Sports and Social Responsibility

February 24, 2012

Consumers increasingly want brands with authenticity and social commitment. Does the fast growing sports marketing industry risk being relegated to the slow lane? In fact, will the difficult global economic circumstances, fierce commercial competition, changing consumer preferences and widespread adoption of new media technologies weaken the relationship between brands, sport and social responsibility?

On the contrary, I expect the relationships between the three to get closer. Here’s why…

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, global sports market revenues will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 3.7% from US$121 billion to US$145 billion in 2015. The continued investment in the sports market is a clear indicator that sports is a powerful medium for brands to market their products to a huge and loyal global fan base.

As the increase in global sports market revenue continues to rise, consumer attitudes to sponsorship marketing has evolved. In a recent global survey by Sports Marketing Surveys, 71% of consumers stated they felt more positive towards brands that invest in the community. Consumers are looking to brands to do more than just market their products to them off the back of an association with a sport or team they are passionate about; they want to ensure brands are investing more responsibly in communities.

In response to consumers, brands are forging deeper connections with their customers, by understanding the environment in which they invest and working with partners to create sponsorship programmes that is sustainable and produce real community impact. Given the shift in consumer behaviour, it is no coincidence that in a recent study published by SMG Insight, a leading sports edge research company, 65% of brand managers stated that they favour sponsorships which help them connect with communities.

Sports Federations and teams are also increasingly implementing strategies that invest greater proportions of revenue into development projects. As you would expect, this is not just a philanthropic decision but based on sound commercial principles. Community investments from sports federations focused on education, community infrastructure and provision of human resources can help mitigate risk, increase audience reach and enhance brand loyalty. This can have a positive effect on sales and, importantly, can be offered to sponsors as an additional opportunity, which will result in additional revenue.

Brands are also leveraging technology to help mobilise people behind a cause. A good example is Orange Rockcorp, a pro-social production company which uses the power of music to inspire people to volunteer and give to their community. Through Rockcorp, fans register, give four hours to their community and receive one ticket to a show in return. It is a new model that is central to brands connecting with consumers through volunteering and a model sports brads can replicate.

Seeing this shift in consumer behaviour, one thing is clear: there is a clear social and commercial benefit for sports and brands that better integrate community relations and investments into their sponsorships.