Five Lessons – Irish Sponsorship 2018

The 2018 Irish Sponsorship Summit saw leading international speakers visit Croke Park to review the latest developments and trends that will shape the Irish sponsorship industry in the coming years.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are five key things we learned, as seen through the eyes of Darragh Collins of Teneo PSG.

1. Storytelling is essential for selling your brand

You might be surprised to hear Shakespeare mentioned in a discussion about marketing best practice, but according to many of the conference speakers, brands need to channel their inner Shakespeare and weave their brand narrative into emotionally gripping stories in order to connect with their customers who are quick to scroll up and bombarded with “same same” content.

“Stories are the backbone of everything we do” according to Ashley Bowen, Global Director at IMG’s Action Sports.

“Successful marketers are the ones who tell stories with authentic integration.”

Mark Harrison, Founder of the T1 Agency in Toronto and SponsorshipX, feels the same way and that, stories are at the epicentre of effective marketing.

Storytelling will connect your brand with a consumer increasingly inundated with ads, and help you stand out in your field.

2. eSports is here to stay

Forget football, the world’s fastest-growing sport is live video gaming. More than 100 million viewers watch video game play online each month, according to Twitch.

With increased interest comes increased financials. Organisers of eSports competitions have shelled out more than $35 million in prize money in over 2,000 tournaments in recent years.

“Everyone wants a piece of this pie”, according to Alex Shapiro, Senior Manager of Global Sponsorship at Visa Europe.

“eSports is no longer an up and coming sport. It’s a reality that people need to get serious about right now. Brands are jumping on it and will continue to do so as it continues to grow.”

Top players, many of whom earn seven-figure salaries, are signing big brand sponsorship deals with the likes of Coca-Cola, Ford and American Express writing multimillion-dollar cheques to the world’s top players.

The appetite for eSports has grown on Irish shores with the launch of Three Ireland’s EStars and has already attracted sponsorship from the likes of Three, Lucozade and Four Star Pizza.

3. Make your content shareable

With smartphone penetration reaching saturation, shortening attention spans and a growing consumer desire for creating their own content, brands and rightsholders are having to tailor their content and events for a digital-first audience who are quick to move or ignore unless their attention is grabbed immediately.

Ashley Bowen of IMG cited ‘The Colour Run’ as a perfect example of a rights holder creating an event that was designed for its shareability. ‘The Colour Run’ is all about creating a perfect the selfie environment and a platform for participants to create the fear of missing out.

Nathan Homer and Max Hamilton of The European Tour spoke about the formation of the golf ‘Sixes’ series – which features a 32-player field consisting of 16 teams of two.

Each game in the series lasts just over an hour in total, designed for sharing and with the next generation of golf fans in mind.

To win the hearts and minds of the new generation of fans, brands will need to activate by adding value to the consumers social channels, and, rightsholders will need to come up with ways of attracting and keeping fans who are quick to move on.

4. AR is the new VR

Andrew Jenkinson, Co-founder of experiential technology agency vStream, spoke about VR and AR in Sports Sponsorship, and how this technology has been used effectively (and ineffectively) in recent years.

“The rate of VR growth has stalled since it first became a viable option for brands, and stunting this growth is people doing it for the sake of it,” he explained.

“Many brands I see at conventions are merely doing it just to tick a box and keep their employers happy. At its best, it’s a powerful storytelling and immersive technological experience, at its worst it can be an embarrassing mess.”

AR is becoming a red-hot trend with the potential to complement existing passion points and events rather than distract.

While brands will continue to dabble with VR and AR, the content produced continues to be hit or miss. We are only scraping the surface of the potential of AR, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes part of our everyday lives.

5. Innovation can change perspectives

When Nathan Homer and Max Hamilton from the European Tour walked on stage, they asked audience members which of them felt that golf was a boring sport played by old men to stand up. Next, the audience was asked if they felt that the sport was too slow. The result? Even more people stood up.

However, Homer, Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer at the European Golf Tour, was not fazed. “We usually have more than that!” he said.

The pair explained how they are currently trying to change those perceptions and appeal to a younger audience by creating innovative video content such as ‘The Mannequin Challenge’ and ‘The Awkward Reporter’ which paint golf in an unexpected light.

Brands who might be stagnating with audience growth or looking to reposition themselves should take a hard look at the content they are pushing out. Are they pushing themselves out of their comfort zone? Are they appealing to the next generation of fans? If we stay the same we go backwards.

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Image Credits: Orla Murray, SON Photo

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