Last week I was lucky enough to attend 3 very different sporting events, spending time with some of the sports properties we work with. I was up in Yorkshire for the GB heat of TrialGP, went to MK Lightning’s last warm up ice hockey game before the start of the season, and then the practice day of British SuperBikes at Silverstone.
It was a high-octane week, getting under the surface of sports that would never really have come on my radar when I was running SportBusiness.
I reflected that with hand-to-mouth budgets (some actually having to pay for coverage and live event streaming rather than receiving TV’s billions), such sporting properties have had to be incredibly creative to survive. Necessity is the mother of all invention. I wondered whether these smaller sports properties could actually teach the bigger sports brands something commercially? Undoubtedly, they can give them a lesson in authenticity and ‘keeping it real’- leading to a deeper level of fan engagement, more passion and, therefore, increased loyalty to the sport.
I was impressed to see that, even prior to their qualifying runs, the professional TrialGP riders were prepared to spend time speaking to the amateur riders/spectators who had brought their bikes up to the course and were practising techniques on the boulders that surrounded the course. It really did feel like a very close-knit community where idolisation was balanced by returned appreciation. I can’t see fans being invited to join in with Mourinho’s training (although every fan’s dream is to do what their heroes do, with their heroes). But, what’s to stop a Premier Rugby side from inviting in 30 fans once a week to play a game alongside their own training, a couple of pros just rotating in to ref or coach? Imagine the social media benefit!
Ice Hockey fans are a passionate bunch and are made up of an impressively young demographic. I loved the match. What’s intriguing, however, is that every player is sponsored (often with the sponsor paying the player’s total wages, with the part-time player actually working within their organisation outside of training).
Again, I can’t see any blue chip picking up the wages of a Premier League player. But what about netball, or basketball or even lower league football? It’s a small step from athlete endorsement. The opportunity here is to create brand characteristic amplification. If you’re a security company, you sponsor the goal keeper; a leadership company, you sponsor the Captain; a demolition company, you sponsor the bruiser. Think an iteration of SpecSavers’ sponsorship of referees. Of course, there are IP ramifications here, but nothing that a negotiation could not sort out.
Finally, at British SuperBikes, I was really taken by the fact that the owner of one of the leading teams is actually part of the corporate hospitality team! He explained to me that it was less about saving costs (although that did come into it), but more about keeping close to his sponsors and their guests. There’s no doubt the whole place had a warm family feeling. His sponsor roster was full, with a negligible churn rate: a great return for serving a bit of coffee. Again, I can’t see Roman helping with the prawn sandwiches- but there is definitely a lesson in humility and brand building here for all sports team owners.
For the record, this is how Giggabox works with these sports-
For @trialgp, our live event management team free stream on Facebook live all qualification rounds. We then create a highlights programme which is shown in 52 countries.
With @mklightning we have been discussing how to improve their OTT options with our live event streaming services.
For @Britishsuperbikes we provide commentary services and media services for their sponsors, including video production.