American multinational tech company Intel has been involved in sport for many a year. Its microchips and data packages have often been the unseen backbone to the reams of data that are commonplace in modern sport. However, the Silicon Valley chipmaker’s role is often overlooked because of the concealed nature of its products and its desire to partner with teams, as opposed to straight-up sponsorship.
SportsPro spoke to the company’s vice president for sales and marketing in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Bernadette Andrietti, about how it hopes to develop a stronger presence in sport through its 360-degree marketing plan, what it is doing with clients such as Red Bull, and its progression into the tailor-made eSports market.
What is Intel’s current involvement in sport?
It is quite a recent development but we have, of course, done a number of traditional sponsorship programmes in the past. What is new for Intel is that we absolutely want to use the technology that we have and make it relevant to sport.
This is a new way of applying technology to sport that will enable fans to look at it as a new experience. In the past we were only ‘Intel inside’ but now we want to be Intel on the outside. This means that we are not only focusing on the technology itself but on how the technology will assist in an amazing experience.
For us, sport is a fantastic opportunity because it is a major passion point for people the world over. However, the beauty for us is to be part of the backend, to be able to communicate using sport: which can be in terms of data analytics, for example.
For us, sport is the final piece of the story. The technology to enhance most sports didn’t exist before, so we can create new experiences. If you think about recent developments – for example, the almost invisible technology inside the players’ jerseys that monitors their performance and fitness, they can be washed 10,000 times. That didn’t exist until recently. The nature of our technology means that we become integral to the sport, so we can really associate ourselves with both the technology and the experience.
Which sports teams do you work with?
We have been working with Red Bull. They will use our Intel Curie technology to monitor and feedback real-time performance data from athletes. The idea is to make sports even more relatable and entertaining for audiences, by providing on-screen statistics about the athletes’ performance in real time. We recently activated the worldwide agreement with Red Bull at an event in Madrid but we are also trying to work with as many different people, teams and organisations in sport as possible.
We are also working with the French sailor François Gabart, who won the 2012/14 Vendée Globe race in a record time. We have been aiding his race preparation by giving him pre-race data. During the race he is able to access more important live data: we are able to analyse the weather and give him the changing conditions in real time. We can also find out where his competitors are in relation to him and relate their positions.
Then, after the race, he will look at the analysis and see where he can improve and what was effective. He will have access to everything that we use to follow the boat. He can then use the results from the sensors to plan for his next race or stage. It really is an end-to-end process.
What marketing model does Intel use?
360-degree marketing. Sport is one element of the pure brand but, of course, we are focusing more and more on digital engagement, not only for the B2B market and audience but B2C as well.
We work a lot with partners. Traditionally, that could be HP or Dell but also includes partners like SAP or Microsoft. We are finding new partners all the time; for example, we have launched a connected watch with Tag Heuer.
The unique thing about Intel is that: that we never sell something ourselves. This is different to all the other brands out there; we always work with partners as opposed to straight sponsorship.
You have worked in technologically led sports in the past – through partnerships with Formula One teams, for example. Do you have any intentions to work within the burgeoning eSports market?
Yes, eSports is something that certainly interests us. We are working on different events at the moment and aiming to do more overall because we have the technology. It is an audience that is increasing; this includes the female market, by the way. Something that we have noticed is that more and more women are becoming interested; it is an audience that we were not capturing before.
Again, the technology is there to create an immersive experience, which is important and makes it possible for us to engage with fans. By engaging with the audience through our technology, we create a depth of experience for these fans and this is very good for us because we have a quality engagement with a very specific audience.
What are Intel’s fundamental interests in eSports? Hosting events or buying teams?
It will be hosting, but the events are just one element of the 360-degree marketing approach. Previously it was clear whether you were campaign-led or event-led; this is no longer the case. You want to always be visible – before, during and after the event. This is something that we will do more and more.
What sport gives us that is different to other partnerships is that it isn’t solely about sponsorship and sticking our logo on something: we are fusing our tech into the sports experience. It brings our brand to life. Suddenly what you are looking at is not just a boring chip. and PC anymore, you are looking at something and thinking, wow, this is the experience that Intel has enabled.
We don’t want to be associated with sponsorship alone and there is always a technological partnership behind whatever we do, which is very different from other brands.
Are you able to tell me about any new innovations that Intel will be able to use in the sports market in the future?
I can tell you that we are working on a great number of new technological advancements. The challenge is always about how you can translate the technology into a new experience that can surprise and bring something extra to the experience.
More and more, what you will see is developments that help on the engagement side and, likewise, with our immersive approach. What Intel creates is phenomenal back-end technology – it is invisible – and at the end of the day we don’t always know what the end product will be. We are manufacturing new technology and driving innovation, but essentially we are betting on the future and then saying to our partners, “Go and create something useful with it.” So a lot of the time we only know half of what will come out in the future!
Sometimes we are surprised by the outcome ourselves. We are talking about sport but nowadays we are talking a lot about the obvious links between sport and health as well. This means that there are more and more gadgets in the health market like Fitbit that we can get involved in.
So we are always taking an immersive end-to-end approach: from door locks to data centres, everything that we do is a total solution. People will see a watch but behind that what is interesting is the data that your capture and behind the data you have server analytics. This is what we are bringing, and what makes us different from other companies. The difference with Intel is that it can be involved with all of the technology – from the server to the sensor to the data analytics – because we are also a software company, we have more than 10,000 engineers working in software. We are unique in that in terms of technology and no other company can do that.
Where do you see Intel in five years’ time?
We are always looking at different usages, so we will invent to suit whoever is bringing us the best usage examples. The other thing that is very important is the scaling. We are taking a worldwide approach.
If you look at what works in Nigeria or China it can be scaled and then customised in accordance with local assets and local content. That is the way we had to evolve and not compartmentalise too much. Even if you can target something, you will also need a scaling model.
I think that what is always most important is looking at how can we surprise people and ultimately engage them. The way that we have moved from linear to on-demand, if we can improve that on-demand experience by using our 360-degree technology that would be really good. That is something that I think is really going to take off and become much more mainstream, although it is quite specialised and US-focused at the moment, the way that we can scale it globally and develop it that solution quicker for the world.
We live in exciting times with so many new opportunities coming.