Soccer’s Holiday Wish List: Real Reform and Engaged Sponsors

By John Kristick, ESP Properties Dec 2, 2015

Soccer’s Holiday Wish List: Real Reform and Engaged Sponsors

It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that what global soccer needs most right now is real reform from FIFA and the related organizations that govern the sport around the world.

But as we anticipate what will be contained in the proposed package of reforms to be outlined Thursday by reform committee chairman Francois Carrard—and await the results of February’s presidential election—it’s important to note that reform, while of the utmost importance, is not all that the sport needs.

What might be less obvious to soccer’s future success is the need for more corporate partners and sponsors that are tuned in to and can take advantage of the changing landscape for media, marketing and sports.

This was a topic I was pleased to briefly address during a panel discussion at the recent MediaPost Marketing Sports: Soccer in America conference in New York, as you can see in this video.

Our data-driven and digitally powered world requires sponsors that are not seeking simply to leverage soccer’s (or any other top-tier sport’s) huge fan base, but which can activate intelligently to take advantage of new opportunities to target specific fan segments and engage, involve and connect with them in relevant ways.

Brands that view sponsorship as merely a collection of assets and inventory—and fans only as eyeballs—not only do themselves a disservice, but they fail to deliver for their rightsholder partners as well. Activation that improves the on-site experience, content that enhances interaction, personalized communications that forge meaningful relationships, all benefit the property just as much as they do the sponsor.

Recognizing this fact will be particularly important for global soccer, given its current situation. The sport’s sponsors, as well as media partners, will be essential to communicating that soccer has entered the post-scandal era.

Five FIFA sponsors—A-B InBev, Adidas, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa—took a big step Tuesday, taking an active and vocal role in the reform process by issuing a letter to the organization’s executive committee calling for, among other things, long-term independent oversight of reforms.

It will be these and other sponsors that will be the ones who can also change the narrative and help get the game back on track—by telling a story through compelling content that focuses attention on and reinforces fans’ love for the game.

In addition, beyond the current headlines, savvy sponsors that earn a positive return on investment through their ability to craft activations targeted to fans of different leagues, countries and clubs—not to mention the women’s game, youth soccer, etc.—will demonstrate to others that the way to win at soccer sponsorship is not to focus on the “big numbers” of signage and over-the-air broadcasts, but to instead choose quality over quantity by leveraging the smaller numbers that allow for personalized, one-on-one marketing.


digital media fan engagement international activation


About the Author

John is a senior sports and entertainment marketing executive with nearly two decades of international experience. He joined GroupM in 2011 to build its entertainment and sports practice through leadership of GroupM ESP and IEG, culminating in the formation of ESP Properties in May 2015.


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