Tally Technology co-founder and CCO Rupert Huelsey explains how a new wave of sports games is helping teams and leagues gain highly valuable insights into their fans.
The NFL is fast approaching the $2bn milestone in sponsorship deals, with every item available for purchase at in-stadium bars now taken exclusively by major brands. In the EPL, shirt deals alone generate around $550m per season for England’s biggest clubs, while individual global superstars like LeBron James rake in tens of millions of dollars every year through product endorsements.
Glamorous, competitive and enthralling, it is little wonder that major brands spend eye-watering sums in order to associate themselves with sport’s hottest leagues, teams and players.
However, there is a key question that should be asked by brands that invest in sport: are these sponsorships truly engaging with the target audience? And if not, what tools are available to remedy the situation, helping to produce significant and measurable ROI?
There is an argument that the sporting world represents a final frontier in terms of brand marketing. Vast sums are spent by multi-national corporations in order to get their logo associated with a particular team or event, but getting a handle on ROI is tricky due to elusive – or non-existent – metrics.
A leading Head of Marketing might pat themselves on the back for landing that exclusive deal with a prominent team, luxuriating in the reflected glory of seeing their company logo displayed on television. However, if there is no way of truly measuring the impact these deals in terms of the additional revenue they bring in, then they can be viewed as being led by vanity, rather than business logic.
It may be enough to simply raise awareness of a brand, but for certain products it is important to create a lower-level funnel in order to really connect with fans. In many other industries, there has long been a shift towards digital engagement and across sport, too, the sands are shifting. The way that younger sports fans consume their entertainment has undergone an OTT and streaming revolution – and as a trend, the multi-screen approach has seeped through from Generation Y all the way back to Generation X and beyond. This change means that brands have the benefit of accessing fans through new channels, providing them with fresh engagement methods that can create valuable insights into behaviors.
Immersive prediction games are proven to complement and enhance the sports-watching experience. At Tally Technology, we have already recorded more than 20 million predictions from unique users across North, Central and South America, becoming the fan engagement platform of choice for sport’s biggest names including the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, St Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings.
For the sports industry, the next step in the evolution of brand marketing lies in the leveraging of the customer data that is captured through these fan interactions, allowing the beneficiary to address and engage with a segmented audience.
For a financial services provider that has its logo emblazoned on a jersey, for example, an activation utilizing a predictions game could lead to a highly significant data set landing in their lap. This could mean creating an audience segment that has declared interest in hearing about a loan while inputting predictions on their mobile, in the build-up to a big event featuring their favorite team.
Gaining a deep understanding of an audience and then creating a packaged, individualized offer around it is a powerful proposition and one that goes way beyond simply collecting a list of names and email addresses. If a brand is sponsoring a competition, at Tally we can gain insights around the particular team the player is interested in and feed them back directly into a CRM system. This can lead to the creation of customized packages, such as a ticket to a game with extras. Creating smaller associated prizes that are tied in with a social approach – giving away a free coffee, provided the user gets a friend to play along – can be an effective avenue of growth, increasing engagement levels and the scope of segmented data.
Increasingly, we also see community-based play as an excellent way of securing that data. Entertaining free games bring fans closer to the action, improve their overall experience and increase the chance that they will return, time and again. Add a fan-to-fan competitive element to the mix – a trivia game in a packed bar, close to a stadium on game-day, for example – and you have created another level of compelling, shared experience, with an even bigger audience for sponsors to engage with.
For major brands, high-profile sponsorships create the hope that a certain level of exposure will in turn create demand. However, in a world in which sports fans are changing the way they consume the product, there is a massive opportunity to ensure that such deals return measurable, data-driven returns.