Sportstech game-changer for college sponsors7 minutes
Guest blogger Enda McShane is CEO of Velocity Worldwide, a global customer engagement and creative retail marketing specialist with offices in New York, Tokyo, the UK and Ireland. Velocity is also the majority shareholder of Darius an end-to-end fan engagement platform for stadium technology. Darius was launched in the U.S. in April 2017 and is teaming up with Panasonic to create fan experiences. Velocity is a proud sponsor of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, the first NCAA basketball tournament in Northern Ireland and Sport Changes Life Victory Scholars Program.
Whether it’s major league or the college game, sports sponsorship is big business.
Take Under Armour’s $280 million, 15-year sponsorship deal with UCLA as case in point. The deal ranks among the largest apparel and shoe sponsorship in the history of university athletics.
Yes, very big business indeed.
Whether it’s a big-bucks deal like this or something more modest, it’s reasonable to suggest that sponsors might expect more for their money than mere logo visibility on a jersey.
Panasonic and Darius, an end to end fan engagement platform for stadiums and arenas, recently completed a research study regarding sportstech to glean technology and sponsorship goals of athletic departments at four-year colleges including some of the biggest names in college sports to smaller schools with seriously passionate fans. Findings show that schools are investing in advanced technology to boost fan engagement, but challenges remain.
Top goals of respondents’ sportstech investment are to engage more fans, generate revenue and increase awareness of programs. The vast majority say social media is the most popular tool for connecting with fans, followed by large format advertising screens. Surprisingly, about one third of respondents admit they don’t have a formal program for collecting fan data, and just 15% say they can collect data in real time. The full results of the research study will be published in a white paper in early September.
Quantifying sponsorship ROI
The issue of measuring and quantifying sponsorship return on investment is a popular topic among some industry commentators.
Certainly, factors such as the ever-evolving technology and media landscape, alongside the challenges of shrinking game attendance at the national level make things more difficult for sports properties and sponsors alike.
And when we consider that home attendance at all major college football games for the 2016 season declined for the sixth consecutive year, it’s clear that these challenges run further than the national game.
To emphasize this point, NCAA Division I - FBS (the top level in college football) home attendance was down nearly 301,000 against 2015.
Why should game attendance matter to sponsors?
SBRnet’s Sponsorship Influence Index (SSI) shows the extent to which fans are likely to purchase a sponsor’s product.
Using the NFL as an example, the SSI shows that 18.6 per cent of fans are either “very” or “extremely” influenced by sports sponsorship when it comes to purchasing sponsors’ products. A further 18.4 per cent are “moderately” influenced.
And this is crucial: Influence is much higher among those who regularly attend games. That’s a big deal.
So, what can sports properties and college athletic departments do to make their proposition more attractive to new sponsors, and help existing sponsors extract more value from their sponsorship packages in-stadium?
To answer this, we must understand the reasons behind declining game attendance.
In his article in Forbes, Dr. Patrick Rishe attributes declining college football game attendance to a range of factors that include competition from the at-home experience, access to digital content, ticket costs and start times.
It’s little surprise that the impact of home viewing on game attendance is a recurring one throughout industry commentary: HDTV, strong WiFi, no lines, and cold beer in the fridge all make for a very compelling proposition.If sports properties are to take on such a formidable opponent, they need to seriously up their game!
To quote the CEO of a successful NFL franchise: “We have to make the stadium experience not equal to, but better than the home experience.”
If technology is part of the problem, it’s also a significant part of the solution. Arguably, the solution. Deloitte makes a big play of stadium technology in its 2016 “The stadium as a platform” report, where the firm describes how re-imagining the modern stadium as a technology and business platform has significant implications for the sports and entertainment industry.
Central to this is an in-stadium ‘tech stack’ that comprises:
- Infrastructure elements, such as WiFi, beacons, digital signage, video-boards, and retail POS.
- Enabling technologies, such as data engines, APIs, and audio and video feeds.
- An experience layer that makes use of the tech to create and deliver timely, personalized, immersive experiences around what’s happening both on and off the pitch before, during and after the game!
At the heart of all this lies data.
In their report “Trends expected to disrupt and dominate 2017,” Deloitte emphasizes how data and analytics will increasingly shape the business side of the sports industry… specifically about how it can improve interaction with fans, enhance sponsorship opportunities, and improve internal functions.
When it comes to college game attenders, and data collection and usage, sports properties are pushing at an open door: young Americans aged 20 to 39 are, along with China, the ‘demographic’ most willing (in the world!) to share their personal data in exchange for benefits or rewards.
Great news for college ADs that this aligns perfectly with college game attender demographics! Crucially, however, it’s not just enough to gather the data: the Deloitte report also talks about the need to activate the data and how failing to apply what’s gleaned from data often is typically the biggest barrier to driving value from analytics.
They say that in every game there are winners and losers. We believe that through using the stadium as a platform that can gather, analyze and activate data to create wonderful fan experiences, everyone wins – college, fan and sponsor alike.