The Blurring of Sports & Entertainment Marketing
12th July, 2012
We recently saw the launch of Manchester City and Umbro’s kit for the 2012-13 season with a little help from City’s most famous supporter, Noel Gallagher. This is yet another example of crossover between the two key industries for sponsorship spend which prompts the question: what does this blurring of sports and entertainment really mean for sponsors?
Sport has always been a form of entertainment however the two concepts were once treated as two separate entities. Sport was solely about the display of athleticism whilst entertainment strictly referred to music, film and other performance-based art forms.
Sports stars are now entertainment personas, using their sporting foundations to build brands that extend way beyond their reason for being famous in the first place. Whether this means becoming a commentator, designing their own fashion labels or trying their hand at acting (Michael Jordan in Space Jam has to be worth a mention), sporting personalities along with their sponsors are exploiting markets that lie increasingly further away from sport, thus introducing the industry to new territories whilst continuing to pull the two worlds of sport and entertainment even closer together.
What does this mean for sponsors?
Sponsors are in turn benefiting from athletes promoting their brand in front of a range of audiences, making endorsement deals more valuable than ever. The activity of athletes off the field, court, track or any other sporting arena has also heightened considerably, giving brands a more continual relationship with the personality they are associating with. Social media platforms, especially Twitter, are providing athletes with a voice away from the field of play, resulting in a 24/7 dialogue with fans. Brand association and messaging are therefore becoming significantly more impactful with athletes personally posting images, videos and comments relating to the products they use.
Sport as a whole has also seen a transition as leagues and tournaments have been opened up to new markets; going on tour just as a musician would. With the success of such worldwide exhibitions as the Harlem Globetrotters, the NFL is now staging a season game at Wembley and drawing a sell-out crowd every year. Proposals for the Premier League to go global have also been brought to attention in recent years and with an increasing ratio of international to English players and managers, it would appear inevitable that we can expect to see games from the world’s greatest domestic football league being played in international cities from New York to Hong Kong. This will in turn attract brands with no previous ties to the sport, opening up the game to a whole host of additional markets around the globe.
What to expect for the future
Traditional sports are now experiencing a transition into a genre more similar to that of bull fighting and wrestling with athletes thriving off the opportunity to engage with the crowd. This is in turn broadening the commercial awareness of sporting professionals, making them more susceptible to working with sponsors in order to design, brand and market their products.
Moving forward, we can expect to see a vast change in the existing sports marketing landscape. Athletes and brands will continue to increase their online presence whilst promoting their sponsorships on a truly global stage with (what were) domestic competitions taking place from all corners of the world.
Sports sponsorship is still very much focused around the ideology of winning, success and excellence along with reaching global markets, however, with athletes becoming more of a lifestyle interest, we can expect to see some unusual brands popping up in this arena in years to come. This year we have already seen Rovio, the creator of the addictive Angry Birds app, sponsoring Caterham F1’s Heikki Kovalainen in Monaco as well as The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Batman film, joining forces with Lotus at Silverstone – two true testaments to the convergence of sports and entertainment.