The State of Sports Sponsorship in 2018: World Cup and Wimbledon

Summer of 2018 so far appears to have brought with it many Sports Sponsorship opportunities, particularly in the world of soccer and tennis. But was everything as it seemed? It’s no secret that FIFA rakes in a lot of revenue during every World Cup season. In 2018, however, while it still managed to acquire billions of dollars, FIFA did see a decline in the number of brands sponsoring this tournament compared to the previous one in 2014. Sponsorship revenue for FIFA’s 2015-2018 cycle was $1.45 billion, a significant decrease compared to $1.62 billion for 2011-2014. Various controversies and corruption scandals coupled with the fact that the event was held in Russia are the main factors that have contributed to this notable decline in sponsorships.

On the other hand, Wimbledon hasn’t had anywhere near as many controversies. This sporting event that took place at the same time as the World Cup is also a goldmine for sponsorships. And according to Companies House, Wimbledon generated $289 million in revenue in 2017 which was 6.5% more than in 2016. So could tennis, despite it being overshadowed by the biggest event in soccer this year, be worth investing in sponsorships for the future?

Let’s take a look at 2018’s journey so far in the world of sports sponsorship by examining the sponsors of these two events and the insights brands can take away from them.

world cup

The FIFA World Cup

Who watches it?

Arguably one of the most important things for brands to ascertain before they even think about sponsoring an event is the audience they want to target. Sporting events, including soccer, typically attract predominantly male audiences. More specifically, soccer is the most watched sport (over 40% indicating an interest) and the average soccer fan is a well-educated, married, 25 to 34-year-old male. However, it’s important for brands to be aware of any change or growth in their audiences. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that over a third of all soccer fans are now female.

While it makes sense for brands who are sponsoring soccer events to focus their advertising efforts on their male target audience, it’s definitely worth their while investing in campaigns aimed at female soccer fans as well. There’s simply no room for exclusivity in 2018, and the sporting industry is no exception to that rule, particularly when a popular sporting event such as the World Cup attracts such a wide range of ages, genders, and backgrounds. Consumers are making this known to brands and advertisers and it’s ultimately their job to listen.

How World Cup sponsorships work

During the World Cup, FIFA separates their sponsorships into three tiers:

1. Partners:

They work alongside FIFA year-round and receive prime billing at the tournament.

2. Sponsors:

They are affiliated in some way with the World Cup and Confederations Cup only.

3. Regional sponsors:

They are a group of smaller organizations of different regions that appear whenever an event run by FIFA takes place.

Who did and didn’t sponsor?

Unfortunately for FIFA, of the 34 sponsorship slots, only 20 were sold ahead of the World Cup. In addition, just one sponsor chose to “do good” through their World Cup campaigns despite the fact that 81% of people believe businesses can be a positive force for social and environmental change.

Mastercard’s Food for Goals campaign tried to capitalize on this year’s World Cup despite the brand not being an official sponsor. The campaign promised to donate 10,000 meals to the World Food Programme for children in Latin America for every goal scored by Lionel Messi and Neymar, two of the World Cup’s biggest stars. However, the campaign backfired as it was seen as self-serving by many fans.

Additionally, due to their corruption scandals, FIFA lost key World Cup Sponsors including Sony, Johnson & Johnson, and Castrol. However, they did gain some deals with Chinese brands, likely due to the fact that there wouldn’t be as many risks involved for them compared to Western brands. And despite these losses, the likes of Wanda Group, Hisense, and Vivo, had their logos getting a lot of airtime during every game this World Cup season.

Some marketers simply believed that this year’s World Cup just wasn’t worth the hassle because of the scandals they have become known for. And with the even more controversial choice of Qatar to host the tournament in 2022, it looks like FIFA’s problems mightn’t be resolved any time soon.

Now let’s explore Wimbledon’s partnerships for this year’s tournament.

wimbledon

Wimbledon

Who watches it?

