What trends are sponsorship execs watching in 2018?

ESP SR posed that question to sponsorship decision-makers at three companies in the beverage industry: AB InBev, The Coca-Cola Co. and Pernod Ricard.

While their answers all varied, they did share one common theme: the ongoing fragmentation of sports media rights, growing consumer adoption of digital media, and increased activity by e-commerce and digital companies.

Below are edited excerpts from their responses.

Eelco van der Noll, head of experiential marketing, AB InBev
Passion point convergence and fragmentation of media rights

Crossover from sports to other passion points or sustainability programs will accelerate in 2018. Great examples are the NBA and the World Surf League. The NBA is increasingly becoming a lifestyle brand with its athletes often heavily involved in music and/or fashion. The WSL is investing in healthier oceans and cleaner beaches, which aligns with Corona’s brand purpose.

Additionally, there is crossover among professional sports teams that is driving e-sports to fall into this category. This will provide a great opportunity for brands to develop a more all-around engaging relationship with fans and consumers.

With digital giants (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google, Tencent, etc.) further exploring the sports content space, another important story to watch is the ongoing fragmentation of media rights and content. With continued consumer adoption of streaming and digital-first content products, it will be exciting to see how the market responds to live sports on open social media platforms.

Ricardo Fort, vice president, global sports partnerships, The Coca-Cola Co.
More activity from Asia and Russian-based companies, B2B and tech companies, and digital media companies.

There are a few interesting macro trends in the sponsorship world right now.

The first is geographic. Thanks to the location of future Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups and the Rugby World Cup, as well as Chinese investments in European football, sponsors are becoming disproportionally Asian, Middle Eastern and Russian.

The second is related to the types of industries involved in sponsorship. The growth in technology companies is driving new investments from companies like Vivo, Intel and Uber. Several of them are B2B companies, which deploy a very different type of marketing when compared to traditional B2C sponsors.

The third trend is the entrance of new media players like Twitter, Amazon and Facebook. Thanks to the long duration of existing media contracts, these players are not replacing the traditional free-to-air broadcasters but partnering with them and expanding the distribution of content.

When we combine the three trends, there is a risk that global events will become more visible, but less friendly.

On one hand, there will be universal access to all matches and events. Every move will be available 24/7 on our phones, whenever we want. On the other hand, there will be less advertising to consumers, less promotional activities at the point of sale, less “win this” or “buy and get that,” and more countries where some sponsors are not present. The events may become another TV (or phone) show we watch but have no further interaction with.

Rightsholders may benefit financially in the short term at the expense of building a stronger fan base for the future.

Only time will tell if the strategy is sustainable.

Jeffrey Moran, vice president, influencer engagement & marketing activation services—spirits marketing, Pernod Ricard USA
The use of technology to create deeper relationships.

Looking ahead at how we utilize sponsorships, it’s all about the integration of technology into the consumer experience and building a deeper relationship at the point of activation.

On the technology front, it’s all about digital – check-in capabilities, engagements that are scalable and/or ‘offline’ as we seek to learn more about who we’re engaging with, when and how.

On the activation side, we’re dialing up the lifestyle aspects and looking at how to further embed brand messaging at all points, lending to more sharing options and more storytelling among consumers, giving them more talk value, and thereby enticing them to come back for more and/or follow us beyond our sponsorship activity.