Sports marketing poised for growth

PETALING JAYA: Sports marketing in Malaysia is poised for growth despite uncertainties fuelled by Covid-19, thanks to the strong penetration of the Internet and television viewership.

Last year, the global sports marketing industry took a hit and declined by between 15% and 18% in value which translates to multi-billions of dollars.

Despite the losses worldwide, the country’s sports marketing industry is thriving amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and this has paved the way for marketers to deepen their brand presence.

Reprise Digital group commercial director and head of Sports Marketing Thanendran Thanesvaran said the momentum for sports marketing would remain in Malaysia.

“We are a nation that thrives on watching a bulk of our sports on TV, and this will continue for as long as that form of telecast is not cut.

“Our local football league, the Malaysian Football League (MFL), has a huge following, and aside from the fact that fans cannot be in the stadiums, we still attract huge fanfare on viewership.

“A case in point, the Charity Shield match, which was the curtain raiser for the new season, had around 600,000 viewers online,” he told StarBiz.

Reprise Digital is the full-service integrated communications agency within the IPG Mediabrands network.

Moving forward, he said the emergence of e-sports, rising sponsorships, and an increase in Internet accessible devices would continue to drive growth in new, innovative ways.

Factors that may hinder the growth of sports marketing in the future include threats from home entertainment e.g. OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms and games, and increased regulations on sports.

He said given the pandemic, sports marketing could help marketers further enhance their brands.

Thanendran said many markets are seeing a huge rise in internet penetration, be it via mobile, tablet and other electronic devices, which in turn, is expected to drive up the sports market.

“A good example will be unifi playTV by Telekom Malaysia, which offers an on-the-go streaming platform and is the official broadcaster of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Malaysia. A majority of its users are mobile device-based, and the platform has been televising the Olympics for free, enabling sports fans to have an avenue to watch the games.

Thanendran: A good example will be unifi playTV by Telekom Malaysia, which offers an on-the-go streaming platform and is the official broadcaster of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Malaysia. A majority of its users are mobile device-based, and the platform has been televising the Olympics for free, enabling sports fans to have an avenue to watch the games.

“A similar trend is expected across future sporting events which will help drive revenues for the sports market,” he said.

Thanendran said more and more brands are investing their advertising and promotional spends on digital strategies as they see value in spends across paid search, email campaigns, and social media ads.

He foresees greater investment in multi-channel digital solutions, including streaming platforms, augmented or virtual reality as well as artificial intelligence and virtual fans to help engage fans year-round and influence behaviour in new ways.

The convergence of all mediums and platforms, he said, are important to provide a truly integrated experience for sports consumers across channels.

To a question on how have brands in Malaysia taken advantage of the Olympics-factor during the pandemic, Thanendran said despite the postponement of the Olympics to 2021, brands have tried to leverage on the situation by running more engagement-driven activities on social media.

“It is important for brands to stay relevant and be in and part of the conversation from current issues, new trends and anything viral. And the Olympics provide that opportunity for content.

“Brands need not necessarily have gone down the major sponsorship routes, but there are many ways to leverage on a hot event such as the Olympics to draw inspiration, speak about sporting and cultural references, and redefine their relationship with consumers and fans,” he added.

Commenting on Team Malaysia, he said Team Malaysia is the number one sports fan page for the nation and is the bridge for fans and athletes to speak to one another.

Reprise, as the agency representing Team Malaysia, he said covers the performance of Malaysian athletes by real-time reporting which provides timely and accurate updates pertaining to sports.

Since its inception almost 10 years ago, followers have grown to slightly below two million collectively over all its social assets – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Besides being a platform for updates and experiences, he said it is used as a strong, positive messaging tool and an alternative to negative reporting, so that fans can lend their support to national athletes.

On the future trends in sports marketing for brands and the outlook of sports in the new normal, Thanendran said with on-going lockdowns with no clear end in sight, there may not be on-ground activations at least for the rest of the year.

Brands, however, he said have a great opportunity to forge new experiences for fans. Rather than compete with OTT, sports could become part of the equation.

“A case in point is Amazon’s All or Nothing which has become a well- known sports documentary series brand as it gives fans behind the scenes access and an intimate look into how their favourite sporting clubs operate.

“This presents great opportunities for brands to become part of the sporting conversation with the clubs. Sports is experiential and fans want to see great comebacks, drama, emotions, and glorious wins.

“We have seen fans become hungrier than ever for the excitement of live events, especially having been starved of it in 2020. It is an interesting time for brands to engage with fans at home and enhance their mobile and digital sporting experience,” he noted.

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