A shared experience amongst many of us who have a history of involvement with community sport, would be the coaxing onto the club committee to assist with the role of sponsorship and fundraising.
Within our respective locality this would typically consist of beating a path to the usual suspects comprising of the ubiquitous local pub, supermarket, bakery, car dealer and fast food outlet. Most of these relationships would be firmly established over many years, the ability to extract a contribution expected annually in conjunction with the relevant season. For their generosity the sponsor would receive a combination of logo on club apparel, signage on fences and club room walls, printed in newsletters, match day records or raffle tickets.
The landmark AFL media rights deal of $1.25 billion where the Telstra component for digital rights was valued at $155m has set the tone for every other sport to adjust their sights accordingly. The next major deal to be finalised is the NRL, who is expecting to match this level, currently only receive $10m per annum from Telstra. Following hot on the heels will be Cricket Australia, A-League football and the Australian Rugby Union. It shall be fascinating to see what economic funding from known sources remains in a market that is a combination of expansion, saturation and dismal failure. In most cases, the value of the media rights is critical to underpin the financial health of the sport, from the elite to grass roots.
Common amongst the sports though is the necessity for complete control of the brand and how this can be commercialised within the burgeoning digital space of online broadcasting, mobile apps and signage. A recent shift from traditional television broadcasting was the Indian Premier League in 2010, being a trailblazer in broadcasting all 59 matches via YouTube with Google sharing revenue from advertising and sponsorship. To many sports administrators this is a critical path to be explored for future growth and survival with traditional territorial boundaries rendered impudent.
For balance as an example of contrast in the other direction, until as recently as this year some sports at governing body level in Australia have operated separate websites for men and women members. The author will make absolutely no attempt to explain, defend any logic or prognosticate brand dilution but can report that thankfully common sense has been discovered. As we descend into Olympics inundation, there are many willing to argue the case for gender equality and righting wrongs.
Further representation of the shifting market is evidence emerging regarding the value of social media and the impact of this medium revolving around digital brand. Projections have now hit levels of $16.9 billion in 2012, up 43.1% from 2011 containing revenue streams from advertising, gaming and subscriptions. These are numbers of considerable substance and foundation far beyond celebrity culture and self-exposure.
What can be learnt from the trends in the digital space and these enormous deals amongst the major players are the behaviours and factors that can be modified to suit within any club at local community level. Anecdotally, it would seem within every sporting competition, inevitably the clubs that rise to the top are well organised, well presented and professional in manner, image and method.
There are several basic rules and standards that can be simply activated incorporating domain name, email address, social media, sponsor display and recognition, current dynamic content (news, video, images, and awards). This can also assist to engage and invite interest from new volunteers who may be more technically savvy than the traditional volunteer. A volunteer nonetheless who should be embraced and nurtured as they are the lifeblood and heartbeat of clubs.
Having a well organised website as the central digital hub with current competition information, historical records and contacts gives an immediate additional option to engage sponsors at an enhanced level when compared to the earlier mentioned logos on uniforms and fence signage.
Including the social media elements increases the dynamic content, inviting interaction with generation next fully engaged on mobile devices. Supporting the hunger for information is the observation of the fastest growing employment category in sport – digital and communications, a shift from the traditional marketing manager.
Generating and linking dynamic content (scores, images, logos, radar) to flow into electronic display devices, either scoreboards or LED screens within the club rooms, again offers further value to sponsors and partners. Combining this with a club business directory to share valued connections and improve the awareness amongst the club population, further delivers control of the economy around the club brand.
The Bendigo Bank is a validated example of a significant sponsor and supporter to grass roots sport with contributions from the national network of Community Bank branches surpassing $80 million. This completely certifies the charter to invest in the community and a commitment to “feed into prosperity, not off it”. With this amount expected to further expand, the governance applied in the decision making of funds distribution presents challenges.
Clubs that are able to shape and nurture their digital brand within their own community will find it easier to engage and comply with partners. By fully exercising this digital channel to continually expand the participant audience, will assist greatly the economic growth of any club to ensure future prosperity within the community.
Image: Auburn Council