THE GROWTH AND EVOLUTION OF SPORT SPONSORSHIP CONTENT

AND WE'RE LIVE!

Summer, was that you? It was the strangest and loveliest February on record. It's fair to say us WINGers enjoyed the unexpected sunny gloriousness, albeit with a not so mild sense of disconcertion (climate change anyone?).

Last month we were all across Europe on a bunch of cool shoots. From Istanbul to Lisbon, Seville, Cork, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Ireland, and back again. On the output front, McLaren released our We Go Again film for their 2019 F1 car launch, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, together with our friends at UEFA and FUSE, released more of our films featuring football legends Freddy Kanouté and Robert Pires.

So with F1 and footie in mind, for this month's WING Perspective we look into the rapidly changing world of content and sponsorship in sport.

The Switch

As we all know, the biggest advertising changes over the last couple of decades can be attributed to the emergence of the internet. Enter the smartphone, and cue a mind-blowing reshaping of the industry as a whole. In the US, 2019 signals a huge shift in the industry. In fact, the next stage of advertising evolution is here; this year, digital advertising will officially be BIGGER than that of print and television.

This was always inevitable but none of us thought it would happen this quickly. New estimates from Emarketer indicate that advertisers in the US will spend $129 billion on digital advertising compared to the $109 billion on traditional forms.

Senior editor of recode.net Kurt Wagner states:

"The digital ad industry has been growing steadily for years, primarily thanks to two behemoths: Facebook and Google. Even though digital advertising was just half the size of the ‘traditional' ad industry four years ago in 2015, it was only a matter of time before the two swapped roles."

As the school friends of a teen Peter Crouch would say: ‘that's some growth!' But how is this all affecting sports sponsorship?

He Shoots, He Scores!

Brands are investing BIG into sports with recent predictions of a 4.9% global growth to $65.8 billion on spend. Sports teams and players are LOVING it. Take 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid who receive $220 million a year in sponsorship alone, and even though their main asset (Ronaldo) has left and they also suffered a huge fall from grace in the Champions League, they don't look to be affected one bit. Mainly due to the fact that they signed a whopping £950 million 10 year deal with adidas just last year. Yeah, that should temper those tears… imagine supporting Sunderland!

The fact of the matter is traditional forms of advertising are struggling to keep up with the constant growth of the smartphone-induced evolution. Google's Sports Viewing Survey found:

"30% [of respondents] said they have live streamed sporting events to their smartphones or tablets. What's more, 80% of respondents said they've juggled multiple screens while consuming sports, including messaging other fans, searching for player stats or live scores on their mobile devices or computers, while simultaneously watching the game on television."

With new technology, the improvements in the mobile experience means that watching sport out and about, or on the loo in some cases (admit it, you do it too) isn't as much of a compromise as it once was. The genuine enjoyment of live sport is no longer restricted to homes, pubs, and stadiums.

A Change of Tactic

Broadcasters used to have a monopoly on how and when we watch sport. The rules were therefore relatively simple for brands wanting to advertise. Most sponsorship was restricted to logos placed on what the stars wore, signage within the stadium, and ad breaks. This of course all still takes place, but with digital comes new opportunities and ways in which to watch, engage, and explore.

WING's very own Chief Attention Seeker Will Ingham wrote about the accessibility of online sports content in SportsPro last year:

"Online video has opened up so many ways to connect with sports pros. Humour, fanvids, how-tos, behind-the-scenes – there's something for everyone. It engages the partner brand's consumers, it drives the personality's personal relationship with fans and gives access-all-areas to followers like never before. It's win-win."

Sports broadcasters are recognising the importance of getting in on the digital action. BT Sport have been producing #NoFilterUCL, giving fans a behind-the-scenes style highlight film that places fans centre stage, and is proving popular.

There is so much passion, pain, and joy associated with sports (pain particularly for the Southampton and Newcastle fans in the WING office) and there are countless pieces of content being shared through apps, websites, and social media that reinforce each of those emotions. We want to watch, engage, discuss and share in real time. Google data states that ‘80% of us use our smartphones or tablets whilst watching live sports' to research players, or join live discussions about what is going on during matches. Brands have identified this and every single outlet for highlights, commentaries, and discussion is being tapped into by the hand of the advertising ‘Gods'. On most pieces, you will see targeted, shoppable banners and pre-video ads latching onto to everything we consume with our ears and eyes.

