Many Brand Opportunities on the Field of Play

With just under four months to go before the start of the football World Cup tournament in Qatar, a new survey shows almost two-thirds of fans think brands are more appealing if they participate in sport sponsorship.

The Nielsen “What Fans Want” report also says just under 60% of fans are likely to inform themselves about brands if they have lent their name to a sport. And 59% say they would pick a sponsor’s product over a rival’s if the price and quality were the same.

The report also gives a comprehensive breakdown of which brand categories lead when it comes to sponsorship expenditure. The top three are nonalcoholic beverages, followed by tourism and then athletic apparel and equipment.

Of some use to local brands during the tournament is a finding that football fans watching matches on television like to multitask; almost 70% order food online. This opens the way for tactical promotions and special offers.

The study also says fans expect real-time data that contextualises and enhances the match they are watching. “When properly structured, data integrations within the viewing experience can help fans find more of the content they want at the time they want it. Of the football fans who watch sport, 80% are on their device while watching a match — and they are likely to want a lot of content,” the report says.

Felicia Ntisa, founder and MD of M-Sports Marketing, says modern fans consume content differently to those of previous years.

“With the development of technology, smartphones and social media, sponsors now need to pay attention to [more than] visibility in and around the activation areas. There is a huge focus on social media and other digital platforms that generate much engagement and critical data. Fans experience sport differently — physical activations are impactful, but they capture the attention and engagement of only a few. Through social media and digital content, sponsors can draw the attention of millions, in more areas than one.”

Clive Grinaker, CEO of Grinsport consultancy, tells the FM the Covid pandemic has changed the sport sponsorship paradigm. “Fan engagement and live sports have [previously] been the major requirements of sports sponsorships, and so events with live crowds have always had major pulling power, offering the greatest returns in most sponsorship decisions. Covid lockdowns and empty stadiums brought about major shifts such as the move to digital content and the rapid evolution of technology, such as streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality.

“The future is all about content. Both sponsors and consumers are turning to digital platforms, where data is far easier to gather so that sponsors’ campaigns can quickly and easily be adjusted to the liking of fans and consumers.”

Grinaker also believes so-called influencers and individual athletes are becoming more important to sponsors as the brand’s biggest ambassadors. “They are role models, all offering access to large fan bases, and providing valuable data. They  offer unique content the fans love engaging with.”

Potential sports sponsors rightly ask whether association without television is an option, given the data-first argument. Grinaker says: “In SA, TV is still the biggest provider of the sponsorship return on investment (ROI). It still offers cheaper access to a loyal fan base and audience than buying a traditional TV advertising campaign. Though digital media opportunities are growing rapidly and challenging TV with far larger fan bases and directly targeted audiences, there is still a way for them to go before they will capture the ‘value’ attributable to the sponsor’s brand in ROI.”

Sponsorship, says Grinaker, helps to shape consumer and fan attitudes. So, when the sponsorship property and brand share the same fan base and target audience, the likelihood increases that the audience will become far more loyal to the sponsor’s brand and more attentive to the sponsor’s messages and brand attributes. As a result, they are likely to engage increasingly with the brand.