Joscha Thieringer
Joscha Thieringer

From creative storytelling to targeting

Sports Sponsorship: These are the Marketing Trends 2019

Sports sponsorship is booming; never before has more money been put into marketing with athletes, sports teams, or sporting events. In times of advertising message overloads, sport offers something extremely valuable: real emotions. In connection with the digital possibilities, enormous opportunities arise – for global players as well as small start-ups. took a close look at the sports sponsorship trends of 2019 and presents five trends in digital sports sponsorship that will become even more significant. Read Part 1 of our three-part Sports Sponsorship series here. 

Influencer Marketing wird künftig immer professioneller.
New marketing trends evolve in sports sponsorship.

“Comment here on which of our products you like best, and you could win two tickets to the finals” – with these kinds of competition posts on Facebook and other social networks, several companies are trying to activate their expensive sports sponsorship package. For years now – and with success when it comes to an attractive sports event.

That's digital thinking at least. But do competitions on social media really have a lasting effect on achieving the goals of sport sponsorship? This form of online marketing isn’t especially creative, to say the least. But creativity and emotions are the decisive currency in digital sport sponsorship. “It’s about creative power and how to optimally activate your rights,” says Sebastian Kurczynski, Director Brand & Digital Consulting at the research and consulting company Nielsen Sports.

Sponsorship is the Opportunity for Storytelling and Content Marketing

“Digitalization offers sponsors completely new opportunities,” says Kurczynski. “A few years ago, sponsorship still meant having your logo on sports assets presented to the media. Today, sponsorship is the opportunity to run storytelling and content marketing – in times of information and advertising overload, this is especially attractive for brands.”

But which sponsorship strategy has a lasting positive effect on the company’s KPIs? At the 2018 ISPO Digitize Summit, the innovation summit for the sports industry, numerous insiders reported on how they took advantage of the opportunities offered by digital communication. describes five trends in digital sports sponsorship that will occupy us (even more) in 2019 and beyond.

1. Storytelling

People love good stories. It could be that easy to describe how and why storytelling works. If you want to generate more than just attention for your brand with your sports sponsorship, you should have exciting stories to tell. Creativity is needed – but so is authenticity. “The ideal message fits the sponsor, spokesperson, and target group in equal measure,” says Kurczynski.

One example: After winning the World Cup in Russia, supplier Nike used the euphoria in France for its remarkable “We won it in France” campaign. The story is as simple as it is brilliant: The World Cup title was won in France, or rather on the football fields in the country, since many World Cup heroes like Kylian Mbappé and Paul Pogba began playing soccer in the streets. Thus, the title belongs to all of France, so the story goes. The YouTube video, which is dedicated to the “children who dare to believe in themselves,” was viewed by more than three million people within a very short time.

Even Small Companies Can Do Good Storytelling

Small companies likewise have the opportunity to do some clever storytelling. “I wouldn’t link that to the size of the company,” says Kurczynski. “Online marketing is also very exciting for regional brands because you can use social media, for instance, to reach your specific target group beyond classic TV coverage. A small, regional brand can thus optimally activate its sponsorship according to its budget.”

Regionality and tradition are undoubtedly in vogue. This can also be capitalized on in online marketing. Take the outdoor company Schöffel for example, which skilfully uses the tradition of the family business (founded in 1804) in its communication strategy.

Fans of good (advertising) entertainment can rejoice. “The level of staging and entertainment has increased considerably,” says marketing expert Sebastian Kurczynski.

2. Targeting

Targeting is the opposite of the watering can principle, which sports sponsorship had to make use of for a long time. Instead of “one message for all,” now it’s “the right message for every target group.” On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social networks, marketing managers can define exactly whom the message should reach: geotargeting, demographic targeting, interest targeting – nothing’s impossible.

For instance, that could mean soccer fans aged 18 to 29 in the Kassel area. “The trend is heading away from push marketing and towards pull marketing,” says Kurczynski. Thanks to the precise target group appeal on social media, pull marketing has become much advantageous.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into force in May 2018, has only slightly slowed down the shock wave with which online marketing is shaking up the industries. The potential remains enormous.


Adidas Spends a Lot of Money to Adress Consumers

In order to become more independent of the major platforms, Adidas is using an extremely exciting targeting strategy: its own platform, the Adidas app. This was even advertised on the boards during the World Cup, which led to 14 percent more downloads, as board member Roland Auschel revealed at the ISPO Digitize Summit.

Adidas is spending a lot of money to lure consumers to its own platforms. “Tell us what you’re interested in, get Adidas news, and of course exclusive offers,” it says after the app is installed. In-house targeting at its best, with free, GDPR-compliant consumer data.

3. Influencer Marketing

Authentic, wide-reaching, and affordable – these characteristics made influencer marketing the supposed magic bullet for marketing managers a few years ago. However, the reputations of many influencers and their agents have suffered enormously after scandals of unprofessional, free product-hunters and misguided campaigns.

Influencer Marketing is Becoming More Professional

Is influencer marketing already at its end in 2019? No, Sebastian Kurczynski believes, quite the opposite: “It’s booming, and there’s no end in sight,” says the expert from Nielsen Sports. “Numerous contemporary inquiries among marketing decision-makers show that budgets are shifting ever more strongly in this direction.”

As in every young industry, “a professionalization is now taking place in influencer marketing. The demand from companies for a strategy in influencer selection and evaluation is high,” says Kurczynski. “We’ve noticed that the bond between sports fans and individual sports brands is growing."

Influencer marketing is particularly attractive for fitness and sports brands – the similarities with influencers are obvious. The marketing expert advises against fast-moving influencer sponsorships offered by some platforms: “I firmly believe that influencer marketing should be about looking for long-term partnerships, not a one-off effect.”

Ideally, influencer marketing isn’t just a tool for increasing social media reach, “but rather pays in sustainably on the product and brand,” believes Kurczynski. Michael Jordan and Nike, David Beckham and Adidas – these are examples of successful, long-term partnerships on a large scale, that have an effect across the entire marketing mix and within communication across all media genres. Whether you call them influencers or brand ambassadors is irrelevant.

Advertising Guidelines during the Olympic Games

However, those who think they can buy something from the media attention of a major sporting event with a smaller budget will run into trouble. The rigid requirements of sports federations – like the IOC during the Olympic Games – don’t make it easy for athletes and sponsors to spread their message during events.

In Part 2, you can read about the sports that are worthwhile in sports sponsorship and what people want from optimal sponsorship. In Part 3, you’ll read how you can change your brand image with trend sport sponsorship.

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Joscha Thieringer
Joscha Thieringer