First, I’d like to wish all readers a belated Happy New Year and I hope that 2013 will be a prosperous and exciting time for all of us. On that note, it is probably a good moment to look at what the year might bring to our realm of interest. 2013 is a strange year in the world of sport, with no major international events (no Olympics, no soccer World Cup).
In this respect it actually gives us the opportunity to consider the industry in what scientists might consider to be ‘test conditions’. We will be able to see how everyday sports properties are marketed and how sponsorships are activated without mega- events clouding our judgements, impacting TV viewing figures or dominating press and online coverage. For those conducting research into sports marketing, 2013 is therefore a valuable year and I would urge you to formulate your programmes to take this into account.
In terms of sponsorship, the industry has seen an upheaval in recent years, with rights fees to prime properties rocketing and sponsors trying to get to grips with using social media to activate their rights. Our sister publication, Sponsorship Today, recently produced research showing that more than $2 billion was invested annually in acquiring rights to international federations. Given that this investment doesn’t give these sponsors a direct link to the sports stars, as realised through individual endorsement deals and, in many cases, team sponsorships, I think the year ahead will see some questions asked about such major rights fees. Could Adidas get more marketing leverage from spending its FIFA rights fee on social media? Could Coca-Cola make more from creating its own events, as has Red Bull, than it sees delivered via its portfolio of global sponsorships? The answer, in both cases, might well be ‘No’, but it shows the pressure that major rights holders could come under in the future.
Sponsors want content that they can use to engage their target audience. The days of paying big money for basic brand exposure are gone. Federations, therefore, need to work hard to ensure that sponsors can use their assets to engage with fans in a cost-effective way. Of course they have content, and of course they have a communication channel with fans. But consider the music video Gangnam Style. It had no global superstars, no pre-existing database of fans, no website regularly viewed by millions, no major TV contracts to broadcast it around the world. It was put on YouTube and within five months had been viewed by more than one billion people. It shows the power of electronic word of mouth: people find content they like and pass it on.
Brands are keen to use similar techniques, and any rights holder who considers that they only need official links and communication channels to enable success for their sponsors is living very dangerously. Federations and clubs will therefore have to work a lot harder to ensure that their sponsorship offerings can help brands to meet their objectives. This will mean social media strategies that can adapt to the rapidly changing media environment. One of the key roles of the Journal is to stimulate research and debate and I would recommend that researchers look at this area in particular over the next year; at present it is the subject that is closest to the hearts of all major sponsors.
Professor Michel Desbordes, Editor