Sponsorship beyond the shut stadium – where will you find your fans?


You may not be able to connect with a full stadium of fans, but you can connect with them in other ways.  

Stating the obvious, COVID-19 has reached pandemic status. It has a firm grip on the world, and unless we all work together to curb the spread by eliminating large gatherings, who knows how it will end. But what does that mean for the sports-sponsorship plan you had ready to go? And how can you still reach your fans who are now very possibly self-isolating at home, potentially already bored having unexpected me time on their hands?

The banning of mass gatherings by governments around the globe to contain the Coronavirus is likely to be the norm for the next few months ahead. And this is no different for the world of sport. Games are still being played but behind closed stadium doors, and high-profile sporting events are reaching their end before they’ve even begun. Public safety is, of course, paramount, but these restrictions will cost sponsors, brands and rights holders millions in lost spend.

So let’s think differently. There is plenty of opportunity beyond the on-ground live activation experience. We just need to pivot our approach, utilise the amazing technology now readily available to us, and understand the ‘what’s, ‘when’s’ and ‘how’s’ of it all – in order to still activate and leverage that opportunity.

With rapid advancements in recent years in technology, fans have been building their ‘digital nests’ at home. Stadiums have already noted a decrease in attendance due to this phenomenon, and smart brands will no doubt be taking advantage of this during this critical period.

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So here are a few ways to reach your fans beyond the field, and turn this unprecedented global disaster, into a brand opportunity:

redshapelogo_bulletHarness the power of fan-generated content

To adhere to the specified government limits, some stadiums are considering only opening their doors to smaller ‘VIP’ crowds for scheduled games. This automatically makes an event more ‘exclusive’.

Teams could invite their top fans to the ‘closed stadium’ event, and use the fan-generated content to amplify and share the live experience. These fans are in essence niche influencers and have huge reach through their own online communities.

Additionally, brands typically have access to players as part of their contracts. Consider developing a content-lead campaign using them as influencers. Something a little different to the usual ‘meet and greets’.

redshapelogo_bulletPut fans at the very centre of the action…with wearables

Brands that have uniform logo rights could look at using wearables like First V1sion, which has a camera integrated in the jersey. This shows fans exactly what it’s like to be on the field. Adidas did this incredibly well with the Brazucam – a soccer ball with 6 built-in cameras for the World Cup, which put viewers right in the middle of all the action.

redshapelogo_bulletEngage with smaller gatherings

Consider locations that broadcast live games but attract a smaller crowd, like bars and pubs. Many bars have taken the decision to stay open but are limiting numbers to help guests avoid close contact with one another.

Alcohol brands could (and should) develop stronger relationships with these venues and create mini events to heighten the bar experience. Doing this would ensure they continue to build brand love and the association with the targeted sport.

redshapelogo_bulletOwn the at-home occasion

Think about how your brand could be part of the at-home viewing occasion. Partner with companies like Deliveroo (there are also a heap of not so obvious brand partners) who have a network of drivers and riders that can be used to deliver packs when the games are being broadcast. Or work with retail partners with home delivery. This is a way to drive trial as well as engagement around the sponsorship property.

redshapelogo_bulletUse the Virtual and Augmented Reality

It’s become more common for teams to use Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to create new experiences for audiences. These technologies allow fans at home to feel like they have a front-row seat, arguably helping them get closer to the action than if they were at the stadium itself.

Although it’s been around for a few years, Google Cardboard is a great piece of technology that is still under utilised, and with branded viewers costing as little as $2 – it seems crazy not to give it a go. Especially now.

AR provides a more engaging broadcast experience for the home viewers, and can generate traffic for the broadcaster. It can also be used to provide an in-depth analysis of the game, and overlay graphics on video replays giving the audience a greater understanding of events.

redshapelogo_bulletBlockchain and digital tokens are your new best friends

Blockchain is helping brands bring together virtual and physical worlds through digital tokens or vAtoms. This incredibly exciting new technology is a representation of a real-world object that provides people with the right to own, share and redeem. What you can do is only limited by one’s imagination.

The beauty about digital tokens on the blockchain, is they are completely platform agnostic. This means they can be linked in an email, embedded in a digital banner, inserted into a social media post or grabbed from the TV during a live broadcast. The possibilities are literally endless. With a bit of creative muscle behind the strategic thinking, and the right partner, you can reach your audience quickly and effectively.

I could go on about this, but in the interest of your time, take a look at ‘When the Coronavirus closes a “door”, a new virtual world opens’, when you next grab a cup of tea.

So yes, the spread of the Coronavirus means people are more than likely to be holed up behind closed doors. And you’re no longer connecting with a full stadium of fans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still connect. There really is plenty of opportunity beyond the on-ground live activation experience, just figure out fast what it is you may want to do. Or just talk to the experts.

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Author bio


I’m a media and marketing all-rounder, with 15 years’ experience across a range of channels. I’m fascinated by the shop floor and ‘real world’ and love getting out in the field, experiencing the action first-hand, and gathering and sharing consumer insights and knowledge.