What’s a bet nobody really knows what sponsors want
Franchises jump into bed with names that should sound the alarm with the match-fixing police. No amount of deodorant can stop gambling from stinking
If a Cricket South Africa (CSA) press release has any news value, which often is not the case, it tends to lurk in the last paragraph. And sometimes what’s been omitted is the only important stuff.
Like it was on August 29, when the 2018-19 franchise fixtures were announced. Nowhere in the accompanying release did CSA bother to point out that two of last season’s three title sponsors were no longer on board.
Happily that could be ascertained by reading the titles of the attached files: where once were Sunfoil, Momentum and Ram, only Momentum remained.
The withdrawal of the other two was duly confirmed. A better question might have been whether Momentum is still interested for cricket and business reasons, or only because of contractual commitments. Good luck getting a straight answer from anyone involved.
Meanwhile, cricket’s franchises have held their nose and leapt into bed with companies like World Sports Betting and Hollywood Bets, whose names should sound the alarm with the match-fixing police.
Last week cricket-minded South Africans were informed that, “The Barons VW Cape Town logo will be displayed on the non-leading arm of the playing jerseys during the limited overs competitions as well as on the training jersey” of the “World Sports Betting Cape Cobras”.
And that, “The Mitchum logo will be displayed on the collars of the Cobras’ jerseys during the entire domestic campaign as well as on the training jerseys”. The “World Sports Betting” bit was left out in that reference, perhaps because no amount of deodorant can stop gambling from stinking.
Times are indeed desperate if PR people think such fluff is going to attract anything but derisory coverage.
Not that CSA’s much hyped T20 league can hope for even that. Weeks away from its proposed launch it has named neither sponsors nor a broadcaster, nor even a name. The Titanic20 seems apt.
Things could, however, get worse.
“Sport sponsorship continues to evolve,” Michael Goldman, a South African who is an associate professor in sport management at San Francisco University, told Times Select.
“Part of the shift away from mere media exposure and brand awareness through sponsorship, towards requiring brand preference outcomes, and ultimately real revenue results, means that companies are looking more closely at the effectiveness and efficiency of their sponsorship spend.
“We have seen this shift most publicly with AB-Inbev in the US, and I know South African sponsors are equally focused on increasing the real financial returns from every rand invested in sport sponsorship.”
AB-Inbev has nothing to do with a freshly retired De Villiers who can bat a bit. It’s shorthand for Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owners of some of the most undrinkable yet widely drunk beer yet brewed. And one of the heaviest hitters in sport sponsorship. Yes, all that Castor Oil Lager and Badweiser adds up to something palatable in the shape of financial support for some of the biggest properties in any game. But for how much longer?
According to Joao Chuieri, AB-Inbev’s “vice-president of consumer connections”, which is apparently a proper job, “The traditional sponsorship model, based on fees and media commitments, does not deliver the best value for us at a time when most leagues and teams are facing challenges with live attendance and TV ratings.”
Umm, is that a ruck or a maul, ref? Neither. It’s a sponsor telling sport the goalposts have moved so far they aren’t on the field.
Winning, it seems, is no longer good enough on its own for a team or a competition to keep AB-Inbev as a sponsor. They will also need to work on bumping up spectator attendance, ensuring their social media strategies are better than those of their opponents, and keeping AB-Inbev’s products front and centre in fans’ faces. If teams and leagues jump through those hoops they could earn a bonus of up to 30%.
You can hear the coaches already: “I don’t bloody care what kind of dumb shot you play! Just make sure you get the bloody logo on TV for longer than the other team’s batsmen do when they play the same dumb shots! I want those bonus dollars like I used to want those bonus points!”
Not that franchises and the suits are doing themselves many favours.
“This shift is taking place as teams and sport bodies continue to raise the price of sponsorship packages in a relatively small market, currently experiencing another economic downturn,” Goldman said. “These tougher questions may be contributing to the issues that CSA is facing.”
Ah, CSA, where the next credibility crumble is only a buried paragraph or an omission away from hitting the more critically inclined headlines.
But there is something innocent and amateurish about sport organisations’ bungling and their attempts to hide it. At least in comparison to what goes on in other sectors.
“Sport sponsorship is not alone in facing stronger calls for ethical measurement and transparent returns,” Goldman said. “Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer of Unilever, was the latest industry leader to shine a very bright light on the sometimes unethical and perhaps fraudulent metrics involved in influencer marketing.
“The prevalence of fake followers, automated bots facilitating fake engagement, and the realisation that some so-called influencers probably have no actual influence on customer behavior, has called into question the very high fees being paid to individuals on social media.”
Weed took his shot across the bows of this ship of fools and fiends when he said, “The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact. We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”
Not only does sport no longer give sponsors what it thinks they want, it no longer understands what sponsors want. Does anyone except the sponsors themselves? Now there’s a last paragraph to ponder.