What to Consider When Returning to Sell Sponsorship

Over the past few days, we have started to see sponsorship deals happening again. Beşiktaş and Beko. Pringles and ESL. J-League and Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance. South Sydney Rabbitohs and Menulog. 

However, as the rest of the sponsorship world reads the media releases, there is a looming question: When, and how, do we start selling sponsorship again? 

Jordan Belfort fans will tell you to pick up the phone and start dialling … but I disagree. Instead, I would suggest your first steps are to understand:

  • Your cash position and how that will influence payment schedules
  • That there are going to be some brands who just can’t take on any new expenses. Perhaps this is where we test the term ‘partnership’ and you work out if there are any genuine budget relief items they can provide in the short-term
  • What you can and cannot deliver with COVID-related restrictions in place

Aside from these, which I am sure most of our industry is well and truly across, there are two essential things we need to consider before we start putting pressure on the sales team to do deals – Relevance and Analysis. 

Are You Relevant?

Why should a brand spend money with you instead of a TV or Digital campaign? 

Now, more than ever, brands are under immense pressure to not only justify their spend but also ensure their spend turns into actual business-related outcomes. Agencies, off the back of this, are also under pressure to justify their portion of the marketing spend on top of already trying to make meaningful impact on the overall strategy and execution. 

So why you? 

Well, because you are relevant. Relevant to their audience, relevant to their new budgets, and relevant to the way in which they want to market themselves. In essence, you are relevant because you can help solve business problems or challenges. To influence purchasing behaviours towards their own product or services, brands need to be relevant to a consumer (Yes, I am also now self-conscious of the amount of times I’ve said the word relevant!). 

We often talk about how sponsorship is all about delivering the right message at the right time on the right platform and it’s fair to say that this global pandemic has forced the bulk of the sporting world to rethink how they directly engage with their owned audience. 

As such, now is a really good time to survey and talk to your fans, members, season ticket holders, and anyone who is actively on your database. Asking questions about what is impacting them right now, what would they consider as their first big purchase after COVID, or perhaps even what they have not spent money on that they would have liked to. These are all questions that brands are trying to reverse engineer to solve business problems and also create insight for themselves. 

You should be focusing on aligning yourself to a cultural cause, promoting positive data about your engagement levels, and positioning yourself as THE relevant property to help reach and connect with a specific audience to deliver their message. 

Have You Conducted A Rate Card Analysis? 

There is a global agency, I won’t spoil the fun in naming them, who are running a very clever, yet simple exercise to help clients understand their position. It goes something like this …

  1. Divide the contracted assets into two categories – immune and non-immune from COVID.
  2. Then, calculate the value and hard costs associated with each to understand your position of risk and what is available to adapt to the current market.

Rights holders need to think about doing the same thing, if they haven’t already. 

The reason being is that it will allow you to communicate back to the business your exact position. Nobody wants to be left with $1M in assets that cannot be delivered. Nor do they want to be left with $1M of assets that actually costs them a lot to deliver. 

Rate card analysis is by no means an easy thing to do, and of course, KORE can absolutely help with that. It can be done, however, with or without us. 

To conduct a rate card analysis on your own:

  1. Start an unglamorous Excel Spreadsheet.
  2. List every asset that you sell, its hard cost to deliver, and the current commercial value or margin you apply to it in sales proposals.
  3. If you can, categorise each asset into a range of asset-types (this will help long-term).
  4. Run a column adjacent to these categories and list whether it’s an exposure or engagement-based asset.
  5. List whether each asset has a fixed cost or fluctuates based on demand.

What you should come to understand is that:

  • Assets that have fixed costs are reasonably safe – these can still be used at varying levels or even repurposed.
  • Assets that have fluctuating costs are at risk – these will be hard to deliver on and create cause for ‘reductions in value’.
  • Exposure-based assets are safe (to a certain degree, social and broadcast can and may become your best friend) – these can still provide a lot of value, perhaps albeit in a different way than originally planned.
  • Engagement-based assets are at risk – the delivery of these are guaranteed to change based on the current circumstances.

In a post-COVID world, this exercise will also help you navigate both new deals and renewals. It will also help guide how you price certain assets and how you communicate back to the business what your risk position is at any given point.

It’s also important to remember that literally every rights holder on the planet is awake at 11 PM trying to think of ways to reinvigorate their revenue. So, you are not alone.

