It seems as though each year we are met with new opportunities, obstacles, and trends in sponsorship. It’s something that I love about our industry.
It is forever progressing as our brands and fans change with the times.
With change comes items that should be on your radar each year. Change breeds opportunities if you can identify them early and react accordingly.
For the last 3 years, Rich & I have done a top 5 prediction for the coming year in the sponsorship industry. It is always fun to look back and see what unfolded, but that all starts with making the predictions at the beginning of the year.
This week on The Inches Podcast we dive into the top 5 predictions we have for sponsorship in the year 2022.
You can listen to the full episode HERE, but as always I will run through them below.
1. A spike in Influencer’s value and ad spend
The influencer market is a $13.8Bn one in the U.S alone. Brands have clearly shown their desire to advertise here with their dollars.
In 2022, we’ll see this grow even more.
It’s always good to dive into why this is such a lucrative industry so we can understand what brands see as a value here.
A few attributes of influencers are:
- They are digital, meaning they are on the channels where the brand’s customers live
- Most of the time they are authentic…meaning when they post brand items they do it in a way that doesn’t feel like an ad.
- They have built trust with their audience. When that influencer shows a product, they trust it will be good by association.
I think the beautiful thing about the above is we many times can emulate this with our teams. If we build the right processes, trust, and reach we can grab some of those dollars.
On the team level, if we shift some of our assets to include more digital connection with fans, add more authentic content than slapping a logo on a tweet, and really build trust with our team as an organization…we can essentially become an influencer.
I will admit, this is no easy task. As humans, it is much easier to connect and trust a person than an organization…but as we see dollars driving to influencers, I think it is extremely important to try and build these attributes into your team.
If you don’t fancy your team becoming an influencer…no problem. Internally you have human assets that you can leverage into influencers in your organization.
- The people in your front office. Yup I mean your ticket salespeople, activation specialists, and in-game talent. They have products they are passionate about…you can absolutely leverage them to great authentic content around a sponsor.
- Your coaching staff. They have passions outside of your sport. Maybe they are huge sushi fans. How can you tie that into your local restaurant?
- You mascots. Probably one of the most underrated influencers on your roster. The amount of sway your mascot has with fans is usually immense. Look at Benny the Bull as a great example. He is a huge influencer on TikTok.
As brands look to spend more dollars in this type of marketing, you will need to adapt your assets to match if you want to grab those dollars. The teams that do this will really set themselves apart in the revenue aspect.
2. Brand loyalty is dropping, we can make up the ground
This is a bit of a blanketed statement, but an interesting trend has popped up for many brands with the pandemic and supply shortages they face.
As the supply shortage for many items has increased, consumers have started to break their brand loyalties and try other products out of necessity.
This has been especially prevalent in the auto industry. If there is a certain model of car on backorder, customers have been jumping brands for an available alternative right now.
This is a huge threat for your car partners. They will be looking for any way to keep top of mind and engaged with their brand.
This means if you have assets that provide a solution to fans not jumping ship, they will pay a lot more for those assets.
Maybe you set up a marquee club level only available to people who own certain models of cars. Maybe at your local drive-thru if you have a certain model of car you get a discount thanks to the team.
Assets like these will become premium in the next year. Brands will be dumping money into solutions to keep fan loyalty as they weather this supply chain storm.
As you talk with partners, see if this is a worry for them. If it is, be ready for sponsorship activations that can help.
3. Sales personalization / physical touch will be key
The pandemic has shifted the way we sell. We’ve become more digital, more efficient, and have more information than ever before on our prospects.
The problem with this…if everyone is doing the same digital prospecting tactics it becomes hard to stand out.
As Rich brings up so eloquently…this is the perfect time to go against the current to really stand out with prospects.
When reaching out, you will see an increase in results for really personalizing the outbound. This comes with taking the time to do the research on the brand, point person, and sending a more personalized note to connect.
When you do this, you stand out from the other sellers that are sending out 1,000 emails in one hit. You increase your odds of grabbing their attention.
This, as Rich brings up, also helps build trust before you even jump on the phone with a prospect. You took the time to really understand their needs, you aren’t just another salesperson automating email outbound to see what sticks.
