Sport is big business – the global professional sport market is expected to hit more than US$600b by 2022 – a staggering 30% of which is concentrated in North America. But the picture is much bigger when you consider that it’s a subset of the global recreation market which is scheduled to hit over US$1,800b by ’22. And it gets bigger yet if you factor in the grassroots sporting sector that is the vital platform for sporting bodies throughout the world.
The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the sporting industry, just as it has every industry, but these numbers paint a picture of how important a cog in the global economy Sport is. Moreover, Sport plays a significant role in the spiritual fabric of modern society, being a crucial touchpoint for communities, harnessing and spreading positivity, enhancing social interaction and uniting people from all walks of life.
In a world which is grasping at anchor points of ‘normality’, the role Sport plays is arguably more important now than ever before. Sports organizations across the globe are shifting focus to the growing importance of how marketing and branding leverages their position in today’s complex business landscape.
Sportsmont research believes the role that clear and consistent branding plays in sports marketing “has great importance for sports organizations, customers, fans, sports clubs, media as well as for the country itself.” Brand sits at the centre of optimising the business model for sporting bodies – securing sponsorship, negotiating media contracts, growing the fan base and fostering/leveraging grassroots bodies. The latter is particularly important in developing a strong base, but it’s not without its challenges. Kristina Alexiou at MyAdbox Canada sees sporting organizations facing big marketing challenges at all the different levels of the sport. “It’s critical for them to maintain the integrity of the brand across all points of interaction together with ensuring consistency in messaging.”
One sport, several layers, multiple pain points.
The tangled web of tiered interconnections exists in almost every professional sport. For instance, Hockey Canada, the national governing body of ice hockey in the nation controls the majority of organized ice hockey played, involving more than 600,000 participants – professionals through to local amateurs. It is affiliated with no less than nearly 20 regional organisations from British Columbia, Alberta and Eastern Ontario through to Quebec and Nova Scotia, including connections with Canadian Junior Hockey. On the opposite side of the planet, the Australian Football League plays a similar role for a participant network that spans the country well beyond the professional teams represented in almost every state. Almost 1.3 million Australians take part in Australian Rules Football – professionally/semi-professionally/recreationally across over 250 leagues and nearly 14,000 clubs across the nation.
Whether it’s Hockey, Australian Rules Football, Soccer, Baseball, Tennis or Track and Field, there is a similarity in the tiered structures that exists - from the Controlling Body of the sport all the way down to the grassroots levels. In general terms, Tier 1 is the professional league, Tier 2 typically features a semi-professional ‘feeder league’ (think Minor League in Baseball or Division Two, Three and Four in Soccer), while Tier 3 is where the Amateur leagues normally exist, often the pillars of local communities with their own myriad of divisions and age groups right down to ‘Little League’ teams.
The Controlling Bodies and the different Tiers all survive around the realities of marketing to supporter groups that are passionate about their team and the sport in general, but each faces different marketing challenges and pain points:
Controlling Body marketing challenges:
• Securing sponsorship deals and selling their sport to media interests. Many Controlling Bodies are not-for-profit entities that exist to grow their sport by raising funds through lucrative partnerships with sponsors and even more lucrative media rights deals. From there, they distribute money down to the Tiers to ‘grow the game’. Success in securing these lucrative deals relies on a number of factors – many of which are directly related to the strength of the brand.
• Brand consistency. This is the key to the strength of the brand and it’s something that the Marketing team of the Controlling Body are constantly working on – trying to ensure that all the different Tiers adhere to a consistent, strong brand theme so that the sport is viewed as an attractive investment for sponsors and an audience puller for media outlets.
Controlling Body marketing pain points:
• Work flow inefficiencies. This can be one of the biggest pitfalls of marketing in Head Office – In the absence of a formal Digital Asset Management (DAM) system to organise, manage and distribute assets, huge volumes of time (up to a day a week for the average marketer – Link) are lost tracking down digital assets (photos, logos, music, moving footage etc) for all the different Tiers to create content for their own audiences. Because these assets are typically stored on local servers, portable hard drives and personal computers, there are serious security/backup issues. The potential for lost data mounts with everyday that passes. Finally, marketers lose a huge chunk of their working week, up to 40% to protracted, email-based content approvals processes with the different Tiers.
• Brand Inconsistency. With no DAM and no Content Creation system in place, there is little control over what assets are used across the Tiers and the standard of content being created using these assets. There is varying visibility the marketing team has of all the content being created and the assets being used (with serious implications for Rights Management infringements) impinging on their capacity to ensure Brand Consistency. Inevitably, the resultant brand erosion significantly impacts the broader image of the sport, making it difficult to leverage sponsorship/media opportunities.
Tier 1 – Pro League marketing challenges:
• Optimising funding from the Controlling Body and securing their own sponsorships. Professional teams are expensive to run with astronomical player payments, so club sponsorships are vital to augment the funding clubs receive from head office. Once again, their club brand is directly related to their capacity to attract sponsors and they are actively driving content to an increasing array of media to promote themselves.
