Has there ever been a better time for brands to invest in sport?

By Tori Horobin

$17.2 billion. That’s the projected hit on global sports sponsorship spend in 2020. Where value derived from traditional sponsorship assets has become limited, rightsholders and brands must now turn to innovative digital solutions to provide a return on investment.

The global sports calendar has been severely disrupted, stadiums and arenas are empty of fans, and companies around the world are closely inspecting their decreasing marketing budgets. Yet, despite all this, now might just be one of the best times for brands to invest in sports sponsorships.

There are two keywords that form the basis of this statement: ‘digital’ and ‘data’. Digital sponsorship is one of the most undervalued assets of any sports partnership rights package. Consumer data is one of the most valuable outcomes of digital sponsorship.

The sports industry lost out on $16.7 billion in unrealised sponsorship revenue throughout 2019, largely owed to not knowing how to best monetise user data garnered online.

There is a clear self-fulfilling prophecy in play; if rightsholders provide more digital sponsorship assets then brands are more likely to spend money with these rightsholders to gather valuable consumer data. 

So why is now a better time than ever for brands to invest? Simply, due to the global situation at present, the development of digital assets has accelerated at an unprecedented rate. For far too long rightsholders have relied on the physical, tangible assets that they have within their portfolio, but now they’ve had no choice but to evaluate their digital offering.

Sports teams and federations have had to adapt and utilise new methods to reach previously under-considered fans, such as those at home, as they’ve turned their attention away from their in-stadium offering. Geographical limitations to the live sports fan experience have been removed, and awareness of how to best engage these consumers has been heightened.

As discussed in our previous blog, today’s fan prefers viewing live sport from home, watching across multiple screens, engaging with fan communities via social media, and accessing content anywhere at any time. As the sports industry wakes up and reacts to the reality of the changing consumption habits of fans, it must in turn alter its offering and take sponsors on this journey with them.

If these are the audiences that brands want to reach, then rightsholders must provide them with the tools to do this. One of the most alluring factors of digital sponsorship assets for brands is the trackability and data points provided by these assets. Companies will be under more pressure than ever to justify sponsorship spend and prove that it generates sales and provides a solid return on investment. Through the data produced, digital assets can do just that. 

Engagements, purchase intent, leads generated and brand awareness received through digital assets can all be measured and guaranteed. In real-time, brands can see how successful their campaigns are performing, enabling them to improve and enhance the campaign to optimise sponsorship spend.

While digital sponsorships open up a whole realm of possibilities for brands, there is still great value to be had in the traditional, physical in-stadium assets. After all, the passion, authenticity and atmosphere generated by live sport can drive sponsor-alignment to new levels. If you can marry these traditional elements with digital assets, then the value to the sponsor becomes exponential.

Mixed reality is one such way of doing that. There are endless opportunities available for brands via digital overlaying; tailored messaging, targeted advertising and geo-localised marketing to name a few. Branding can be adjusted depending on the market in which it is being broadcast, and the messaging can be made more impactful by integrating it into the sporting architecture.

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The OZ ARena solution uses innovative mixed reality technology to bring fans from their homes into live broadcasts. Virtual fans can personalise the experience with their own avatars, club shirts, genuine cheers from home via an app – and even appear in their preferred seat.

The real game-changer here is that current stadium set-ups are not the inhibitor to digital sponsorship installations as they may have been in the past. Existing infrastructures can be built upon, with virtual crowds added to the stadium or arena. A whole host of branding opportunities come alive, from a sponsor's name splashed across the front of an avatar’s jersey through to branded merchandise on display in their hands. For sports played out in settings where the infrastructure and crowds are minimal, suddenly via mixed reality it can open up exciting new sponsorship possibilities at a fraction of the cost of installing the real thing.

There is an opportunity for leagues, teams and athletes to reach fans in new markets. That’s why, even when fans return to stadiums, the gap bridged between the real and virtual worlds will only drive even better fan experience and present sponsors with unique possibilities to engage.

The real winners will be the sports that quickly and effectively build up their digital assets, and those brands that see the huge benefit and return on investment these assets can provide. With its innovative mixed reality technology, the OZ ARena solution is at the forefront of this live sport transformation, serving not only the individual needs of rightsholders and brands but merging them together to fuel the future of sports sponsorship.

With the development of unique, exciting and fresh digital sponsorship assets providing partners with a measurable return on their investment, has there ever been a better time for brands to invest in sport?

 

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