New players have been entering the sports sponsorship market for the past 5+ years, bringing new practices to the industry. Like in many other industries, digital put customers at the heart of the game.
Digital-first, consumer startups
Venture Capital has more cash on hand than ever, and is looking at consumer startups to find exceptional growth.
"The amount of money available for startups means a company can scale at breakneck speed — and a big part of that for consumer companies is creating an established brand quickly.Sponsoring a major sports team is a good way to create a meaningful connection with a large community — as opposed to more conventional forms of advertising like TV ads and social media — and for the first time European startups can stump up the money to do it."Kai Nicol-Schwarz from Sifted in this article
Very often those B2C market are "winner-takes-all" and the road to success is winning customers' heart faster than competition. That's where sports marketing comes in.
For now, fast-growing consumer scale-ups have invested in major sports properties like Everton & Aston Villa for Cazoo, Ligue 1 for Uber Eats, Los Angeles Lakers and Paris Saint-Germain for Crypto.com, Paris Saint-Germain again for Gorillas, and the list goes on.
For every major funding of B2C startup, expect some sort of investment in sports marketing. Our next bets? Companies like Luko, Cajoo, Lydia or Sorare.
- Their target audience is young, urban, connected and digital-native
- They are backed by VCs
- They already started to spend some cash to make their brand more visible to sports fans, mainly through targeted or classic ads
New best-practices in sports marketing
While they have lots of cash to burn, the next generation of consumer brands does not spend foolishly on marketing. Instead, they are data-driven from day 1 and measure everything and especially when it comes to comparing the cost of acquiring a new customer vs. their lifetime value.
We're curious about how this will impact the standards of sponsorship. Influenced by new comers, brands are more demanding when it comes to evaluating the impact of sponsorship with data. And when they lack evidence of their relevance, investments tend to be reviewed, reduced or terminated (especially during economic downturns).
Another great thing about incumbents is that they are obsessed with their customers, and this is changing how sponsorship works. Sponsorship is less about a client-supplier relationship and more about an alliance where both the brand and the asset owner (an organisation, an athlete, a creator) contribute to bring value to the target audience.
One of the biggest challenges in this is to build a symbiotic relationship with the sponsored entity, aligning the brand, the asset and the fans. The later expect authenticity, credibility and relevance.
It's getting more and more established (here and here) that sport sponsorship needs to be fan-centric, which is a good thing !
Adidas alliance with LenaSituations is a great case study of how to align the brand, the asset (a French influencer) and the community:
- exposure for Adidas that serves both brand awareness & image
- multiple contact opportunities for fans with different kinds of activations: a capsule-collection on Adidas website, a long-form video documentary prepared for 6 months and sponsored by Adidas, Instagram Reels...
- authentic and credible campaigns that fits with LenaSituations' personal branding and storytelling
As brands get the fan at the heart of their sponsorship strategy, sports marketing will probably look more authentic, engaged, innovative and fun in the future. Hopefully, that's where sports creators can hop in and find a place in the ecosystem.