Newsnow's sports page is the ‘bible' of accumulators for anything that's being written from around the globe in the world of sport. Pick any sports team and you will see dozens of articles, memes, and videos being created every 5 minutes (and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the digital sport spread). From Sport Bible to 90 min, to Deadspin, to Reddit, to Fansided to sports apps and social media platforms, digital is absolutely killing it.

For brands, we know that the larger the audiences, the better. However, the stakes are now higher to get it right. With more news, more people filming you and more outlets, personal and curated, comes more scandals, and therefore hyper-increased discussion about each scandal. For every squeaky clean Federer and Ennis-Hill there is a Woods or Lance around the corner. The growth of sports sponsorship therefore has many exciting opportunities for brands, but with it, a lot more danger.

The Final Whistle

To join in with the fun, some broadcasters and (pretty much all of the major) platforms have made significant changes. ESPN have invested heavily in making social media platform-only shows and two-thirds of their audience are now strictly mobile. YES... TWO-THIRDS! The platforms themselves have adapted specifically for live broadcast functionalities over the last couple of years and are now actually broadcasting sports both second hand and directly.

Amazon's much derided US Open Tennis coverage was anything but smooth but that has only emboldened them and they now have 37 ATP Tour events on their roster. Twitter have said they have signed a huge deal with NFL to show live games, and YouTube have gone in big and made deals with rights holders in a plethora of major sports from the NFL to the NBA to the EPL to the NHL (all the acronyms in the world, I tell you!). Last year they famously showed the Champions League final in conjunction with BT Sport for free and now in the US, for $40 a month, you can stream from the top sports networks through the platform.

WINGpinion

The benefits of digital sports content are the same ones that come with social media in general; there is more authentic down-to-earth content, more discussion, we're in on the ground and closer to the action, the teams and the stars. Yes we are seeing the ‘democratisation of sport' but we're also seeing just as much ‘un-calibration' at the same time.

For brands, QC of the digital content that they are sponsoring is harder to check and not always up to scratch and they need to make authentic content that feels like a natural fit with the blog, site or social media account it is being hosted on.

So there has to be balance and this why brands will always continue to produce the traditional big budget films (see the evolution of Football content in our July Perspective); however, the fact that they are investing more in UGC sports content is a good thing. Constant and mass creation of Instagram boomerangs, Facebook live broadcasts, YouTube sports ‘funnies', trick-shot challenges and interviews are incredibly popular and brands have quite rightly been honing in. Google Data shows a 50% rise in watch-time of ‘funny' sports videos last year and a 70% watch-time growth for sports interviews. Ironically influencers who made their name making little online sports films like KSI are now working with the likes of YouTube on their own sports events.

The sports industry is growing at such a fast rate that it is, in fact, showing quicker growth than the GDP of most countries in the world. We are now seeing more content and opportunities for sponsorship than we've ever seen before. In terms of opportunities, brands have never had it better than they do right now, but the stakes are clearly higher and they need to be cautious.

WINGers Top Three Pieces of Content.

Nike - Dream Crazier
Following on from Dream Crazy which came out in September, we have another powerful film from Nike, this time celebrating women in sport. Narrated by tennis superstar Serena Williams, the film turns insults that women in sport face into an empowering speech. A notable choice considering this week's news of a Belgian women's cycling race that had to be halted when the leader caught up to the men's race despite their ten-minute head start.

Google - #HeyGoogle, let's go to the movies.
A spot that went live on Oscars night paid homage to some iconic film moments. With echoes to Three's Phones Are Good spot, #HeyGoogle showing how Google would have improved the lives and circumstances of the characters.

Sprite - I Love You, Hater
After Pepsi's disastrous protest campaign starring Kendall Jenner, you'd think soda companies can't be trusted with serious human issues - but Sprite have approached this with much more tact. Using real victims of bullying comments and criticisms, this film reminds the audience to 'stay fresh' in the face of haters.

Hope you enjoyed this month's perspective. Until next time!

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