Tier 1 – Pro League marketing pain points:
• Content creation. Despite being professional entities,Tier 1 clubs have limited marketing resources and to grow their brand in a growing media landscape, they need to get fast, efficient access to digital assets from the Controlling Body in order to create content that draws sponsors and fans. Without a DAM, their smaller marketing teams are frustrated by the time it takes to get these assets and when they do get them, there is a long, exhaustive approvals process with the Head Office Marketing team to ensure the content they create is Brand Compliant.
Tier 2 – Feeder League marketing challenges:
• Optimising funding from the Controlling Body and securing their own sponsorships. Semi-Professional teams are also expensive to run. Again player payments can still be significant and often the gap between the funding they receive and significantly lesser sponsorship opportunities means they need to ‘run skinny’ across their operations, with little scope for a large marketing team.
Tier 2 – Feeder League marketing pain points:
• Content creation – Assets/Workflow. With a smaller marketing team (maybe one full time professional) the time lost waiting for digital assets to create content becomes even more critical. Tier 2 marketers are more likely to occasionally ‘go rogue’ and create non-compliant material using unauthorised assets to cut corners when time is tight. Doing so takes less time than trying to achieve Brand Compliance with Head Office (better to ‘ask for forgiveness than permission’) – but multiplied across the board begins to erode the overarching brand position of the sport.
• Content creation – Production costs. With more content required for an increasing number of media channels, the production costs of content creation start to mount, seriously eating into the bottom line of the Tier 2 club. Marketers begin to compromise quality to meet the volumes required and will be reluctant to share this content with head office as they are aware there will be brand compliance issues and don’t have the resources to fall inline/recreate. Once again, if this happens in multiple clubs, it erodes the brand position of the sport, ultimately hurting everyone.
Tier 3 – Amateur League Marketing challenges:
• Fighting for every cent from the Controlling Body and fighting equally hard to secure a local sponsor. At this level, communities pull together where they can to support local clubs. The money from the Controlling Body is sporadic and is often linked to developing facilities rather than filling the coffers for optional use such as marketing/advertising. Full time Marketers are rare – it’s usually volunteers who are often unskilled in the development of strategic marketing plans that secure sponsorships.
Tier 3 – Amateur League Pain Points:
• Content creation – Assets/Workflow/Production costs. In the absence of a DAM, Tier 3 clubs find themselves last in line when it comes to accessing the assets they need to create good content which promotes their entity and attracts sponsors, fans and players. The frustration of long wait times for quality assets and the even longer times for getting content approved is common with Amateur clubs and almost always results in volunteers doing ‘whatever it takes’ to hastily throw together content as cheaply as possible, using unauthorised assets. The results are disastrous for the overarching brand, but there is little the Controlling Body can do to limit the damage as they have zero visibility around what content is being created and which assets are being used. The dangers of Amateur clubs using unauthorised, Rights Managed assets is very real, leaving the door open for legal action by photographers/musicians/models.
One solution comes out on top.
So how do large sporting bodies take control of their brand and safeguard it across all the Tier touch points? What can they do to get rid of the marketing pain a teach of these Tier levels which directly impacts the thousands of players/officials/volunteers who are the lifeblood of their organisations?
The solution is a Brand Management Platform, which safeguards Sporting brands and empowers all marketers at every level – from the Controlling Body right through to grassroots Amateur clubs.
Good Brand Management Platforms use two pieces of interconnected software to eliminate the pain points.
1. Digital Asset Management( DAM) software.
A DAM is a centralized, online system that organizes and manages assets. Basically, it’s about storing, finding, sharing, controlling and safeguarding assets to make life a whole lot easier for marketers and end users.
How the DAM eliminates the pain for marketing teams in the Controlling Body:
• Search - With sophisticated metadata and advanced search functionality, the DAM allows all the individual Tier levels to pinpoint the assets they want, when they want, saving nearly a day a week for Head Office marketers who no longer need to be part of the search process.
• Rights management - The DAM will regulate assets that are Rights Managed via user permissions, eliminating legal issues. It also deals with asset version control, ensuring assets are up to date for all users and assets that are past use-by date are archived.
• Safe & Secure - The DAM securely stores all assets in one cloud-based location on Amazon S3 Servers, eliminating storage/backup/security issues for head office marketers.
• Integration - The DAM seamlessly integrates with all user technology, optimising engagement with the software and making it easy for users at every Tier level to find what they need quickly.
• Reporting - Powerful analytical tools within the DAM provide clarity around the individual assets within the system, giving administrators the ability to see which images are more popular – shaping the nature of the photography required in the future.
How the DAM eliminates the pain for Tier One Pro League marketers:
• The DAM allows marketers to get instant access to brand compliant assets, saving huge amounts of time that they can invest now in strategic marketing initiatives. It also allows them to create content quickly and get to market fast.
