#MustReadMonday: Global Sporting Events – Owning The Conversation Not The Rights

Much has been talked about London 2012 being the most connected Olympic Games of all time, and it’s only natural that as technology advances that each global sporting event will embrace technology even further. Mark Knight, Strategy Director in MEC Access, explores how these technological advancements are affecting consumer behaviour in both their viewing and interaction with major sporting events.


Multi-device viewing puts consumers in control  

Research found that London 2012 saw a new behaviour in how a sporting event is consumed online, with many people using multiple devices to follow the action. One in three people who watched the London Olympics used more than one screen a day to view the event, while the most passionate fans reported watching the action on up to four screens! This coupled with catch-up TV, and ad-skipping services like TIVO or Sky Plus, increasingly put the viewer in control. Consumers now expect to watch what they want, when they want.

Signage rights are becoming less valuable

These changes to consumer viewing habits had clear implications for sponsors and advertisers trying to associate with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil last year and will continue into the future. The standard signage rights that were once the lifeblood of the sponsorship deal are becoming less and less valuable, and savvy rights-holders and brands have recognised that owning the conversation can be just as powerful as owning the rights.

Is this a new form of ambush marketing? Maybe, but while ambush marketing often involves a cynical attempt to suggest an association, this is much more meritocratic. Brands are only rewarded or invited into the conversation if they contribute something of value. The world has moved away from interruption to engagement marketing, and social media has become a key channel.

From interruption to engagement

One of the best examples of this came at the 2012 Superbowl with Oreo; who took advantage of the power-outage to inject their brand into the conversation in a relevant way. Equally Pantene’s real time sketches of style at the Oscars successfully gave them a relevant angle to lead the conversation around the awards ceremony.

Smart brands are now taking this one step further. Rather than just creating real time content, they are monitoring the internet for virality and buzz created by others. This real time monitoring allows them to join the conversation or simply advertise around hot content.

So expect to see savvy sponsors and smart non-sponsors building an engagement programme around 2 screen viewing, catch up TV and real time Twitter engagement. This shift in activation has led us here at MEC to develop a proprietary social listening tool to understand the conversation taking place around brands, identifying the territories brands occupy versus their competitors.

The development of Wi-Fi enabled stadiums

Meanwhile back in the stadiums, another sponsorship revolution is taking place . The Wi-Fi enabled stadium. All 32 NFL teams will have Wi-Fi connected stadiums this year opening up opportunities for in-stadia experiences and interactions. Already, Brooklyn’s Barclays Centre – considered one of the most technologically advanced arenas in the world – has its own app. Developed by Cisco, the StadiumVision Mobile allows fans to watch live game feeds and near-instant replays on their handheld devices. It works because of the arena’s high-density Wi-Fi with 300 access points spread throughout to stop network traffic.

What do these developments mean for the future?

Who’s to say what this could mean for official FIFA World Cup and other large sporting event sponsors in the future? How about in-game stats or half-time competitions on your smart phone, or even the ability to order food and drink to your seat? Time will tell. But as a warning to brands, it would be wrong for anyone to expect to ‘do an Oreo’ and just rely on opportunism. Preparation and planning are the best ways to ensure that a voice is heard amongst the huge noise at the likes of the World Cup and The Olympics. So it will be fascinating to see which brands own future conversations and how many of them are official sponsors.

If you’d like to ask Mark any questions you can contact him through the @MECUK Twitter handle