Sports Sponsorship and Marketing: What Does 2024 Hold?

2024 is well underway, and it looks like it is going to be an exciting year in the world of sports sponsorship with the Euros, the Olympics & Paralympics, and so much more; it promises to be a thrilling time for sports fans everywhere.

With the fervour surrounding these events at an all-time high, it presents a wonderful opportunity for marketing brands and agencies to capitalise on the massive audience engagement and passion. It’s the perfect time to explore the evolving landscape of sports sponsorship and marketing, reflecting on the journey that has led to today’s abundance of sporting content and its impact on broadcasting and marketing strategies for the year ahead. 

A Historical Overview of Sports Sponsorship and Broadcasting

To understand the future of sports broadcasting and marketing, we must look back at how far we’ve come. Back in the 1990s, options for watching sports were limited, with only a handful of national channels available. Fast forward to 2024, and fans have a plethora of viewing options, from attending events in person to streaming content on various devices. This accessibility has opened up new opportunities for brands to connect with their target audience in meaningful ways.

This explosive growth stems from various factors, including burgeoning demand and technological advancements. Today, creating content is more accessible than ever before, with the capability to produce high-quality material within a matter of minutes. The democratisation of content creation means that anyone, anywhere, can contribute, leveraging the passion and enthusiasm sports evoke to garner significant engagement — a magnet for brands seeking to connect with their audience on a deeper level. 

While this impressive growth has brought many benefits and positives, it also presents considerable challenges. There’s fierce competition in the ongoing battle for eyeballs — a trend that seems likely to persist into 2024, given the exciting line-up of sporting events we have coming up.

The Streaming Revolutions Impact on Sports Entertainment

This leads us to streaming giant Netflix, whose impact extends far beyond film and television into the world of sports. One striking example is the extraordinary success of Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ reality series, which catapulted Formula 1’s popularity to new heights. Following its release, Formula 1’s stock surged by approximately 50% within just 12 months, indicative of the show’s profound influence in attracting a broader audience to both live events and televised races.

Beyond Formula 1, Netflix has become a hub for captivating sports documentaries that delve into iconic athletes’ lives and careers, from basketball to tennis, golf and darts. From the recent David Beckham documentary, to ‘The Last Dance’ chronicling Michael Jordan’s career, these films offer compelling insights into the triumphs and challenges of sporting legends.

And it’s not just Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and many other streaming platforms have joined the fray in revolutionising sports entertainment. Behind-the-scenes documentaries like ‘All Or Nothing’ and ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ have become very popular, granting unparalleled access to the inner workings of sports teams and organisations. By showcasing the human stories behind the games and offering immersive portrayals of team dynamics, streaming platforms have reshaped how audiences engage with sports content.

Rise of Women’s Sports

The landscape of women’s sports is rapidly evolving, marked by increased media coverage and a surge in sponsorship deals. According to SponsorUnited’s latest Women in Sports Marketing Partnerships report, sponsorship deals in women’s professional sports have risen by more than 22% year-over-year (YoY).

The developments are bringing in new audiences and opening up opportunities for brands to invest early in a market ready to boom, particularly for those embracing purpose-driven marketing initiatives. The appeal of women’s sports is broadening, evidenced by research from YouGov suggesting that more than half of Europeans believe in the improved quality of women’s sports over the past five years. 

It’s not just the viewership that’s going up. Audiences are demonstrating a clear preference for brands that sponsor women’s sports. According to a Nielsen report, 84% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sports, offering brands a unique opportunity to improve their brand image and build connections with untapped audiences while also helping the sport grow.

Vitality’s partnership with England Netball is a prime example of effective sponsorship that showcases the potential for brands to align themselves with women’s sports and drive positive impact. Their collaboration, which began in 2015 and continues to this day, has seen significant investment across all levels of the sport over the last nine years. A shared purpose drives this investment to grow the game and inspire women and girls to participate. This case underscores the importance of long-term commitment and values alignment between brands and women’s sports organisations.

As women’s sports continue to grow globally, these partnerships highlight the potential for brands to contribute positively while improving their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Investing in women’s sports and aligning with values of diversity, equity and inclusion, offers brands a strategic opportunity to engage with a growing market and demonstrate their commitment to equality and empowerment.

Strategies for Effective Sports Sponsorship

Sponsorship within the world of sports can indeed be challenging, often hindered by the sluggish pace of governing bodies and associations. Unfortunately, sports that fail to adapt swiftly tend to lag behind their more agile counterparts. Take rugby, for instance, which struggles in comparison to more dynamic sports due to sponsors encountering obstacles within fragmented sports networks and barriers erected by slow-moving Governing Bodies and Associations. However, despite these challenges, sponsorship remains a powerful tool that can significantly augment marketing strategies when executed effectively.

For those interested in the possibility of leveraging sports sponsorship for their brand, the key lies in a meticulous, considerate approach that begins with a thorough understanding of your business and its aspirations. It’s imperative to scrutinise and understand your target audience deeply, not only focussing on existing consumers but also identifying and strategising to attract future audiences. Conducting thorough due diligence when selecting potential rights holders is critical. Each partnership should be meticulously evaluated to ensure alignment with your brand’s values, objectives and target demographic. Securing the full support of your board and other stakeholders is equally important, as their backing can amplify the impact and success of the sponsorship endeavour.

Precision and relevance are paramount. Avoid falling into the trap of pursuing partnerships simply for the sake of association. While there may be instances of seemingly random collaborations, the most successful sponsorships are those carefully chosen to resonate with both the brand and the audience. In essence, successful sports sponsorship demands a strategic and discerning approach grounded in a comprehensive understanding of both the brand and the target audience. By aligning with the right partners and encouraging meaningful connections, brands can leverage sponsorship to elevate their marketing efforts and foster lasting engagement with consumers.

As we progress through the rest of 2024, the stage is set for sports to continue captivating hearts and minds around the globe. Whether it’s the thrill of competition, the stories of resilience or the power of unity, sports will remain a driving force of inspiration and connection in the coming months.

This makes them an ideal avenue for brands and agencies to use as platforms for storytelling, developing emotional connections and effectively conveying messages to an enthusiastic and receptive audience.

Contact us to find out how we can help you navigate the world of sports sponsorship in 2024.

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