Sport is returning, and there will be changes, but there is light at the end of the tunnel

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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COVID-19: Sponsorship – What’s Now and What’s Next

COVID-19. I don’t need to say much more for us to get a sense of what’s happening in the sponsorship and broader marketing worlds.  

On top of all things Tiger King and Joe Exotic, there is a huge amount of content currently circulating our social feeds and inboxes describing the impacts of COVID-19 for brands, agencies, and rights holders.

In general, it’s sheer carnage and there’s going to be all sorts of reactions and responses from the short to long term.

Short Term

In the immediate short term, we’ve seen thousands of jobs lost. The nightmare of reduced cash flow has literally ripped through the sponsorship industry and broader sportsbiz world. In a general sense, there appears to be three main challenges for both rights holders and brands in the next few months.

Remaining Relevant to Fans

As a sport tragic, this is a really hard concept to swallow. I can’t remember a time in my life where there hasn’t been some sort of live sport to watch, whether I was a fan of it or not.

As international and domestic restrictions continue to develop and change, brands and rights holders are turning to easy-to-execute activities that allow them to stay somewhat connected to their audience – branded Zoom backgrounds, athlete at-home content, and archive content to help us relive the good ol’ days.

F1 launched a Virtual Grand Prix series, EPL players are live streaming video games, and Leyton Orient hosted the UltimateQuaranTeam global esports tournament. Creativity is going to be King in staying relevant to fans.

Competing for Fan’s Attention as More Digital Content Emerges

Content distribution and scheduling rules have seemingly become a free for all, but with the explosion of new content across our social feeds, both engagement and consumption rates have naturally skyrocketed.

However, despite the rise in AI and VR experiences, documentaries, interviews, and competitions, brands and rights holders still need to deliver a specific message to a specific audience group that either educates or connects them with products or services. 

“…it’s now about finding that right message for the right audience” – John Shea, Octagon’s Global President of Marketing and Events

Brands and rights holders need to embrace a modern and flexible digital strategy that enables them to compete for a fan’s attention on multiple channels.

In a recent conversation with SportsBusiness, John Shea, Octagon’s Global President of Marketing and Events, summed it up perfectly in that there are still opportunities (for both brand sand rights holders) but it’s now about “finding that right message for the right audience”.

Delivering the right message, through the right content, on the right channel, at the right time, has never been so important to marketing budgets! The skill of shortened concept-creation to execution will be highly sought after.

Restructuring Systems and Processes to Account for Change

This is the non-sexy stuff, but arguably, the most important, and I can say that confidently given where KORE Software sits in the sportsbiz and sponsorship worlds.

With the reduction in staffing and resourcing, we are seeing a total mixed bag of lollies. Some organisations are spending time consolidating their processes to ensure maximum value whilst others are slashing costs and falling back to pre-technology ways.

Whilst it may be difficult to articulate in a board report, there is an immediate challenge to ensure brands and rights holders are using the right systems and processes to work through this pandemic. Basic CRM functions won’t help – marketing automation, single-customer-views, and dynamic or live reporting will go a long way to helping us come out of this still in good shape.


As I started writing this blog, all I can hear is Ross from Friends yelling at Chandler to “PIVOT! PIVOT! PIVOT!” as they move a couch up a flight of stairs.

Depending on where you are, we’re roughly four to five months into COVID-19 and whilst the remainder of 2020 is uncharted territory for many, the ability for strategies to pivot and execute accordingly is crucial.

So is our effort and understanding of the contracts we have created. It appears widely accepted that the pandemic will have a big impact on how contracts are written and interpreted moving forward. For those, however, who may not have a choice but to terminate or pause payments, there will be plenty of mediations taking place. 

Legal experts are encouraging brands to look for sensible solutions to any contract related challenges but, again, we are seeing a total mixed bag of lollies. Brands such as Visa, BHP, Telstra, and other top spending brands in sponsorship are extending their deals with rights holders in a show of good faith. Conversely, others like Accor and Bistro Regent believe there are grounds for non-payment until the respective sports continue.

The sponsorship teams who survive the legal onslaught, both on the brand and rights holder side, will undoubtedly experience sponsorship becoming a solid cog in the marketing mix (if it wasn’t already).

