What would a business article be without a relatable sporting analogy? Particularly when we, as a sporting nation, so desperately crave a return to live sport and a sense of ‘normality’.
In the world of cricket, the “bouncer” is the perfect “surprise” delivery. The bowler focuses on a number of full-length deliveries, luring the batsman into a sense of comfort. Then, just when they least expect it, strategically delivers a short bouncer that has the ability to catch them by surprise and secure the wicket!
In much the same way, the world of sport and entertainment – along with all those invested in the sector – have faced and continue to face the proverbial “full length delivery”. The delivery has taken the shape of concern, anxiety, uncertainty, reduced revenues, and general pandemic malaise. However, as we have seen in so many markets that have begun to open up, the demand for the opportunity to connect with other humans and the consumer’s passions has been significant which, unlike the bouncer, is something that should not catch us by surprise!
Get ready, South Africa, for when the bouncer comes at us you are either going to be ready and hit it for six or get caught out quickly and painfully!
As the world reintroduces itself to live spectator sport, the demand for opportunities to connect with these spectators and consumers will come to light. The pent-up demand to connect with each other, as well as the desire to feel the emotion of being able to support your favourite team and passion point, is no more prevalent than at the European Soccer Championships currently underway in Europe.
In our homeland, the desperation to support the Boks against the British and Irish Lions has been shared across all social media platforms, and we know that had we dealt with our vaccination program more effectively, we too would be in the stands going crazy to show our passion and love for our most revered World Champions.
If ever there was a time to secure a set of rights or a sponsorship platform… Now is the time.
Whilst the gaming brands have brought some much-needed investment in an otherwise barren sponsorship environment, there are still a host of fantastic opportunities for brands to secure audience engagement platforms now for when the Covid pandemic has subsided. This excess supply means that brands with foresight would be able to secure significant rights at a discounted value. The houses for sale are plenty and it is, therefore, a buyer’s market – now is the time to buy.
Examples of this over-supply lie currently within the PSL environment, where there are more than half of the current PSL teams sitting sponsor-less. Kaizer Chiefs find themselves without a sleeve partner for the first time in over 2 decades. The Fantastic Run Your City series (previously owned by FNB), the 94.7 Ride Joburg, the Jacaranda and East Coast Radio Walks all too do not have sponsors. The Proteas do not have a team sponsor, and the event sponsorship rights for test cricket lie vacant along with union partners and a number of other areas of opportunity. Where some may only see obstacles, others will see opportunity.
If I was a brand manager seeking out new and specific audiences at a reduced rate, now would be the time for me to secure the maximum rights for the minimum spend required. If the advice of Warren Buffet is anything to go by, “buying when everyone is selling and selling when everyone is buying” might be worth following – now is indeed the time to buy!
So when is the bouncer coming and what do we need to look out for?
Simply put, the bounce depends on how quickly the vaccine roll out takes place in South Africa. By all accounts, the Government has accelerated the roll out by allowing those over 50 to register. This is soon to be followed by 35+ and then the larger population. An additional 12-month window to enable total vaccination of the population is conservative. This would mean that by June 2022 we should be in the European position of allowing crowds back to live sport.
If this is the case, then now is absolutely the time to secure and invest in the relevant platforms that will deliver significant return, based on both pent-up demand as well as reduced rights fees and the ability to maximize digital and social rights for limited additional investment.
To learn more about available opportunities fill in the form below and we will get back to you.
Professional athletes endorsing brands is not a new concept. For years the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo have proudly donned the infamous Nike logo (amongst others) as part of high value sponsorship deals, but the rise of social media and the absence of live sport due to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the development of a new highly competitive playing field amongst athletes – both professionals and amateurs – in the digital arena.
Prior to social media, fan aspiration and celebrity influence was based predominantly upon athletic ability. Large endorsement deals, such as those from brand powerhouses like Nike, signified athletes having ‘made it’ within the sporting arena – recognition for their superior athletic performance. Fast forward to 2021 however, and many brands are capitalising on athletes’ content creation abilities and their social reach in lieu of on-field performance. Fans are seeking authentic, relatable experiences with their sporting heroes and brands are recognising the value of even micro and nano-influencers who have developed significant online rapport with their followers.
As Vodacom Blue Bulls CEO, Edgar Rathbone, stated in our recent Rights Holder webinar, “rugby has become a by-product to a large degree – we have become lifestyle brands and content creators”. Whilst sporting performance may have provided teams and athletes with a springboard into the public domain, it is their ability to engage with fans and their attitude towards their fans which now has a greater impact on loyalty and preference.
To watch the full webinar, CLICK HERE.
Whilst many athletes have, to a large degree, had an awareness of their social influence – previously predominantly due to their success on the sports field – the global Covid-19 pandemic has forced many athletes and teams to capitalise on their online presence as a means to create alternate sources of revenue. Similarly, for brands, endorsement deals are no longer simply considered based upon on-field performance and athlete likeability – increasingly, attributes such as athlete engagement, social relevance and reach are becoming of greater significance.
With lockdown and restrictions on live sport and spectator attendance, fans are seeking that personal connection with their sporting heroes. Social media has created new levels of immediacy and access that enables fans to develop emotional connection and attachment by sharing significant moments with their sporting icons. For the athletes, social media provides a platform to expose their authentic selves and providesnew ways to engage with fans outside of the sportsfield.
Data from YPulse, a youth research and insights company, has shown that when compared to musicians, online influencers, and Hollywood celebrities, athletes are the type of celebrity that Gen Z and Millennials aspire to most and are the type they would most like to see as a spokesperson for a brand. These athletes have become more than just role models, they have become trendsetters, persuasive powers and influential cause ambassadors.
Responsibility vs Authenticity
Along with all the benefits social media provides brands, fans and athletes, it also comes with a large degree of risk. It’s reach, immediacy and lack of rules and direct control of the account holders content, means that brands, teams and personal reputations are quite literally in the hands of the influencer in question. Poorly produced content, offensive posts and unsavoury online behaviour all have the power to jeopardise sentiment.
The rise of athlete influencers has also shifted the balance of power. Whereas athletes used to be treated as property of the teams that “owned” them and saw them viewed more as well-polished spokespeople, they’re now considered as authentic human beings with unique points of view, opinions and beliefs. These athletes have a responsibility to their followers to use their voice, reach and influence to take a stand against controversial topics, but the consideration of tone, content and desired call to action needs to be carefully considered based on all the stakeholders involved.
Which begs the question – where do influencers draw the line between authenticity and their responsibility to sponsors?