Something is changing in sports sponsorship and it is being driven by the competitors themselves. writes Founding Director Chris Broadbent.

Athletes are no longer the mannequins to be dressed up by sporting bodies and events. And they know it.

Sport has always been a hugely attractive platform for marketing. Beyond the official multi-national partners and supporters of Tokyo 2020, brands right down the food chain manoeuvre to gain exposure and be part of international, national and even local attention that only major events like the Olympics deliver.

The traditional approach of buying sponsorship rights, affordable only to massive multi-national brands with multi-billion budgets remains steadfast. Occasionally, some clever guerrilla marketing tactics can break through. For example, Dr Dre’s Beats headphones cleverly gifted to athletes at the London 2012 Games leading to massive exposure..

But the stranglehold is rarely breached, such is the depth of contracted rights that the major names get for their big bucks, including branding across the event, massive brand exposure through international media coverage and the hugely positive association with success and a healthy image that radiates from the world’s best athletes.

But in recent years, the dynamic has shifted. And it is largely to do with the athletes, now more media savvy than ever before. With the explosion of social media, athletes are more aware than every before of their own value, influence and power….it is literally reflected in their numbers of followers.

It was telling at Euro 2020 when Cristian Ronaldo made a point of removing Coca Cola bottles strategically placed in front of him at a press conference. An estimated $4b was wiped off Coke’s shares as a result.

Elite sportspeople have become emboldened and are speaking now more forcefully on social issues like racism and climate change. Tokyo 2020 organisers quickly back pedalled when they withdrew their plan not to feature any athletes at the Games taking the knee on their social channels. Sport and politics, do mix after all.

Events like the Olympics have traditionally been used by major brands as marketing platforms, but athletes are now finding their voice.  And – off the playing field at least – are less prepared to play ball.

Brands who align themselves with elite sport events and organisations, will likely have to be prepared to have their product or service questioned and be associated with an environment where the expression of political and social opinions will become more frequent. They may even decide that a better use of budget is with individual athletes, where the greater influence is heading.

Love it or hate it video meetings and calls are here to stay, but are we recognising these interactions as an extension of the way that people and brands are being presented and perceived?

Due to the affects of the global pandemic, video conferencing and calls have grown exponentially over the past 12 months and have played a vital role in keeping many businesses going.  With Microsoft Teams unsurprisingly seeing a staggering growth in use of 894% by June 2020 and Zoom 677% growth in the same period, there are now over 400 million daily participants of Zoom and Teams combined.

With expectations that many of us will not be returning to the office or will replace extensive travel for face-to-face meetings with video calls, we think that it is important to consider how we not only overcome the benefits of the subtle cues of physical presence, but also how we ensure that we are presenting a consistent face of our brand, when our individual home and surroundings are so diverse.

We agree that, on the whole, it has been a positive move towards flexible working, inclusivity, diversity and increasing levels of understanding, with an earth shattering realisation that we are all indeed human, with kids, dogs, doorbell interruptions and the like.

But when we consider all of the elements that reflect your brand: your office, your personal greetings, your dress code, customer care, how do we ensure that these are also reflected ‘virtually’?  This is a point that many companies have not had chance to really consider yet, in the reactive environment we have been thrown into of late.

So, we have put together some top tips from our own thoughts and experiences, though we are looking forward to hearing about your top recommendations, gripes, loves and stories too on our facebook page.

  1. Get good WiFi !!! If you haven’t invested yet, now is the time as there is nothing more frustrating than freezing and buffering taking up valuable time.
  2. Agree a dress code or call etiquette for your team. If you wouldn’t normally rock up to an important meeting in a hoodie and a beanie, then why do it on a video call?  Remember they can still see you (no nose picking) and you are still the face of the company.
  3. No washing hanging in the background please! Nobody wants to see your pants drying in the background, set yourself up with a specific camera position that offers a clean and clear (maybe branded) background…careful of what lurks on that bookshelf to!
  4. Camera on/camera off. Whilst there may be technical reasons for turning cameras off, if some people have cameras off and some have cameras on this could feel a little rude or intimidating.  You wouldn’t sit with your back to someone in a physical meeting, would you?  Agreeing in advance a unified approach to each meeting could be a good start.
  5. Agree a meeting chair and a note taker. This really helps things run more smoothly.
  6. Hands Up!! The disadvantage of virtual meetings is missing the signs of that subtle shift in the chair or eye contact to signal a request to interject.  ‘Hands up’ function does feel a little like we are sat on the carpet at primary school, but when there are more than 3 or 4 people things can run a lot smoother if those who aren’t talking pop themselves on mute and put their hands up when they have a comment.
  7. Mic On/Mic Off? It is often hard to manage background noise at home, so as a rule of thumb we would recommend mic off until you want to speak…….though this does invite what is probably the most used phrase of 2020, “YOU ARE ON MUTE!”

Pop over to facebook @WeAreFruitMarketing to share your zoom gripes or delights, we’d love to hear from you.