2018 must have been the year of reckoning – here at Seen Connects we’ve seen some pretty seismic shifts in a number of industries, a particularly interesting one being the sports space.
The global sports market is constantly shifting, perpetually growing in value and prominence year on year. Sitting pretty at a currently staggering worth of over £1 trillion (£1,300,000,000,000!), the sports industry is only projected to keep on climbing.
Perhaps one of the most significant shifts we’ve seen within the sports industry in recent years, are the gender barriers being broken down. Women are finally being given more of an opportunity; this year The World Surf League it announced it will offer equal prize money to both men and women from 2019, making it the first US-based global sports league to apply pay parity. In 2019 the Rugby Football Union in England has awarded 28 full time professional contracts to women for the first time in their history. High profile teams are playing international fixtures to raise their profiles and increase their earnings, but most interestingly for us – as a social media marketing agency – is that technology and social media advancements are now actively changing the way we consume, play and view various sports.
So, how will influencers fit into this highly commercial and ever evolving landscape?
Of course, we have to start with the world’s most popular sport – football. The European football market alone is worth over £21.9bn, with the English Premier League leading the way.
Due to the huge popularity and commercial value, football in particular has been affected by technology and social media. Copa90 revolutionised World Cup coverage in 2018, with 300 contributors creating over 6,000 pieces of content and drawing 31m Snapchat viewers. Influencer teams such as Hashtag United are growing in both scale and credibility year on year (link to Adobe content). Of the top fifteen most highly paid – and followed – influencers in the world, just under half of them are footballers.
We’ll have a more detailed look into activism within football later on, but we see this as an interesting angle for influencers within football. As the game and it’s finances balloon, amidst allegations of corruption and sexism that refuse to go away, influencers could be used to raise awareness of and combat unscrupulousness inside the industry, for example against misogynistic attitudes towards Women’s football, or to add credibility to the upcoming and controversial Qatar 2022 World Cup. One to watch with the womens world cup in France this year.
CROSS ATLANTIC SPORTS
After years of European “soccer” teams successfully promoting themselves in the US, American sports teams are making their presence felt here in the UK.
With a reported 333% increase in demand over the last 5 years for tickets to the annual NFL games at Wembley, and an estimated 830,000 people attending the 2018 Regent Street takeover – the NFL is the longest running and biggest success story to date of US sports becoming part of the UK sport landscape.
The ‘NBA UK 2018’ tickets sold out within minutes, and now even baseball is on its way to the UK – with two of the largest sports franchises in the world – Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees – facing off against each other on British soil, in 2019.
So how will influencers be of use to these teams and brands?
American Football, Basketball and Baseball are traditionally American only sports. By using athlete influencers who appeal to a British audience such as footballers, rugby players or boxers to promote games airing or being played in the UK, these all-American sports will gain awareness and credibility, over here in Britain as well; there is of course the added bonus of making American sports more diverse in the process.
MMA & BOXING
Both “traditional” boxing and MMA have exploded popularity wise in recent years. Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have ushered in a new age for heavyweight boxing, and Conor McGregor’s larger than life personality and social media following, at a staggering 24 million on Instagram alone – even led to a highly lucrative cross genre match against Floyd Mayweather.
In light of this, some betting companies like Bet365 have already created social content around merging their sponsored boxing athletes with sponsored football teams. The next step will be to utilise non-athlete influencers as either presenters or even participants.
In the last year we’ve seen former footballer Rio Ferdinand try (and fail) to get a professional boxing license, as well as large scale boxing matches between YouTubers such as KSI vs. Logan Paul being hailed as “the biggest event in internet history”, with 2.25m live viewers, 75 million visitors to the official fight page and an alleged rematch scheduled for February 2019.
There is definitely scope for influencers to step into the ropes of the boxing/MMA ring here, to add significant value and reach. With white collar boxing on the continual ascendancy – see The Lady Garden Campaign’s recent ‘Fight Night’ black tie boxing competition featuring the likes of Jamie Laing and Toby Huntington Whiteley – could we see more influencers putting on the gloves and entering the ring?
Sport has often been used as a platform for the greater good, with teams and athletes using their fame and popularity as a platform for change and charity. With the current global political climate, the role of sports has taken on a more empowered role – the recent NFL national anthem protests being a key example of sports being used as a pedestal for social activism.
Due to a growth in illegal and legal streaming options being used to watch live sports, the need for and worth of traditional paid television adverts during these moments has significantly decreased, changing the face of this traditionally lucrative market. Amazon Prime’s exclusive coverage of the 2018 US Open was the first collaboration between streaming services and live sports viewing we’ve seen.
Although there were some negative opinions surrounding the collaboration between Amazon and the US Open 2018, it is important to remember that big change often leads to inevitable consumer kickback. In our experience, this resistance comes from a lack of trust – but this is where brands can work with influencers in the future, to build trust and add credibility to the new
viewing options available to consumers.
With every passing day, the world is seemingly becoming a more health conscious, self-aware environment – and one the sporting industry can only continue to thrive in. Whether it’s in the ring or on the field, we can see huge scope for mutually beneficial and lucrative work between various sectors of the sporting industry, and influencers.
As always, at Connects we aim for quality of partnership as well as quantity of ROI – so we’re really excited to the sports industry become a more honest and clean environment, as influencers get increasingly involved and work their magic with brands at the helm.