“Campaigns must be able to exist with or without sponsorship” – Ricardo Fort, Head of Global Sponsorships at The Coca-Cola Company

Ricardo Fort, Head of Global Sponsorships at The Coca-Cola Company recently said, “Good brands and good campaigns don’t just rely on sponsorships. Campaigns must be able to exist with or without sponsorship”.

In a statement that should terrify some rights holders selling ‘traditional sponsorship’, Ricardo is effectively imploring that brands use the assets and power of association while arguing that the sponsorship itself should never be the central message of the brand.

Adding to the nightmares, according to MarketingWeek, is the fact that almost 9/10 marketers are now delaying or reviewing both spend and campaign releases in response to COVID-19. Greater fusion of already-owned sponsorship assets into the broader marketing strategy can no longer be a good blog topic, it is an absolute must.

For brands, this is taking a deep dive into all the assets you own across each sponsorship deal and ensuring there is a plan of attack for exactly how they are used either alongside an existing campaign or at least helping to leverage the message. If you have an agency, this is where they earn their money. If you don’t have an agency, it might be a good time to do a one-off project to protect your investments. To name a few, Octagon, M&C Saatchi, and Gemba are doing some great things at the moment.

For rights holders, this is the time to loosen the grip on getting X dollars in revenue from specific assets and, instead, move towards finding ways to help sponsors keep the revenue coming in. Be proactive in understanding what your sponsors are doing versus the broader market trends. Being able to move assets around and still achieve objectives requires a deep understanding of your hard costs, profit margins and, in the end, what needs to be delivered.


Once we begin to move back towards normality, we will be having a big send-off party for traditional sponsorship deals.

In my opinion, we will not see fixed sponsorship fees live for much longer. Quite frankly, we can no longer continue to pay for something that is not directly connected to desired results or outcomes. Incentivized deals work for both parties – if the brand achieves results, they are likely to keep paying for it and that means that the rights holder has an opportunity to scale the deal.

To be clear, this isn’t the cheesy rebate model that came and went quickly. Think of it like an NFL contract – $X guaranteed to access the audience and a further $Y delivered if specific outcomes are achieved over a specific time frame. 

There is also scope for us to no longer contract assets the same way. Perhaps rather than letting assets rule the contract, we can let objectives lead the narrative. Remember Return on Objective? In theory, this could be a total fee divided in pools attributed to asset categories but only after they are linked to objectives. Further modeling is definitely needed, and common sense should prevail, however, does it really matter if a brand gets one or two LED rotations?

This new thinking should allow us to dynamically assess what is working and adjust as we progress.

In the End

Joe Exotic will not be President.

Liverpool will earn the Premier League trophy.

Sport will return.

And sponsorship will evolve … for the better.

Whatever happens in the long term, we can almost guarantee that there will be change. Those adept and flexible enough to run with the trends will survive and perhaps flourish. Those who fall back in old habits will have a tough time getting into the swing of things.

Have Something to Share?

Over the coming months, we intend to build on what we are hearing in the market to help everyone best tackle the changing needs during the COVID-19 crisis and as we move out of it. The KORE network includes thousands of industry professionals, from more than 700 properties, across the world who are dealing with the circumstances in unique and amazing ways.

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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COVID-19: Service & Retention Ticket Requests

A key area we are keeping track of, both through our product usage and through our conversations with clients, is how the market is responding to the uncertainty the pandemic has created.  Teams focused on client service and retention have been inundated with inbound requests from basic status updates to full refunds for postponed or canceled events.

One of the creative practices we’ve seen in our KORE ticketing product over the last month is the use of cases across service and retention teams to track current dialogue and potential future actions relating to COVID-19. This has created a significant spike in cases containing names like ‘COVID’ or ‘Coronavirus.’ There is no need to overanalyze this; the reasoning for an increase of cases with names like this is clear.

In the chart below highlighting the number of coronavirus-related service cases by week from January to March 2020, you’ll see that some teams in the market were tagging COVID-related cases early in the year, even before the postponement announcements were made. While coronavirus was already making some headlines at this point, there may be some associating of older cases to a newer type that could account for this.

While the trend is self-evident, digging into the business practice we are hearing around managing this spike is a worthwhile analysis.

Case Management for COVID-19

The cases above have been created by a relatively small subsection of our clients.  What this would imply is many of our other clients are tracking any COVID related requests or discussions through their standard processes – presumably categorized activities with general notes and setting a potential follow-up date. Business as usual. That may be completely fine, assuming the standard process is flexible but still rigorous enough to work effectively. 

