Expanding the Digital Footprint
Technology and Data
The digital world holds the dynamite that will shake up the sports marketing landscape in 2015 and after. Sponsors are looking for ways to connect and engage with fans across all of their digital screens from TV’s to tablets to cell phones. So networks and media rights holders are looking to digital technology to provide a number of different outlets that allow sponsors to be part of and support the online conversations with fans. Digital technology is also redefining the way sponsors leverage endorsement deals with athletes. An athlete’s digital footprint can be very influential and sponsors need to determine the best way for them to engage in the conversation without being in the driver’s seat. Lastly, with the at-home game experience becoming more popular than the stadium experience, stadiums and arenas are making renovations to include more digital and wireless capabilities that will provide some new outlets for sponsors to connect with fans at the game. In 2015 we can expect to see a sponsor reinvent how we use digital marketing in sports. Leagues and teams want to keep up with the consumer demand of customization by providing more personalized and engaging experiences based on fans’ past and future habits. Look for networks to take advantage of these metrics when implementing sponsorships into online streaming services.
Social Media, the Global Strategy
Sports marketing is a global strategy now. With the expansion and technology of the online and mobile space, teams and leagues are able to collect more data that allow them to focus more on customer engagement and insights, and thus drive new market strategies to include a global footprint. There are several platforms being used by teams/leagues as well as sponsors to take advantage of sports in an effort to expand globally. One is the Fantasy game, it has a huge reach and a loyal fan following. The data the sponsor can collect can reveal fan behavior and preference trends, as a result sponsors are able to be highly engaged in the activity of the fan. Another platform is Social Media, the twitter updates have become more entertaining and #uptotheminute than the play-by-play announcers. Fans are constantly checking their social media networks, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook throughout the game.
Brands are looking for opportunities that allow them exclusive access to the consumer. With the emergence of individual networks by college conferences and powerhouse universities like the SEC and Texas, sponsors are likely to have more control over marketing elements by partnering with such networks. Sponsors are also beginning to take this concept one step further and have launched their own network channel. The Home Depot partnered with DirecTV to start the The Home Depot channel, an interactive creative center for DIYer’s to get tips, project instructions and ideas in a unique way.
Online Streaming, your new channel
Dish launched a new service January 2015 called “sling TV” which allows customers to live stream ESPN online for $20 a month without ordering other channels. So for the growing portion of the population that has been frequently saying “I would not have cable or DirecTV if it weren’t for live sports” finally has reason to ditch their traditional services. This will have a large impact on the way sports sponsorships are implemented and leveraged in the coming year. This is especially interesting when you think about the evolution of the sports marketing business, given that the initial key draw for sponsors was being able to buy massive blocks of TV ad space during a sporting event. A current benefit to live streaming on the internet is there are very few commercials, which is appealing to users. This is due to the smaller audience and a few other factors, thus making it difficult for the network to sell a large amount of ad space online. However, with the growing number of subscribers to an individual network’s online service, you better believe that space will be packed full of ads, that fans might be surprised when they realize they can’t pause, record, and fast forward to catch up with the live broadcast when it’s on their computers. Happy day for sponsors and networks.
The female demographic is the fastest growing fan market in sports. Female sports fans is at all time high. The NFL is perfect example of this with female viewership growing 27%, outpacing male viewership of 21%. However the most important impact this growing demographic will have on sports is with brand engagement and loyalty. Female fans are more likely to use a second screen with game-related activity while watching sports and consequently more likely to interact with the brand through social media. This can provide a significant opportunity for brands to connect with female fans during a sports broadcast. In addition to viewership the female demographic also brings value when attending the game. In game female attendees are more likely to use their mobile devices for social media. So brands need to be proactive and create social media advocates that produce passionate mentions and posts during the sports broadcast. Interaction is great but does it produce results in terms of sales? According to a bleacherreport on NASCAR, interactive female fans are 80% more likely to try a brand as a result of a brand’s NASCAR sponsorship. This trend is moving into other sports as well where the interaction with female viewers, who are typically decision makers for the house, translate into direct sales
Univision has lovingly dubbed Hispanic sports fans as “Fanaticos” and claim they consume more sports via more mediums, engage in more sports celebrations and conversations and spend more money overall. A study conducted by Univision proves that Hispanics are the “more” sports consumers. Hispanic fans are 41% more likely to watch sports every day. EVERY DAY! That is a lot of opportunity to connect with a powerful consumer. Hispanic sports fans watch more leagues and teams than non-hispanic sports fans. As you can imagine, not all of the teams they watch are televised broadcasts in the US so streaming is very popular distribution channel. And what have we learned about fans who stream sports games? Not only are they active on secondary devices, they also spend more per game than non-hispanic fans. The study does not indicate whether is this in-game spending or at-home consumer spending. My guess is that it is true for both, which is great news for retailers and can provide sponsors a unique opportunity if they can break through the noise. One interesting finding from the study conducted was that language matters, in that Hispanics spent 50% more time watching sports in Spanish than in English. Today Spanish makes up a small 11% of all sports content. There are 56 million Hispanics living in the US and the demographic is growing. With the emergence of network streaming, this screams opportunity in terms of alternative language broadcast opportunities and therefore to a brand’s communication effectiveness.