Esports, as an attraction for Generation Z, and women’s sport, although at a slower pace, are emerging markets in the international sponsorship landscape
If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain” is an expression as old as it is appropriate to describe what brands are looking for when implementing their 360 sponsorship strategy. Sponsorship scenarios have been changing over the years and also their impacts, whether through the content, the means, or pre-, during and post-event promotions or experiences. What has not changed is following religously the recommendation to take the initiative without waiting for something to happen on its own. Brands have no other way of subsisting if not by looking to be where their consumers are.
Two markets in the world of sport today that are clearly attracting the attention of new sponsors are esports—where the presence of non-endemic brands in sponsorship now exceeds endemic ones for the first time—and women’s sport, mostly football. The speed at which they are bursting into these markets is very different, but both sectors have an allure that brands will not let get away.
With Richard Denton, academic director of the ‘Sponsorship 360: International Sport Marketing and Sponsorship’ program at Johan Cruyff Institute, we review some new sponsorship scenarios to conclude this series of interviews in which we have talked about the purpose of sponsorship and fan engagement as a marketing tool. Richard Denton directs this program and will be joined by experts from the sports industry to analyze, on two weekends in Amsterdam and London, the current and future trends of international sponsorship.
In sponsorship is better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion?
Good question. When you have the budget to take a leading position then take it. I would rather be the head of the lion than the tail so perhaps being the head of the dog is better than the tail of the lion… Dogs are pretty intelligent creatures!
Are esports a new field for all brands to invest in or do you see only specific brands interested in this market?
Yes, why not? Especially if you are targeting the Gen Z (16 to 24 year) audience. The gaming community and esports is evolving each year and there are plenty of examples how non-endemic brands like DHL, Vodafone, Ziggo and Mercedes Benz are now partnering with esports to execute their marketing strategies.
How have the strategies in sponsorship of women’s sport changed over the years?
Slowly, too slowly. In the few last years, women’s sport has received more interest and attention driven by performances of athletes like Serena Williams or Megan Rapinoe on the pitch, but equally by former athletes like Billie Jean King fighting for more equality. With the recent decision by brands like VISA and Barclays to invest bigger amounts into women’s sport it could trigger growth that has not been seen in the last 30 years. It also requires a change of mind set by the rightsholders to market women’s sport differently and not only as part of the men’s package when selling sponsorship. Although we cannot force people to watch more women’s sport or more women to participate, there are other ways in which women’s sport can position and market itself, which will take time and dedication to ensure consistent growth.
In your opinion, what is the role that sponsors can play in the professionalization of women’s football?
Primarily they can invest, just like men’s football but that is not enough. As mentioned above, women’s sport can benefit not just from the financial aspect but also from all the other products, services, coaches, training facilities which have been available to the men’s game. But that does not mean women’s football needs to ‘copy’ everything in the men’s game, which is what appears to be happening now. Does the women’s game really need a Champions League right now to support the development of women’s football at a grass roots level? A more strategic approach needs to be developed that addresses the challenges and goals of women’s sport at the moment which can also be supported by sponsors and their resources.
Naming rights seem to be a new formula in sport sponsorship to generate significant extra revenues for clubs. How can companies make profitable the exposure of their brand associated with well-known and historical stadiums?
Well, again this depends on their goals and strategy. New stadia where there has not been a naming rights partner are easier to position in the minds of fans and visitors. The new $1 billion Atlanta stadium, the Mercedes Benz Arena has benefited positively from the all the publicity around the high-tech state of the art facility and clearly, this is something MB wish to be associated with in their brand marketing strategy. At the other end of the spectrum (almost) St. James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United was named after the owner’s company SportsDirect but completey ingored and rejected by the fans. When a stadium has been around for 50 or 100 years it is difficult to make a change that is accepted and remembered by the fanbase. The addition of new training facilities that previously did not have a naming partner might be an easier transition and the is something Manchester United achieve when AON moved from shirt sponsor to AON Training Complex. Sometimes, there are certain sports, teams, events or assets that lend themselves more to a naming rights deal than others. Finding the right fit is down to a partnership based around shared values and goals that fans and other sponsors will accept as being beneficial and logical to both parties.
· The purpose of sponsorship
· Sponsorship as a fan engagement tool
International Sport Marketing and Sponsorship
The Sponsorship 360: International Sport Marketing and Sponsorship program aims to provide participants with the knowledge to apply sponsorship as a powerful tool in the marketing mix to deliver brand, business and social goals. Define and develop sponsorship activation concepts and strategic plans for sponsors (brands), rights owners, agencies and sporting organisations to increase revenue, satisfaction and loyalty from partners, suppliers, fans and participants.Sign up!