Why are sports leagues in Southeast Asia leaving money on the table?

R. Sasikumar, former athlete, entrepreneur, angel investor, motivational speaker and business mentor, explains how we now live in a world of opportunity, where companies can spend their sponsorship budgets in more efficient and niche ways.

R. Sasikumar

In the past, sports sponsorship was a relatively simple affair. It often came down to a logo on a shirt, pitch-side branding, signing up an athlete as a brand ambassador or just sponsoring a trophy.

These rules no longer apply and the game has changed dramatically.

The results-based model comes as marketers put more scrutiny on sports deals once driven by access to tickets or traditional media buys like TV, radio and billboards aimed at the coveted male audiences.

But for most big brands, simple awareness no longer cuts it, because those audiences can be found in less expensive ways, like through targeted digital media, which does not come with multi-million-dollar sponsorship fees.

Digital media has made getting brand messages in front of a highly-engaged audience accessible to any marketer these days. Just think Facebook and Google and the plethora of other social platforms.

Most rights-holders continue to package and sell sponsorships just like they did 20 years ago, offering brand exposure through linear broadcast coverage as the main benefit for brands.

In the past, it was the brands going after guys who loved sports. These days, guys are everywhere and data has allowed marketers to understand where they hang out. This presents an opportunity in a fragmented world to spend the dollars in much more efficient and niche ways.

Though the sports sponsorship industry remains healthy, TV viewership is down, venue attendance is down. Marketers and brand builders are finding it much more challenging to grab consumers’ attention.

Yet conversations with rights-holders in Southeast Asia about their sponsorship strategies are still limited to analogue outcomes. For example, there is a football league in the region that has over two million fans through their turnstiles every season still without a CRM in place.

Data collection and visualization is still a key challenge to many sports leagues in Southeast Asia, but taking a step back for a moment and looking at the opportunity big data presents can be fascinating.

Visualization and packaging of fan data for digital advertising, specifically mobile advertising is still at its infancy due to lack of understanding of the space.

The data-driven approach is strongly focused on the information that users leave in the digital sphere, both actively (opinions, interests and behaviors), and passive (analyzing the information deriving from the navigation: e.g. through cookies, country of origin, device references, location data).

So what does all of these mean in simple terms to someone reading this article? Allow me to explain, some basic data collection strategies can help with the evolution of communication strategies, in decision-making processes to support marketing/sponsorship, create new business opportunities and ultimately in better customer care.

There are enough tech tools in the market from WiFi sniffers to Bluetooth beacons to track Mobile IDs to understand the fans in the stadium and some basic demographics.

If sports organizations develop the ability to capture and produce high-resolution, granular data, there are platforms in the market place that will pay up $10 per person per month, to acquire these data sets.

So instead of modelling sponsorship like the old way of title sponsorship, co-sponsorship of sports leagues can sell the same set of data to multiple data acquisition companies monthly. The larger the data sets, the bigger the revenue possibilities.

Sports can move people to share information about themselves freely like no other genre can.

The shift into a new way of thinking about sports sponsorship is not just about revenue. It’s about the use of data to capture culture, history and turn it into touchpoints to engage with one of the most loyal and dedicated tribe of consumers on earth.