Make no mistake… there is business in sports. Unfortunately, sports in all its forms is locked down for over a year now. The gains of the past are slowly eroding away and there is no clarity about the future. Discussions with various sports stakeholders revolve on the challenge of how to get back on track.
An integral contributor to revenues is sponsorship. Businesses see the value in attaching their brands to people, places or events that provide a platform to build their brand’s story. Sports presents such opportunities.
SPORTS IS DOWN BUT NOT OUT
The uncertainty of the times caused by the pandemic creates an alien situation to many. But, a step back to assess the situation will reveal that returning to basics is almost always the best direction to take. For all intents and purposes, it is a restart for everybody.
To be able to run a successful sport event, it must be well managed, utilizing fundamental business principles. The goal is to identify the correct key performance variables and implement strategies well to build a sustainable sports property.
GETTING BACK UP FIGHTING
For any sport activity to be able to come back strong, they need to attract brand sponsors. Brands normally look for three major components of a sporting activity before they decide to spend on it. These are:
If there is a groundswell of participation from the general public, a sport becomes interesting to sponsors.
Basketball became a household word early in the 1970s as it began taking root at every street corner in the city and in every clearing with a lone tree fitted with a makeshift ring in the rural areas. Of course, the introduction of the Philippine Basketball Association caused the tipping point.
Once a sport is readily embraced by a substantial mass of followers, it becomes a ready recipient of brand messages utilizing the virtues the sport has to offer.
In the recent past, Manny Pacquiao’s rise to stardom paved the way for the opening of boxing gyms which allowed previously uninterested participants to boxing learn the sport. Prior to that time, boxing was followed only by a small group basically made up of men described to be overly masculine. But as it became more accessible to the public, even women became interested in the sport allowing new brands to leverage on the new market.
We see the same phenomena when there was a sudden preference for badminton. Suddenly, in early 2000, badminton courts sprouted across the metropolis, some of them even operating for 24 hours. It immediately provided brands with badminton centric marketing offerings plus it allowed new distribution outlets and sampling locations.
A good sized group of participants almost always attract brand’s attention.
A strong and stable fan following ensures sustainability.
Fans are those that watch, follow, engage and support the sport of their choice. More often than not this translates into strong relationships with teams and athletes. Fans consume hours of media time by viewing the event on various platforms which in turn give brands reason to spend advertising monies.
Fan foundation is mutually exclusive from Mass Participation. One does not have to be “playing” the sport to be a fan and vice versa. But, being both is a big plus.
Products that are essential to the sport they cater to benefit largely from a fan who is also a participant. Sports apparel and gear, equipment and training tools, focus their efforts on this demographic. Brands look at sports with huge fan foundation as a springboard to increase awareness for their products and services.
This factor is more introspective.
Some brands identify first what they stand for, then choose the sport to tie-up with regardless of the size of fan foundation or mass participation. We see some brands that have attached themselves with extreme sports allow a more niched approach, casting a smaller net, but succeeding in developing fiercely loyal customers.
There are products that are naturally consumed as a sport is experienced. Food and beverage are innately gobbled up by fans in baseball, basketball and football games. Alcoholic beverages are consumed by the athletes themselves in sports like billiards and darts. So as products are inherently present in certain sports events, brands are compelled to make their presence felt in these activities.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
These three factors need not be present at the same time all the time. A combination of 2 or a dominant presence of 1 is enough for brands.
Although tough, starting with a clean slate maybe the best way to go. People’s habits have changed and as the pandemic continues to persist, preferences may alter also.
It already has been reported that e-games is aggressively growing in popularity. There are also reports that TV viewership has gone down and has shifted to more digital-based platforms. This, many say introduce people to more sports programming particularly emanating from other parts of the world.
Other researches also reveal that a huge percent of the young market cannot wait to restart their lives when everything goes back to normal. Their openness to try something new, learn something different or enjoy something diverse sends the signal that a novel sporting world is unraveling.
There is no clarity of how sports will come out of this pandemic but one thing is for sure, those that are strategizing to get people interested in their sport as participants or as fans are those that will be ready or the future, when everyone gets back on track.
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Mike Ochosa is an avid sportsman. He has written for various broadsheets and on line publication providing his thoughts and insights on various sports. He is a freelance TV boxing analyst having sat ringside in 14 of Pacquiao’s fights and for various international sports networks as well. He was President of Punchout Boxing Club and is currently President and Program Director of Philippine Habagat Baseball.
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