You can also take this a step further and add a physical touch. Obviously, this doesn’t mean necessarily an in-person meeting…but adding a physical element to your outbound.
For example, when Rich is looking to get a prospect’s attention he will drop off a WHL regulation puck with his business card.
On the back of the business card is handwritten “ My GOAL is to get a meeting with you!”
Now compare that tactic to the 100’s of sales emails this prospect gets a day. Which one is going to be remembered by the prospect?
As we dive into the digital and automated sales season of 2022, the salespeople who look for ways to stand out and personalize their messages will beat the competition that sits behind a keyboard.
How could we do a 2022 list without diving into NFT’s? Non-Fungible Tokens are all the craze right now and dubbed the next internet.
Mostly, people know that they are important…but don’t necessarily know what exactly they are.
I do think that we are a few years away from mass adoption…but with that being said you should be looking at the space, understanding the technology and benefits, and seeing how it can fit into your sponsorship strategy.
For example, each NFT comes with a built-in smart contract based on the Ethereum blockchain that most are built on. This is like a more formal “If this than that” agreement built into the item.
With this smart contract you can create a campaign for sponsors like the below:
- Create a campaign where everyone who checks in on the app at the game is eligible to receive an NFT of the Freaky Fast Goal of the game. If a player scores a goal in the first minute of the game, everyone registered gets an NFT to commemorate.
- Built into that NFT smart contract is a sponsor coupon that states every time that player scores another goal this season, they win a certain offer from the sponsor.
- Fans could then buy and sell that NFT openly…with a royalty going back to the sponsor for each sale.
Imagine the above NFT value for a Sidney Crosby card. If you are lucky enough to get that NFT in the contest registration you would be going home with a ton of say… free fries… throughout the season as he scores a lot of goals.
Now imagine the open market price for that item. It would be very high as the utility of more free fries is more likely to happen.
What I have just described above is how I think sponsor coupons will evolve over the next 3 years. This gamifies the coupon experience, makes it so much more valuable to a fan, and puts the sponsor top of mind for the team.
In essence, the sponsor offer would feel so much more real because you’ve earned and OWN that offer for the year.
Again, I don’t expect every team to become an expert in NFT’s. Honestly, the space is changing so rapidly that it is hard to become one unless you are building in the space.
But just as with social media…it is important to understand the basics and see how you can capitalize on it in the future. The teams that do this will be successful when mass adoption hits.
5. Sustainability will be top of mind for sponsors
Rich brings up a great prediction with this one, and honestly one that went right over my head.
Climate change is a big problem right now. We are seeing flooding, fires, and extreme weather like never before.
With this, consumers have never been more mindful than ever about sustainability when it comes to purchasing from brands. It is something that brands in turn are adapting to be more conscious and actionable about.
As this shift happens…it will be something that they will want to spend money on marketing and adopting in your sponsorship packages.
We’ve seen it in Seattle with the new CLimate Pledge Arena, we see it in our stadiums with a focus on solar power and recycling.
In 2022 you should be thinking about how your team can maximize the sustainability initiatives for your sponsors.
And the beautiful thing here is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many times your sponsors already have sustainability initiatives and campaigns in progress that you can piggyback off of to promote. Maybe there is a carbon offset they are already doing…you can adopt that into your organization, build assets around it, and maximize the promotion with your sponsor.
Just as brands have buckets of budget money to tap into for community and charity promotion…you will start to see more open budgets for sponsorship campaigns that focus on sustainability. It will become a fixture in what your sponsors are looking for in 2022.
Those are our 2022 predictions for the sponsorship industry
Again, by far these are not the only ones. Our industry is constantly changing because we as a society are constantly shifting.
What you can’t do as a sponsorship department is not pay attention to these trends and have a plan to capitalize on them. Changes bring new opportunities to those that jump on them early.
Sometimes you will jump and fall on your face. That is ok. The failures of implementing tactics that never pan out into meaningful changes are the small fees we pay to the ones that become wildly successful.
Don’t watch those opportunities pass you by. Take action. Your future revenue will thank you.