We can’t hide it: sports world has changed. From a pure and easy passion, it became a real economic global phenomenon, a huge business able to involve teams, companies, players, and draw attention and sponsorships

This last aspect – sports sponsorship – has been an important example of the strict relationship between a team (or a player) and an external brand. What they build is a win-win partnership and we can clearly see how sports is a fundamental driver in a business context. 

Its high social impact, the media attention, and its economic value paved the way for huge investments. These investments though must have a return and we have to be able to measure them in economic terms: use data as a proof or it didn’t happen. 

Despite the recent explosion of the phenomenon, partnerships between players and brand are not a new thing. We have to go back to ancient Greece days to find the first documentation of economic contracts between athletes and private sponsors.

In the modern age, a significant step was realized in the Sixties by the American lawyer, sports agent and writer Mark McCormack. He is considered the father of the sports marketing as we know it today. His legend was born with the foundation of IMG (International Management Group) and with the first contracts with star athletes (let’s think about Arnold Palmer, his first client).

Thanks to his visionary entrepreneurial genius, athletes evolved from simple players into money machines, opening up the road to sports sponsorships.

What McCormack built – a strong relationship between sports and brands – is nowadays one of the most important business in the world. 

We have to be careful though: in an increasingly data-driven world, we can not restrict sponsorship into a simple money-visibility interchange. It would be risky and far from the final goal of a measurable return on investment that can bring a competitive profit.

We can list many examples of companies born for this purpose. One above all: Hookit

Hookit is a platform created some years ago by Scott Tilton and RJ Kraus. Their very first objective was to give a clear vision of the importance of sports investments through the analysis and connection of data. 

Their efforts were rewarded with the winning of the Digital Marketing Association Innovation Award for Measurement and Attribution in 2016. This digital switch is now the only way to a correct and valid evaluation of important investments, in sports as well as in other businesses.

The development of this specific platforms is a huge step toward the analytical capabilities to estimate the return on sponsorships. Companies or brands who are investing in sports have the need to know if the identified KPIs for the measurement of their success are positive or not.

On the basis of such developments, sponsorships must be defined together with a global marketing strategy and organized with touchpoints.

To give you an example of partnerships involving sports and high-value brands, we can mention the one between Hookit and Kantar Media (global leader of media intelligence) that will allow the use of a sharing platform to measure the ROI of sports sponsorships.

Many clubs decide to rely on this service. To name some of them, we can call attention to the 1904 FC, the San Diego football team, a newborn society part of the NASL (North American Soccer League), or the Liverpool Football Club.

These teams will have the chance to use the platform to analyze data and activities, having this way real-time results to improve their investments. 

Hookit can track any kind of data: from mentions to hashtags, from Facebook lives to events. The fact that we can give a specific economic value to a digital event related to a brand or a sponsorship is something completely revolutionary. 

These new technological developments are having a great success. In a data-driven world, where numbers and their usage are the most valued currency, the ability to optimize the sports sponsorships can represent an important turning point in the business panorama. 

What can we expect next? It is hard to say. Definitely, Blockchain technology will be part of the sponsorships strategies and its use will depend on the actual business needs. What we know for sure is that the relationship between sports and business is stronger every day more and is a great example of how technology can transform entire decision-making processes in many important fields. 

This is just the beginning of a 3.0 sports era.