Sport is a crowd-puller but advertisers have realised they can’t rely only on traditional marketing, so they have learnt to adapt, writes Melina Meletakos. Brands that sponsor sport are looking for new ways to be noticed.
Sports advertising is no longer simply about buying large amounts of television airtime and bombarding viewers with adverts between coverage of sporting events. This is because the way consumers watch live TV is changing with new technology like personal video recorders (PVR), which allow viewers to record programmes and replay them with rewind and fast forward functions.
While sport may generally be considered PVR-resistant, the massive growth in sport programming means that viewers are spoilt for choice, says DStv sales and marketing director Fahmeeda Cassim-Surtee. Because of this, many therefore choose to record certain programmes or watch highlights of events through services like DStv’s Catch Up (a video-on-demand service that offers subscribers a selection of TV shows and sports highlights to view directly on their PVRs).
“We are already starting to include opportunities within Catch Up for sponsors by carrying over some of their elements from the linear broadcast into the Catch Up content in the form of pre-video rolls (a promotional video message that plays before the content the user has selected),” explains Cassim-Surtee.
Additionally, mobile technologies and the introduction of virtual fan gathering places through social media offer viewers more information, as well as a platform to share their opinions. (A virtual fan gathering is a digital gathering of people sharing a common virtual environment on the web, rather than meeting in a physical location. It can take various forms – a social media page or an email debate group.) This, says Cassim-Surtee, has led DStv to start including various social networks and mobile sites like SuperSport mobi into their sponsorship proposals. “Any content created for mobile or online by SuperSport is seen as an extension of what is shown on the TV broadcast. It should be the same for brands that are visible on TV and associated with various sport types. Their brands should extend onto other devices for that same content. In the social space, we are also investigating options with WeChat,” she says.
Social media has added a completely new dimension to sport marketing as it gives brands the opportunity to improve their engagement levels, says Cassim-Surtee, explaining that “brands need as much information as they can get from consumers and they need to keep talking to their customers”.
It has also given marketers a tool with which to adapt nimbly to what is happening at sporting events in real time. The oft-cited example of this kind of agile marketing is Oreo’s timely response when the lights went out at the 2013 SuperBowl. “Power out?” the brand tweeted. “No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” Their immediate response was retweeted
15 000 times. Oreo’s Twitter following increased by 8 000, the post got 20 000 Facebook likes and the brand went from having 2 000 Instagram followers to 26 000.
Adidas has also reacted timeously to real time events. When tennis player Andy Murray won the BBC Sport Personality of the Year award in 2013, the British arm of the brand tweeted a congratulatory image with a strap line saying, “Not bad for a man with no personality”, playing on the fact fact that Murray is often criticised for being quite stern.
But as sport marketing crosses into these digital realms, marketers are presented with a whole new set of metrics with which to measure the value of sponsorships, says Cassim-Surtee. “The objectives for digital are also set on different criteria by marketers and the values associated with digital are still very different to TV,” she explains. “I do think that the lines will start blurring as video consumption across online and mobile increases.”
Alastair Hewitt, SABMiller (SAB) Africa general manager for regional brand equities, says the company has brand health reports that measure all brand activities, including sponsorships and how they influence reputation among consumers. “The introduction and expansion of digital marketing has improved the means of tracking, particularly direct engagements with consumers, making it easier to monitor and understand the value drivers in sponsorship. This improves the ability to make decisions when buying sponsorship against your brand objectives,” he explains.
Simon Franklin, chief operating officer at sports marketing company Megapro, says quantifying the value of sponsorships once they enter the digital space is tricky because there is no defined value on a tweet or a Facebook like or share, for example. “We show the sponsors the numbers and then allow them to ascertain the value because we are not a research business,” says Franklin.
All these dynamics mean that brands are now looking for better ways to measure return on investment (ROI), which has been amplified by the global economic downturn, adds Franklin. “Brands have definitely become wiser. It’s not just about putting their logo on a shirt or on a field. It’s become more strategic. Brands now have to stand for something,” he explains.
This has caused corporate social responsibility (CSR) to move to the heart of the sponsorship agenda with brands increasingly using their sponsorship leverage also to do some good.
Hewitt says SAB’s decision to choose new platforms or continue its long-term commitment in sport sponsorships is “less about cost and more about an opportunity to contribute to the development of our society”.
“Sport has played a powerful unifying role within the country, connecting people from every corner and transcending every barrier. We have also seen how soccer can help bring about socio-economic change in South Africa, through [bringing] hope to local communities and providing opportunities for talented individuals to improve their lives,” he adds.
SAB has been sponsoring Bafana Bafana since South Africa’s readmission to Fifa 22 years ago and was actively involved when South Africa hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup after supporting each of the country’s bids. “The SAB League, for example, boasts impressive alumni who play for the top South African leagues, national teams, the national squad and international football clubs. Our support of football can help ensure the sport continues to drive positive change in South Africa,” says Hewitt.
One of the ways Momentum is giving back is through its sponsorship of One Day International (ODI) Cricket. For the last three years, the company has been involved in Pink Day, a breast cancer awareness initiative that supports breast cancer organisation, PinkDrive. The Proteas play the game clad in pink kits and encourage supporters to do the same on the day to show their support for and raise awareness of breast cancer. Momentum contributed additionally by donating R100 000 to PinkDrive when a player hit the red inflatable Momentum ‘M’, R10 000 for every six hit into the Momentum Family Area and R1 000 when the ball hit the perimeter boards.
“For us, our philosophy and approach is that it’s not just about getting the exposure that you want. It’s about a long-term contract and wanting to leave a legacy beyond the commercial benefits,” says Momentum head of brand Danie van den Bergh. “We don’t want to just sponsor with certain sports – we want to partner with them and leave a legacy through sport.”
Despite the scope of sport sponsorships broadening, Franklin says South Africa’s sport marketing industry is still healthy. “Sport is a big business in South Africa. People love the game so we’ll see the industry continuing to grow,” he says.
This post was first published in the March 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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