As we begin 2018 we have outlined our top six predictions for the sponsorship industry over the next 12 months.
1. Ambush brands will unsuccessfully clutter the World Cup
Too many brands will jump on the World Cup bandwagon, trying to capitalise on the year’s biggest sporting event. A lot of money will be wasted by brands half-heartedly activating in this space without any success. These campaigns are doomed to failure; brands should realise that just because they over-index within a certain territory does not automatically mean that they will succeed ambushing it. It takes time and effort to build trust when associating with a consumer passion point. Whilst it is possible to successfully ambush a sponsorship property, the brand needs to demonstrate commitment, integrity and credibility to receive permission from their consumers to activate in this space.
2. FIFA will continue to struggle to sell World Cup sponsorships
Due to the years of corruption scandals, which they have never fully addressed, FIFA might finally understand that it is damaging their brand. Whilst huge numbers will still watch the World Cup, this is due to the global appeal of the sport rather than FIFA’s governance. With less than 6 months to go there are gaps on all tiers of their sponsorship programme, with only one of their 32 ‘regional supporters’ sponsorships having been sold. Big names such as Johnson & Johnson and Castrol having withdrawn their support since the last World Cup. The value of these packages diminishes every day as a potential sponsor’s ability to effectively activate reduces over time. We hope that this will finally make meaningful FIFA reform inevitable.
3. Research experts will, incorrectly, crown the year’s sponsorship winners
After most of the big sporting events (World Cup, Wimbledon, Winter Olympics), many research agencies will publish their sponsorship winners and losers of the brands who associate themselves with these tournaments. These conclusions will be based on a very broad awareness measure without any consideration of objectives, category context or targeting. Whilst we understand that they are trying to raise their profile to drive incremental business, we would argue that this has the opposite effect; providing meaningless data proves they don’t properly understand how to measure the sponsorship. Comparing Hisense to McDonalds, for example, is worthless as their positioning, consumers and activation will be very different and therefore their objectives will vary. However, we are sure to see the headline that one has beaten the other after the World Cup.
4. Digital won’t kill sponsorship in 2018
The sponsorship industry will be told (as will every other marketing channel) that the industry is dying due to the unstoppable rise of digital. Whilst the importance of digital is undeniable, the marketing world needs to stop predicting that all other marketing disciplines will disappear as a result of this rise. Digital is just another marketing tactic, whilst its importance is growing, marketers should be considering how it integrates with the other channels rather than whether its replacing them. Allocation of marketing budgets has never been an argument about whether traditional TV advertising, for example, should dominate to the detriment of PR or shopper marketing; the debate has always been about the mix of budget and how a campaign can be integrated into all channels. Digital is no different, the debate should be about the mix and integration rather than the death of a particular channel.
5. Brexit will continue to hurt the sponsorship industry
Rights holders will continue to struggle to secure long term partners until there is clarity on Brexit. In 2017 we have regularly seen falls in renewal fees, shorter contracts and properties struggling to find sponsors (e.g. Six Nations, Aviva Premiership, English Cricket). This blog isn’t intended to be political, however whichever side of the Brexit debate you sit, clarity and speed are desperately needed on the UK’s future relationship with Europe. Confidence is vital in all business, however the sponsorship industry is particularly exposed, compared to other marketing disciplines, because brands aren’t willing to commit to 4/5 year contracts when they have no idea what their trading conditions will be in 4/5 months.
6. Health and wellbeing will dominate activation plans
More brands than ever before will activate in the health and wellbeing space. This trend is gathering momentum and is particularly well highlighted by the alcohol category where the recent launch of Heineken’s 0.0% ABV variant and the meteoric rise of Seedlip alcohol-free gin demonstrate that brands are increasingly becoming enablers of healthier lifestyles. This provides a great opportunity for brands within the sport sponsorship space where they can credibly demonstrate their health and wellbeing credentials through encouraging greater participation and a more active lifestyle.
We will address this blog again in December to score our predictions. Happy New Year.