On November 20th Sport for Business is partnering with Onside Sponsorship and the Marketing Institute of Ireland for the hosting of the ‘Who Won Sponsorship 2019’ event at the Aviva Stadium.

A key element of this year’s event will be a look back at the decade of sponsorship in Ireland.

Over the coming weeks, we will carry interviews with some of those who will be appearing at the event and asking them their views on the changing nature of the partnership landscape in Ireland.

Today we sat down with Miriam Malon, CEO of Paralympics Ireland will be joining a panel discussion on ‘Women in Sport’ on the day.

SfB: We are celebrating a decade in which sport and sponsorship have changed beyond recognition. What are the main changes that have impacted Sport and Sponsorship in Ireland in your view?

MM: There have been significant changes in the past decade. The biggest single change has been the advent of social media and the change that has brought for rights holders and sponsors who are now acting as a broadcaster and content producers in their own right.

This change has meant that both rights holders and sponsors have to work closely together in a partnership that is mutually beneficial, to produce content that is interesting and that meets the values and desired outcomes for both parties.

I believe that there is a greater reach to engage with the sports target audience, with that audience being much broader than before, reflecting population and society better including more diversity as well as people with a disability.

SfB: Do you feel that sport is closer to the fans now than ever before or further away

MM: In one way this is true, as many sports have facilitated multiple opportunities for fans to engage rather than just traditional attendance, which has opened up the platform to much greater numbers. 

All supporters now have access to devices that act as a window into the world of the athlete. They want to know who the athlete is, how they prepare for competition, what they eat, how they relax and more.

Athletes and NGB’s have a duty to fill those needs but to do it in a way that impacts on athletes preparation and performance in the smallest possible way.

Fans are now much closer to sport and they are also more knowledgeable and engaged, it is up to us sporting bodies to ensure that the best messages reach those supporters and to ensure that they remain engaged throughout the process.

In another way, it may seem further away though as the engagement is less personal and fans may feel a loss of the traditional connection to athletes or teams.

SfB: How have the channels of communication that you use to engage with your audience changed over the past ten years?

MM: We are no longer so reliant on the traditional media to spread information about our sports.

We now produce self-curated content that is then fed directly to our engaged audience and that has been a major change in how the communications functions is carried out.

However, this means that the skill sets necessary to have amongst your communications staff has broadened. You now need to be able to manage media in the traditional way but you also need to be able to spot opportunities and exploit them internally through your own content production facilities.

The advent of online media has also had a huge impact on communications. Whereas in the past, there was limited interest in more marginal sports and limited space in newspapers to give to those sports, there is now no such editorial issues and websites will post your story, however, it is now incumbent on communications departments to ensure that the content is interesting and engaging.

SfB: What do you see as potentially the biggest opportunities for sponsorship professionals in the next decade?

MM: The opportunities will come firstly from the changing media landscape and the ever-growing sophistication of the data we collect. This will deliver the chance for brands to connect in a direct and more meaningful way with fans and consumers.  Who knows where technology will take us, but wherever that is,  there will be sponsorship opportunities close by.

Sports social role is also changing. Brands are looking for an authentic purpose. They are looking for a greater understanding of prospective partners, their vision, mission, guiding principles and driving force to assess if they can align with them.  Sport can provide this in spades!

Diversity in sport is accelerating.  There are organizations embracing this and understanding the positive power of their support, not just on the sport but for their own brand.  This has seen a growth in cause-related marketing and the consumers changing attitudes to what brands stand for which is certainly an opportunity.

The ‘Who Won Sponsorship Series 2019’ event takes place on Wednesday, November 20th in the Aviva Stadium. Tickets are priced at €75 for individual and corporate members of the Marketing Institute of Ireland or €100 for non-members and can be purchased here