How the DAM eliminates the pain for Tier Two Feeder League marketers:
• The DAM is a considerable relief for marketers at this level who are under-resourced and appreciate access to brand compliant assets because it saves them time and smooths the content creation process.
How the DAM eliminates the pain for Tier Three Amateur League marketers:
• The DAM is a huge boost for Amateur League marketers/volunteers – not just because it slashes the waiting time for assets because they can search for what they need directly, but it is also very simple to access, with a user-friendly interface that makes them want to come back, lessening the chance they will look for unauthorised assets. This also eliminates the legal issues around using sensitive Rights Managed assets.
2. Customisable branded template Software.
Customisable branded template Software helps all users (from the Controlling Body to grassroots level) create brand compliant content wherever they are in the network. The software fully automates the content creation process, giving network users access to online, editable templates to customize national campaign assets and other authorised brand campaigns for their local communication needs.
How the Customisable branded template software eliminates the pain for marketing teams in the Controlling Body:
• Workflow - This software features inbuilt approvals/workflows to minimise disruption for HeadOffice marketers. Because the editable material in the system is all pre-approved, compliance issues are eliminated and material can be created by end users without the need for approval, clawing back nearly 40% of the working week for Head Office marketers, who can now focus on strategic marketing projects rather than the administration of content creation.
• Brand Compliance - As Administrators in the system, Head Office marketers now have 100% visibility on all content created by every Tier level, which assets are used to create this content and which markets are performing best. They can monitor brand compliance in an instant.
• The software securely stores all content created in one cloud-based location on Amazon S3 Servers, eliminating storage/backup/security issues for head office marketers.
• Integration - The software seamlessly integrates with all user technology, optimising engagement with the technology and making it easy for users at every Tier level to create content quickly.
• Reporting - Powerful analytical tools within the software provide clarity around the optimum levels of customisation users desire and what content is most popular, giving administrators the ability to develop more assets and templates for greater user engagement.
How the Customisable branded template software eliminates the pain for Tier One Pro League marketers:
• The software allows marketers to create brand compliant content in minutes for all media outcomes. It eliminates the need for approvals, saving huge amounts of time and eliminates production costs, allowing them to reinvest in more media or more strategy.
How the Customisable branded template software eliminates the pain for Tier Two Feeder League marketers:
• The software saves time, but most importantly for this under-resourced marketing team, it saves huge amounts of money on content production. This allows them to beef up their team with additional marketers to focus on more important issues like attracting sponsors.
How the Customisable branded template software eliminates the pain for Tier Three Amateur League marketers:
• The software is a welcome relief for Amateur League marketers/volunteers who are not skilled in crafting good content. Now, they have access to a huge variety of pre-approved templates giving them scope to create professionally produced content in just a few clicks for zero production costs. Their tendency to create ad-hoc ,non-compliant material is eliminated, which is a huge benefit for the overarching brand looking to build brand consistency.
The Brand Management platform Sports bodies love.
MyAdbox CEO Andrew Baker has worked closely with Australia’s leading national sporting body recently to engineer a Brand Management software solution that will suit their needs. “The grassroots challenges they face are impossible to overcome without a strong Digital Asset Management solution – and that was one of the key things they were missing.” Baker notes that while their main focus was on asset storage, they also wanted to incorporate their marketing tools into one ecosystem. “This is where our ability to integrate via smart APIs comes to the fore,” he said. “Our brand management software plugs straight into their CRM software which optimizes the investment they’ve already made in that technology.
And via our Content Creation software, we’re able to push brand compliant content directly into all market channels including email and social media.”
Following an audit of their marketing processes, Baker identified numerous layers in their business model in the form of a Head Office Marketing function together with various Internal Head Office operations including State level operations, Club operations, a network of Sports Photographers, Ad Agency partners and a nation wide network of grassroots Community Users. “All these stakeholders required a system they could access efficiently to fulfil the different marketing requirements they faced at various times. And those requirements varied considerably from asset upload and asset sharing to having the ability to develop content that represents the brand entirely.” Baker also noted the need for seamless SSO (Single Sign On) integration, allowing all parts of the nationwide sporting organisation to use one set of credentials for anything related to their business. “It’s so important to empower the grassroots network of sporting organizations with systems that enable them to contribute to the brand position.”
“Brand Management Software offers the perfect solution,” Baker says. “Pre-approved creative templates take the pain away for the local sports clubs.
They can dive in and create on brand content fast - with no specialized skills or training - without any risk to the parent brand.
The great thing is that Head Office marketing doesn’t have to police the myriad of communications created across the nation which eliminates conflict with passionate supporters of their sporting cause.”
Sports Marketers have their hands full in so many areas, from competing with rival teams for airtime, managing the on-field brand integrity and dealing with the consumption of the brand through merchandise and media contracts. To then have to juggle the myriad of complex connections across their network adds unnecessary complexity when Brand Management Software can completely solve the pain points for both Head Office and the end users within all the Tiers of the network.