Money isn’t everything when it comes to sports sponsorships

Evangelos Sideras, joint managing director, UK at global analytics technology company Media iQ, discusses how brands can create better, more relevant content to engage a growing social media audience.

Money isn’t everything when it comes to sports sponsorships

Wimbledon and Rolex, the Uefa Champions League and Heineken, the Six Nations and RBS – these brand and sporting event couples have become as famous as Brad and Angelina. Big money coupled with traditional broadcasting has enabled them to dominate the sporting events they sponsor.

Traditional broadcasting is no longer the only platform from which sporting fans are engaging with their favourite sporting occasions, however. Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels are becoming increasingly popular as fans are able to view the latest highlights, get expert analysis, or rant and rave to an audience outside of their living room or local pub about the injustice of a call that didn’t go their team’s way. The ability to engage in back-and-forth conversations with likeminded fans is what makes these digital platforms a growing force in sports broadcasting and, in turn, a force in sports advertising. It’s no wonder that Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and YouTube are competing for live streaming rights for major golf tournaments and Premier League matches.

If you were one of the estimated 1 billion people across the world to watch some sort of coverage of Wimbledon, you couldn’t miss one of the many Rolex and Slazenger logos plastered around the stadium. Slazenger even celebrated its 115th year as the official supplier of tennis balls to Wimbledon – one of the longest partnerships in sporting goods history. To capitalise on this, the brand engaged with fans through the hashtag #115YearsOfSlaz in a giveaway of two tickets to Wimbledon. In the first week of the tournament alone, #115YearsOfSlaz featured in more tweets (6,172) than the eventual Wimbledon champion #Federer (1,019), the hometown favourite, #Murray (3,040), and the tournament itself #Wimbledon2017 (4,871). This was a good example of how a brand took advantage of other channels to engage with fans and build on its brand visibility at the tournament.

But what if you’re a brand trying to cash in on the action but are not able to splash out?  How do you engage with the 80per cent of fans using social media at live sporting events and at home effectively?

Jumping on the Bandwagon

If brands want to be able to create a presence, increase engagement and take advantage of a sporting event like Wimbledon, they need to align their content to the demographics of the fan base. Advertisers can achieve this by understanding the profiles of the audience in attendance through the content they are posting online, such as keywords, to reveal insight into who they are supporting, or even where they are located. This data can then be used to target them with specific timely campaigns and increase engagement.

Our insights found that the largest age demographic searching online for Wimbledon-related content came not from younger, more digital savvy age groups but rather from tennis fans 65 and older. They are almost 80per cent more likely to browse for Wimbledon content online as compared to an average UK citizen. While the largest demographic of those actually visiting the tennis courts are the 25-35 age group which is 50per cent more likely to be at the courts. Also, females are 10per cent more likely to search for content online more, while males tend to visit the live matches more. By combining this social insight with other data points, such as location, device and interested, brands can target and reach audiences with effective low budget campaigns.

Electronics manufacturer Philips, for example, was the most-tweeted non-sponsored brand, with #grohe featuring in more than 1,800 tweets related to Wimbledon from users hoping to win one of its ‘Grohe Aquatunes’ portable speakers. Mallow and Marsh, in a giveaway of their marshmallow bars, gained traction around the action with 1,000 tweets related to Wimbledon featuring #MallowMondays. Speakers and marshmallows aren’t your typical brands associated with Wimbledon but with the help of data insights, they both took advantage of the huge numbers the championship draws in to engage with fans and build brand awareness. To further increase targeted marketing around sports, brands can connect data from all different touch points, not just social, and build campaigns that react to real-time results across multiple platforms.

Ultimately, while big brands with big budgets appear to dominate sporting events, it’s not impossible to cut though the noise with a carefully targeted campaign. Engagement is the name of the game and as sport and the digital social sphere continue to intertwine, advertisers can go online to harness the hype of major sporting events.  By targeting an online sporting audience through data driven insights, there is an opportunity for any brand to play in the big leagues of fan engagement at a tournament like Wimbledon, without the expensive price tag.


The twitter trends were collected from 29th June to 10th July 2017, when the Wimbledon championships were underway. There were a total 435,439 tweets originating from the UK that were referencing Wimbledon. The demographics trends were collected from users browsing for Wimbledon related content online (users visiting URLs with the words Wimbledon,2017) and users visiting the actual venue of the matches (using Media IQ’s geo targeting capabilities).

Evangelos Sideras, is joint managing director, UK at global analytics technology company Media iQ.