Accountability is King

As we start 2013 and look to the year ahead it got me thinking that it’s some 40-odd years since the extraordinary team at West Nally was established and brokered the partnership between FIFA and the Coca-Cola Company.

Taken from SportBusiness International, February 2013

 

Coca-Cola’s subsequent $10 million investment in soccer and the 1978 FIFA World Cup was announced with simultaneous press conferences in London and New York and marked the biggest-ever sponsorship at the time. It was a turning point in sports marketing – heralding the first co-ordinated package of sports marketing rights.

As we stand now 40 years on in 2013 it struck me that sport has never been higher profile and the sports marketing industry has never employed more people or generated more revenue.

Yet sports marketing remains a very disorganised business. It’s sold badly. It’s unaccountable.

Forget the current industry debate around ticket prices and sustainable football. Forget the industry debate around engaging fans and wireless stadia for a minute. As sponsorship consultants, from our perspective the key single barrier to getting sports marketing to be taken more seriously by marketing and procurement executives is to make sports marketing more professional. More easily accessible. And more accountable.

These buyers are listening.

They know all about the large attractive audiences sport delivers via live events, the media and digital platforms. They know it because they enjoy it themselves, because their friends talk about it, because their colleagues talk about it and because their kids talk about it. They know sport dominates these platforms. They know from real world interaction that the draw of sport has never been greater, that revenues flowing into sport have never been greater. And they know that sport and football specifically dominates the national debate.

They understand that sport can provide marketing utopia; a platform through which you can really communicate with your target audience at a time when they’re more likely to be interested in the product you’re selling.

And at the same time they know that fragmentation is destroying traditional advertising – particularly on TV, which is sponsorship’s real competitor for client’s money – because nobody is watching advertising breaks.

But as an industry we need to step up and be more professional, accessible and accountable.

If there was one initiative we would like to see that would make giant strides towards this, it would be the creation of a gold-standard industry approach. At the moment too many rights-holders and brands are off doing too many different things and as a result there is confusion in the marketplace around media evaluation, let alone any tangibles around the basics of reach and frequency.

In 1981, not long after West Nally delivered that ground-breaking 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina for Coca-Cola, UK broadcasters the BBC and ITV and the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) got together with less fanfare to form BARB (Broadcaster Audience Research Board) – a not-for­profit venture to provide the industry- standard TV audience measurement for
broadcasters and the advertising industry.

For the uninitiated, BARB then commissions research companies to provide the services that users want including the production of audience-viewing figures, but also crucially related services that allow planners and buyers to estimate in the planning stage and accurately record, on campaign completion, the effective reach and frequency of their investment versus their target audience. Similar planning and measurement tools exist for all other mainstream media.

If there was one initiative we would like to see to transform the perception of sports marketing as a professional investable channel, it would be rights- holders (our media owners), the IPA and the ESA (European Sponsorship Association) members getting together to invest in something like this to underpin marketing investment in sport for the next 40 years.

Matt House
Founder and CEO, SportQuake

SportBusiness International • No.186 • 02.13

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