Tennis fans are a bit more balanced when it comes to gender demographics. 47% of tennis followers are male, while 53% are female. Wimbledon fans are almost the same ratio at 48% male to 52% female. For brands, this can be a blessing and a curse as there is a lot more room for them to venture creatively, but it’s also slightly harder for them to really target their advertising efforts to a wide range of fans.

How Wimbledon sponsorships work

Technically, there are no “sponsors” at Wimbledon, only “suppliers”. This means that any brand that wants to be affiliated with the club must make a meaningful and active contribution. This is a great example of an organization recognizing that engagement should be a priority if a brand is looking for any sort of growth or development from their sponsorship activations. It also reinforces the idea that partnerships that are symbiotic as opposed to one-sided are more valuable in the long-term.

For example, Wimbledon has worked with IBM to adopt A.I. technology in 2015 and are now using huge data sets to provide an immersive fan experience, from automated video highlights to chatbots for their site. As a result, some commentators have suggested that Wimbledon could become more of a data-driven business. This is an important note for prospective brands to take into consideration as Wimbledon is really embracing the realms of technology and data- topics that are becoming increasingly discussed in the marketing world.

Wimbledon’s sponsors

Wimbledon’s focus when it comes to sponsorships tends to be on long-term sponsors. For example, in 2015, Robinson’s extended its sponsorship deal for a further five years. Even more impressive, Slazenger has had its logo on Wimbledon tennis balls since 1902 which, at 113 years, marks the longest sports sponsorship in history.

Other Wimbledon sponsors include IBM, Lanson, Ralph Lauren, Pimm’s, Haagen-Dazs, Jaguar and Land Rover, Stella Artois, Lavazza, Evian, and HSBC.

When it comes to sponsorship deals with athletes, the more popular way in which brands do this during sporting events is through logo placement on an athlete’s uniform. Roger Federer, the current record holder for most Wimbledon titles (8), dropped his partnership with Nike in favor of Uniqlo for this year’s games. The contract is reportedly worth $300 million over 10 years, which would be one of the largest endorsement agreements ever. It would appear that Nike was not willing to match the length or the value of Uniqlo’s deal, particularly for a player nearing the end of his career.

wimbledon

What brands can learn

After looking at both of these highly popular sporting events, what can brands learn from the ways in which their sponsorships have been carried out?

1. Establish a target audience:

The most important thing for brands to note when it comes to their target audience is how targetable they actually are. This means whether or not they are easily reachable through every form of media. Luckily, soccer fans beat the average person when it comes to media consumption and intended purchases. In other words, they are a more valuable target to market to sponsors in the world of sport. And since tennis has a lot more focus on lucrative and long-term partnerships, the only way brands can really make their mark in Wimbledon is through offering a valuable contribution to the club. However, sponsorship deals with individual players could be the way to go if you’re a very well-established brand with a high sponsorship budget.

2. Don’t tarnish your brand:

It’s also a good idea for brands to be aware of their audience’s perceptions of an organization that they’re looking to be affiliated with or the event itself. If the club or organization in question has been through a lot of scandals or had allegations against them in the past, it’s highly important for brands to determine whether or not they would be willing to put their name and logo on something that they or their audience would have a problem with. It’s a brand’s responsibility to take ownership of the ways in which they conduct their sponsorship activations and that first step involves establishing which organization best matches their core values and beliefs while keeping their audience’s expectations at the forefront.

3. Be a positive force for change (in the right way):

“Doing good” is a great way for a brand to engage with their audience, not to mention make a positive impact on the world, but it’s important for them to be self-aware enough so that it doesn’t come across negatively in the eyes of their audience or fans of the sport. Make sure any campaign centered around “doing good” isn’t self-serving or half-hearted, but is completely genuine and sincere. If done right, not only will your customers hold your brand in much higher regard, but you will have helped make the world a better place by bringing about real change, no matter how big or small.