EVOLUTION AND OPPORTUNITY; TRANSFORMING THE ROLE OF BRANDS IN SPORTS SPONSORSHIP 

COVID 19 -> SPORT 21

It’s easy to feel bogged down with the negativity of COVID when these are the statistics that we are focusing on. The uncertainty may make you feel as if the industry will never be the same, and that’s true: the industry will never be the same. But us WINGers are firm believers that this change will ultimately be for the better, allowing us to step into a more versatile landscape post-COVID.

Professional and live sport have been impacted drastically - it doesn’t take an epidemiologist to realise that stadium stands will be hauntingly empty for the foreseeable future. While gutting, there’s a flip side. More than ever people are craving community and comfort. People want to be reminded of normality, that the world is not falling apart (we know it feels like it is). For a lot of us, that comfort is sport, whether it’s the teams and players we support or the local clubs and gyms we like to visit after work. People are looking to the sports industry to provide reassurance and positivity. We have a responsibility to deliver.

YouTube’s Video Game High School explores the lives of up-and-coming eSports athletes.

Brands may feel threatened by the uncertainty, but let us remind you that this is a chance to completely rewrite the rules and look at the positives. First off, you can access a much larger audience than ever before; the barriers to entry have been limited and some removed, meaning that target markets have changed and expanded. It’s now possible to create VIP experiences like remote meet and greets with virtual experiences likely to be more affordable and talent more available. Take the time to adjust your strategies to suit possible new customers and understand how and where they are engaging. Working alongside our parent company Little Dot Studios, we can give you those valuable analytics to help assess, create, and build campaigns. And remember: all your new approaches will still be relevant and necessary when we step into a post-COVID landscape. The worldwide digital transformation that has been accelerated by the pandemic is going to benefit the organisations, sponsors, teams, and leagues that withstand the test of COVID-19.

When things return to “normal”, consumer behaviour will have changed long term and the fan experience will not have just evolved but it will have been completely transformed. Fans want authentic interaction and participation. Platforms should have emotional hooks that let players and fans connect in a time defined by isolation.

‘The Numbers Game’ campaign by Santander is a good example of how agile digitisation can deliver real benefits to audiences. We worked with Santander’s sports marketing and sponsorship activation agency, Sidhu & Simon, to create two content series this summer - one during national lockdown with the F2 freestylers, and one over this school term featuring Rio Ferdinand. This enabled the bank to quickly repurpose its sponsorship asset of the UEFA Champions League away from the pitch and focus on education, delivering football-themed maths videos and learning materials targeting 5 – 14 year olds in homes and schools nationwide alongside campaign partner Twinkl, the world’s largest online publisher of educational resources. Since launch in late September, the 12-week campaign has generated over 250 news articles, over 30,000 downloads of resources and over 2 million social media impressions and is still running. A great example of a successful branded content-led sponsorship with purpose and reach.

Across the pond, the NBA season was suspended but this didn’t stop the engagement; while the games were on pause the NBA app allowed for historical and virtual content, and when the season returned there were new features to the app. These included “watch-parties, trivia contests, and Tap to Cheer.” This lit up the arena with lights and sound to support the players remotely, and the NBA successfully maintained their subscriptions and viewership.

YouTube’s Video Game High School explores the lives of up-and-coming eSports athletes.

The pandemic could have been an obstacle for the extremely successful This Girl Can campaign, however they returned with a relatable updated film looking at the ways women have kept themselves active during lockdown (and weren’t we all glad to see an ad that wasn’t shot entirely on Zoom?).

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So, it's definitely not all doom and gloom. This accelerated digital transformation is going to create lasting and positive change, and the pandemic has pushed the industry to new levels of creativity. The rule book is out the window and sporting brands are able to create new content through digital platforms, upping engagement, and targeting the huge amounts of fans at home. Let’s use this blank page to create our own ways of succeeding and ensuring that sport continues to do what it does best - bring people together. We’ll leave you with the wise words of one Mr Nelson Mandela: “Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite.”

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For more insight into how COVID-19 is transforming the industry towards Sport 21, join us for our webinar on November 25th: COVID 19 -> Sport 21: Evolution and Opportunity; Transforming the role of brands in sports sponsorship.

We have broadcaster Kelly Cates hosting Director’s from Coca-Cola & Santander to dissect case studies from the two largest sporting event sponsors:

  • Coca-Cola x Tokyo 2020+1: as the longest sponsor of the Olympic Games, we'll hear how the brand adapted its approach to the Games one year on.
  • Santander x The Champions League: as the official sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, we'll hear about how they re-purposed their sponsorship of the tournament in 2020.

You can find the full details and register a complimentary place here:

https://www.littledotstudiosevents.com/covid-19-to-sports-21-wing/

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