What we are seeing though is some forward-thinking clients responding to the spike in inbound requests from fans regarding refunds, credits, or general update inquiries, by aligning processes and systems for a focused COVID response.

They are leveraging cases in their CRM with customized types, resolutions, and naming conventions which is allowing the front-line reps (service, retention, inside sales, etc.) and management to better understand the fast-changing sentiment across their fan base.  What is important here, is this enables all client-facing staff members to link individual interactions and activities to cases, allowing for useful fan segmentation. In essence, ‘rubber banding’ a group of activities together for future action.  As leagues and teams have more details for their ticket holders and fans, and the service and retention teams have a more informed and direct response, staff can easily pull cases based on specific criteria and assign a proper activity or task.  Increased efficiency, better communication follow-through generally, and a higher quality response tailored to updated information are all benefits of taking these steps.  

This takes a bit of planning and process activation.  You need to sit and design the key information that you need to track against and determine what’s required at different times through the case-resolution process.  Then you need to build out in your system, update or create relevant reports, and finally educate and push your teams to properly use the new case types and campaigns – a tricky task to get right in the ever-changing current environment. 

Teams are also looking to go further and drive towards a more robust organization framework.  The fundamental issue inherent in organizing by using cases alone is that it is reactive in nature and service and retention teams are looking to become proactive and strategic in their approach.  This includes the ability to segment their fan base according to criteria specific to that team and market and then to establish expected activities and targets for these segments.  This is a fundamental change in approach in how to better service your clients.

In order to accomplish this, there is a need to tie cases to a higher-level grouping that is created around these segments, activities, and targets. The use of CRM campaigns is one way to accomplish this and is becoming a more critical need in best-practice leading organizations.  This is an area we see driving immense value beyond the COVID pandemic and into better services and retention practice in general.  It’s becoming clear KORE needs to support this with product enhancements.     

KORE is trying to help clients better activate on this.

First, we are working on building the ability to associate CRM campaigns to service-related cases. This functionality will mimic what currently exists today for Ticket Sales Opportunities.

Further, we plan to add service cases to the To-Do List as its own tab to be able to easily view service-related activities.

While described in only two short lines, this represents a big enhancement. What this means is many of the features that you find in Opportunity Management will be available for service cases as well.  You will be able to manage your request to resolution process like you would manage a funnel of Opportunities on the sales side.  As service and retention teams have been asked to do more and more over the last few years, including adding focused staff that only think about this function and leveraging frameworks like customer journeys to deeply evaluate and refine the behavior and response plans with fans, this is a request that many thought-leading organizations have asked for.  It’s getting the tools as focused as the staff to move this part of the business forward. 

Please let us know if you want to know more about our plans here or share specifics on the process you currently support or are looking to drive to in the future.  We would love to hear your perspective on this.

Have Something to Share?

We intend to build on what we’re hearing in the market to best tackle the changing needs for all of our clients. The KORE network includes thousands of industry professionals from more than 700 properties across the world who are dealing with the circumstances in unique ways.

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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COVID-19: Sponsor Response, Insight, and Planning

With live events on pause, rights holders across the world are searching for answers on how to proceed in these unprecedented times: How can they understand the true economic impact? How can they ‘make good’ with their partners?

Just as we’re been looking to our network for insights, we’re looking into our products. One interesting stat that we have noticed is that our product KONNECT experienced a 110% spike in usage from March 8 – March 20th, the period following the announcements of major league season suspensions in the US.

KONNECT is focused on the activation of your sponsorship deals, so the spike is particularly interesting considering activation opportunities out there have certainly decreased. So, what is happening?

Determining the Impact for Rights Holders

As they strive to determine the revenue impact, rights holders are trying to make sense of their inventory across all active deal sheets that will not be fulfilled as planned.

KONNECT is a central repository for these assets that provides visibility in a turnkey, organized way, so we’re able to see how teams across the globe are interrogating their systems of record:

Aggregating Assets for Postponed or Canceled Events

Teams need visibility to begin planning for the transfer of these assets as bonuses or make goods for future events. The information needs to be sliced into views at the event level and the account or sponsor level. This is especially critical for teams whose games have been permanently canceled and need to reallocate significant assets.

Here is an example of how one team has leveraged KONNECT to gain visibility across their categories to better determine which upcoming events they can reallocate events too.

