Sports marketing

Gilles Morgan | Why data is the new oil of the sports marketing industry

The oft-used phrase ‘data is the new oil’, first coined by British mathematician Clive Humby in 2006, has stood the test of time – albeit with a few additions and new analogies.

In its original formulation, the data was similar to petroleum in that if it wasn’t refined, it couldn’t really be used. Humby’s argument was that these are the fractional byproducts of crude oil – gasoline, chemicals and plastics, etc.

The same can be said of the data. Whatever comparison you choose to make on the value of data, it is the fundamental ability to extract, refine and convert information from a myriad of data sources that makes data useful and therefore of almost unlimited value.

Fast forward to 2021 and the global sports industry has finally woken up to the reality that it is also sitting on a vast well of unused and unrefined data. That is, dynamic information about their most important asset: their fans. Information which, if managed correctly, creates new tradable commodity, and therefore new currency.

With deadlocks ending so many events around the world, rights holders with gaps in their agendas have rushed to quickly familiarize themselves with the new data lexicon as investors, media and sponsors pose questions. pointed questions about what they actually know. empirically on their fanbase. Which historically has been very little. Put simply, the clear and present challenge and opportunity for all sports rights holders around the world is to quickly unearth and refine their fan data into a viable business asset for their business.

As an example, let’s look at the value of data through the prism of one of the traditional pillars of revenue: sponsorship – my old world and where I have enough mileage on the clock to be at least dangerous.

And let’s be bluntly honest, the traditional model of sponsorship sales that has been peddled in sports souks for over half a century is more akin to an act of conjuring – where the magician’s sleight of hand and dazzling glitter. of the assistant, combined with the openness to the public, the strong will to believe in magic was enough to make deals. A sales tip that over time has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Let’s be bluntly honest, the traditional model of sponsorship sales that has been peddled in sports souks for over half a century is more of an act of conjuring.

Reams of paper littered with steamy, inconclusive TV audience data coupled with hazy, lazy audience information depicting endless bar charts and pie charts that demonstrate “return on investment.” Accompanying them were videos, brochures, mockups and PowerPoints with brilliant imagery with well-off looking people having “a good old days” and spectators having an amazingly smiling day. All of this often accompanied by the soundtrack to M-People’s ubiquitous 2006 song “Proud” and firm invitations for senior management to the showcase event.

In essence, a mouth-watering assortment of emotions and assumptions are deftly presented to persuade buyers – often themselves clothed in the colors of their own vanity – to part with a large sum of money; something you can trust that we’ve all bought for years. Especially me. I was known as the entertainment minister at Hogwarts, for god’s sake….

But before you think my new career as a patsy magician to pod-pirate has changed my outlook on sponsorship, know this: I really am a bull on the future of sponsorship and the increase in income that rights holders can generate. sponsors, provided the box of magic tricks is put away and replaced with a new adult business case that is presented to investors.

It’s a business case that should focus on fan behavior and in-depth audience knowledge – a fine-grained analysis of fan data. Because it is the known visceral emotion, passion and loyalty of everyday fans all over the world, which is precisely why sponsorship remains such a powerful and underused weapon in the marketing arsenal.


Most sponsors operate in extremely competitive industries, often selling commoditized products that closely resemble those offered by their competitors. Let’s face it: one lager tastes like another. Mortgages and checking accounts are basically the same, just like insurance products and utilities. The list goes on.

Sponsorship is a business case that should focus on fan behavior and in-depth audience knowledge.

So, in the path of competition, brands always seek to humanize and differentiate themselves, to create a real affinity between the targeted consumer bases and to become a legitimate part of any conversation that will allow them to sell more products. . This is where investing in associative capital is so powerful. Brands that align with dynamic properties with customers known to drive sales are the holy grail for marketers. Because you’ve created a sales funnel. You’ve created a business case. You have created a return on your investment.

But that only works if this information from both sides is properly collected and refined. And it is the golden opportunity for rights holders that exists today. Provide sponsors with properly refined data analyzes that provide them with a source of known (not assumed) behaviors among targeted and diverse demographics. Data that allows sponsors to measure their own marketing performance and to refine audience activation and engagement. Data that makes it possible to monitor, measure and act on the public’s feeling towards its own brand – and that of its competitors – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and, above all, permanently. Data that provides insight into real-time fan behavior and can identify personalities and potential customer segments for brands to target.

To all the sports rights holders and marketing agencies that are responsible for selling sponsorship rights, let me leave you with this: how can you credibly market a sponsorship proposition when you don’t really know your base. of fans? How to justify investing in a sport with a premium brand when 90% of fans do not even have the means to buy their product?

The answer is simple: you are giving the sponsor privileged access to the ten percent who can afford it. You provide behavioral information to refine their own selling proposition. You offer a conversation that money cannot buy. In other words, you are giving them value.

And here’s the best thing of all. As sports technology advances and as sports invest in more and more digital fan engagement and participation – from over-the-top (OTT) and fan apps to fantastic games and hardware. and aggregate participation software – plus consumer data will be available to sponsors. to engage consumers, which in turn makes their first-party data more valuable. In other words, data perpetuates itself. It’s infinite. It is priceless.

As the sports industry slowly emerges from under the rock of the global pandemic, we are faced with a new business landscape, which presents new opportunities for the industry to both engage and attract new audiences and new investments.

Carpe diem – enter the data.

About the Author: Consultant and global sports industry veteran, Giles Morgan is a pirate podcast on “Are You Not Entertained?” »Podcast and data oilman for Pumpjack Dataworks.