Sports Sponsorship: What Lies Ahead In The Post Pandemic Era

Agency Mongoose has launched its inaugural industry insights report reflecting on how brands and rights holders have responded and engaged with their audiences during the pandemic. The report highlights emerging trends set to shape the future of sports sponsorship.

What follows is a summary of the key highlights – the report in full can be downloaded here.

The impact of COVID

In relation to the sporting industry the impact of the recent pandemic has been vast, with almost every activity associated with sport affected in some way. In addition to a break in play, brands and rights holders have also had to adapt and embrace their digital platforms and identify new ways to connect with their customers in the absence of physical events. However as a result we have seen rights holders produce some fantastic content that will long be remembered beyond the pandemic – such as the seamless 2020 ‘virtual draft’ in the NFL and the 2.6 Challenge that was launched following the postponement of London Marathon to encourage countless ‘at home’ challenges aimed at saving UK charities. 

Esports and Investment 

Over the past three months we have seen an explosion of esports into the mainstream market as the industry has leveraged a lack of traditional sporting entertainment. With audience figures rocketing to an estimated 453.8 million globally and anticipated to keep growing over the next 18 months, we are seeing more and more sports brands and stars (including David Beckham) enter the esports arena in order to engage with consumers. 

We are now in a new era where Tech, Media, Gaming, Music, Fashion and Football are coming together to create an exciting new global entertainment business. We are paying close attention to cross-industry performance which is providing genuine reason for optimism as the likes of ecommerce, subscription platforms, gaming and streaming, home fitness and eLearning sectors have all experienced huge growth in recent months following immediate shifts in consumer behaviour.

Digitalisation

The global pandemic has magnified the need for rights holders to digitise fan engagement and with the Premier League returning to our screens it has been the broadcasters who have had to innovate quickly. Sky Sports and BT Sport have already adapted to offer viewers artificial crowd noises on demand.

In addition, Sky Sports has launched a new ‘Fanzone’ feature, which allows friends to watch games together in a private video room where they can chat as well as influence the crowd noise they hear on screen and join with in-match polls. In terms of innovation, they are leading the way and it has to be a sign of things to come. 

Innovation 

While features like ‘Fanzone’ have been created in lieu of being able to physically attend a game we believe they are here to stay. ‘Fanzone’ is something that could be monetised with the potential to host sponsored chat rooms with social media influencers. We might also see similar creativity amongst rights holders as they adapt their commercial strategies to accommodate the traditional suite of sponsorship rights not currently available. Furthermore, with advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, rights holders have new ways to engage their fans and ultimately provide more meaningful and personalised experiences than ever before. 

Such digital innovations allow for deeper insight into consumer behaviour and engagement which in the current climate could prove invaluable. With brands understandably placing an even tighter lens on return on investment, digital tracking capabilities and online interaction will prove fundamental in providing the necessary evidence to support the rationale of sports sponsorship in future commercial strategies. Put simply, digital transformation of the sports business is no longer a trend, it is a necessity.

A Purpose-Led Future 

In addition to the technological advancements, we have also seen a cultural shift amongst sports fans, rights holders and brands who are demonstrating a heightened appreciation for purpose-led activity. At a time when audiences have been listening more than ever, campaigns have truly made people act differently. We believe that change is coming. 

From a brand perspective, it is more important than ever to recognise the tone of the nation and replicate this through your communications, campaigns and sponsorship activity. Having a purpose that represents the impact a brand wants to have on the world, not only benefits the cause but can also drives revenue as 89% of consumers would choose a brand with clear purpose over one without. 

Now more than ever, sports, rights holders, teams and players have a responsibility to utilise their powerful and influential platforms to help promote global and community led initiatives – you only have to look at the incredible work of Manchester United forward, Marcus Rashford, to see the power of purpose-led marketing on engagement. That said, it is crucial to ensure your partnerships and campaigns are authentic as the values belonging to organisations must marry up with what it is they are promoting. 

The full, in depth report is available to download on the Mongoose website:

Sport Sponsorship: Thriving trends for a post-pandemic era.

To carry on the conversation, please contact Harvey Taylor – Sponsorship Strategy Manager, Mongoose – at harvey.taylor@mongooseagency.com.


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