The majority of papers published in the Journal consider an issue relating to sponsorship and whether or not it works for brands. The research also frequently looks at fan loyalty and identification and provides a useful insight into how spectators behave.
There is, however, a missing piece of the sports marketing jigsaw and that is the questions around what rights holders do to maximise their commercial offerings and income.
We have frequently stated that rights holders generally trail sponsors in their understanding of commercial opportunities. To sell sponsorships, most take a now dated rate card approach to sales, using the type of media reports that were common twenty years ago, but throw in a few numbers for social media to show that they have moved with the times.
While such data remains useful, essentially they are just going through the motions; approach sponsors; give them some data; then ask for some money. Once the main sponsorship rights have been sold, that’s it for another year – now it’s time to shift focus to the hospitality packages.
It is the exception rather than the norm for rights holders to go out of their way to create something exciting. A few years ago we published a paper on how the French rugby club Stade Français created a series of special events at the national stadium, which boosted crowds from an average of less than 12,000 to 75,000 sell-outs. It was a bold and imaginative initiative that proved that creative thinking can deliver huge returns. It is not the only example of revenue- generating thinking but it is certainly the exception rather than the rule.
A sports club, be it soccer, rugby, baseball or NFL, is a business with an illogically loyal and passionate customer base and a fantastic information distribution channel. Clubs have direct access to large numbers of followers who, along with the media, actively seek and then pass on virtually every snippet of information available. Other businesses would die for such an asset yet many sports clubs are nearly dying in spite of it.
It is time that sports clubs understood their assets – from their stadia, their fans, their local or global profiles and their unique positions in local communities. Economic times might be tough and athletes might wield too much power over salary levels, but it is time rights holders stopped hiding behind this as an excuse and explored the huge opportunities on their doorsteps.
As ever, we welcome case studies and research into this fascinating area.