What trends are sponsorship executives watching in 2016? What are the latest-and-greatest activation platforms?

IEG SR posed those questions to executives at Barclays, Mondelez and Visa. To no surprise, technology and content take center stage in terms of connecting with consumers and enhancing the fan experience.

Below are edited excerpts from their comments.

Mark Winfield, insights manager, brand, insight and sponsorship, Barclays
Increased investment in non-sports properties; more alignment with business objectives; more focus on short-form content.

I expect to see brands investing more money outside of the sports industry. Sports have tended to get the lion’s share of sponsorship investment, in part because of the widespread media coverage that they get. However, people are also passionate about other things — from music to art to cooking. Those passions represent a real opportunity for brands who want to build emotional connections with their consumers — I expect to see more and more brands seize it.

I also hope to see sponsorship become more aligned to broader business and marketing strategies. Too often, brands build their portfolios the wrong way around. They need to start with their target customers, investigate what makes them tick and then select properties based on that knowledge. If the industry can make this shift, it should drive a fundamental change in how sponsorship is viewed by CEOs and CFOs.

From an activation point of view, I expect to see a change in the type of content being put out on social media. Until now, brands have tended to make very well-produced films to share on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. This undoubtedly has its place — however, social media is also a reactive environment, where people respond to current events. Short clips — even those captured on camera phones — can generate a lot of interest at much less cost, provided they have this sense of immediacy. Beyond social media, we are seeing striking developments in augmented and virtual reality. This technology is likely to deepen and intensify the ‘fan’ experience over the next five to ten years. Brands have begun using it in a niche way — I expect it to become part of mainstream sponsorship activation in 2016.

Finally, I hope to see experiential become more scientific this year. There is a wide array of research — in social psychology and behavioural economics — that has implications for what we do. To give an example, how we remember an event is heavily affected by how it ends. Generally-speaking, it is much better to start badly and end on a high, rather than the other way around. Service designers have been drawing upon this knowledge already. The sponsorship industry should too — it will allow to super-charge our work.

Stephen Chriss, senior director, marketing, media activation & strategic partnerships, Mondelez International
Technology and content, live experiences and social influencers take on increased importance.

What I’m most excited about are the trends in technology and content. We will continue to push and look for ways to connect with our consumers and shoppers through that innovation and technology lens. So we ask the question what is new or different about this property that will enable our brands to deliver the most exciting opportunities to our retail customers/shoppers and consumers.

We are in an era where a fantastic piece of shareable content is just as likely to come from a brand as it is a media network. That short video featuring a celebrity, athlete or team that people are sharing should be coming from brands they love.

Reaching consumers and leveraging our sponsorships, partnerships and alliances is changing extremely fast as consumers take in media and messaging in different ways. TV is still very important to us (and will continue to be) but the maturity of digital, social, multi-screen penetration and the new content reaching consumers continues to be the trend I’m most focused on.

Another trend we see is the increasing value of experiences. In a world where people are spending so much time on their devices/consumed with technology, fantastic experiences are more valued than ever. Brands have the ability to deliver once-in-a-lifetime experiences that people can enjoy, talk about with their friends, post to social media, etc. We enable life moments and memories.

Social influencers are an interesting area to keep an eye on. We are in a time when the up and coming generation is just as, if not more, likely to look to a YouTube star for the latest trends, products and advice about what’s cool versus a movie star. Their followings are astounding. And viewers see them as friends more than they would a celebrity...they can relate more...there’s a level of trust that is valuable for brands if we can enter the picture authentically.

Ricardo Fort, senior vice president, global brand, product and sponsorship marketing, Visa, Inc.
Deal structures that address scandals; more focus on content rights

Two-thousand and fifteen was marked by some of the greatest scandals in the world of sport with rightholders and athletes being in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. I believe that served as a wake-up call for sponsors. They should start structuring deals differently so they can have more leverage.

Currently, a lot of what is sold by rightsholders offers limited reach. As social becomes more important, sponsors must start looking at rights in a different way. They should be acquiring things that can serve as content for reaching fans beyond the venues.

This will be particularly important as sponsors battle the growing cost of rights fees. Expanding reach will deliver better ROI and justify deals.