Sports sponsorship is a highly priced market. In 2015, Manchester United signed the highest ever shirt manufacturing deal with Adidas for £750 million. Whilst that particular deal, and football sponsorship in general, may be extreme, all sports have a certain element of sponsorship.
From a sponsor’s perspective the days of just having a logo on a shirt or a well positioned billboard at a sports ground are long gone. In an era of digital and online marketing, sports sponsorship provides a unique opportunity for sponsors to communicate with a broad spectrum of fans.
Whilst the 2014 Know The Fan report showed that television is still the most popular resource for sports fans, online visibility is increasing. Online is the second most popular method of watching sports and the report showed a notable increase in the use of mobile technology. With significantly more fans watching sport via online technology than actually attending, more and more fans are also accessing sports via social media with a 13% growth in the use of social media platforms.
The challenge for a sponsor is to make the link between their brand and the sport itself through their online marketing. Online and social media sports fans consume sport differently to more traditional media. Unlike television, digital fans are more likely to see and consume short bursts of information and updates rather than whole events.
As with all online marketing, the key is to create relevant, credible and engaging content that adds to a fans experience both online and on social media. For a sports fan, content has to make them feel like they are a part of the game, even if they aren’t physically there.
In sports sponsorship, the sponsor also has the benefits of access to an existing fan base. When Manchester United launched their new Adidas kit, they produced 38 posts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the Hashtag #bethedifference. Given that Manchester United has over 68 million fans on Facebook alone, it undeniably increased the reach and appeal even for an established brand like Adidas.
Sports sponsorship also presents an opportunity for teams and organisations to reach a wider audience. In emerging markets, where the percentage of online viewers is higher, a sponsorship deal with a company that is already in those areas can give access to a new online market.
In the absence of advertising boards, Wimbledon and their sponsors, for example, have developed an approach to how they raise awareness with their fans through online marketing and social media that works extremely well. It isn’t all about how sponsors can promote to followers of Wimbledon.
It also works in reverse. With their latest sponsorship deal with Jaguar, Wimbledon have access to some of the emerging markets where Jaguar are well recognised but Wimbledon is less so.
The depth of engagement in sports can be intense. Sport naturally creates a thirst for knowledge. Fans want to learn more about their favourite sport or team and want to consume stats and commentary that can be analysed and shared. In the era of online marketing, the passion behind a true sports fan is the driving force behind a successful sponsorship relationship.