics.

As time goes on, digital sponsorship will continue to evolve, pushed forward by brand thirst for innovation and optimizing their digital strategies. Fans will continue to demand more attention, and teams will follow in the mindsets of their owners, all with one goal — to change before one must.