While perhaps a bit dramatic in terms of color saturation, this view represents an automated roll up of all available sponsorship inventory for the team. In addition, it is categorized with performance indicators clearly visible through both percentages and color.

As new games, whether rescheduled or in the new season, are finalized, this level of operationalized visibility will help teams be organized and responsive in maximizing their inventory for their partners.

Examining Event Costs and Rates to Determine Revenue Impact of Missed Games
The ability to see the complete revenue picture, both costs and rate card, for all sponsorship deals is key to understanding total economic impact.

For leagues with seasons close to the end, like the NHL, NBA, and European Soccer, this will be critical in building organizational budgets for upcoming seasons as they determine accurate value to make good with partners in the midst of deals and up for renewal.

Identifying Available Assets
Without events to wrap assets around, teams are looking to find all available digital opportunities and non-event assets to deliver value to partners even without games. We’re getting lots of inbound inquiries to help organizations with this view.

The partnership between Bud Light and the New York Rangers is a perfect example of this approach. The MSG Network aired eight hours of Rangers playoffs games earlier this month in partnership with Bud Light’s new Open for Takeout platform, a creative take for their long-standing partnership. (For more, click here)

New Reporting

When we first started hearing whispers across the industry, our team got to work on new reports to handle these unprecedented times. These reports are available for free for all KONNECT clients – if you do not have them, just let us know.

Event Costs & Rates: Understand which assets are scheduled for upcoming events in aggregate and on a per account basis and dig into the monetary values associated with both the sold rate, which can affect a team’s revenue, and any related costs. The report can also be pivoted to look at all assets including those not associated with events. It’s important to keep in mind that many of the hard costs are commonly associated with Ticketing & Hospitality assets but can vary depending on your asset setup.

Account Delivery Overview: Identify which assets are currently unscheduled, which assets are scheduled for postponed events and will need to be rescheduled, as well as bonus units.

Tip: Events can be set up for games/matches or for other occurrences such as player appearance or community events.  Make sure to factor this in as you’re looking to identify what may be postponed or rescheduled.

Have Something to Share?

We intend to build on what we’re hearing in the market to best tackle the changing needs for all of our clients. The KORE network includes thousands of industry professionals from more than 700 properties across the world who are dealing with the circumstances in unique ways.

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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COVID-19: A Note From KORE Software

We hope you and yours are healthy, safe and settling into this new rhythm. 

Like most of you, the KORE team has been working from home for several weeks, trying to focus on ways we can help. One of the areas we know we can shift into higher gear is communication. We also know we didn’t want to send another one of those notes stating a high-level and vague commitment. Don’t get us wrong, the commitment is there, but that isn’t something we need to email – just expect it.

We are, however, interested in sending content that has value. Since the league suspensions were announced last month, we’ve had a company-wide initiative focused on gathering intelligence and specific business cases targeting how our partners are using our software, CRM, digital channels like social and esports, and other technologies to effectively support their fans, partners, and internal teams.

We’ve spoken to dozens of professional teams, leagues, and brands across the globe and have been hearing one question more than any other:

How are others handling this crisis?

To address this request for shared insight, we are launching a series of posts to showcase interesting stories, best practices, and strategies organizations are implementing, not only to handle but to improve their operations over the long-haul.

To kick this off, we wanted to highlight two topics:

Sponsor Response, Insight, and Planning: Teams and brands are all trying to get a true sense of the impact of delayed or canceled events across their deal sheets.  They are aggregating sponsorship assets, identifying available assets, and examining event costs and rates.  It can be complicated and messy, but there are ways to approach this for long term benefit. You can find the article here.

While this article isn’t all about our product, of note over the next week, KORE is going to deliver a couple of reports to KONNECT clients, free of charge, to help them better execute on the ideas raised.  We aren’t trying to make this a hard sales pitch in any way, its about the ideas, but if you don’t have KONNECT and have interest let us know – we can work with you even if your budgets aren’t where they need to be right now. 

Service & Retention Ticket Requests: Teams are also working to provide an organized and effective response to the increase in requests they have from their fans.  From basic status updates to refund requests, the need to respond effectively is difficult with the level of uncertainty in current circumstances.  While the uncertainty can’t be resolved, approaches to help manage to it are highlighted here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out – not just on these topics but really on anything at all.  We want to keep the conversation going and we are here to help.

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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Governing Body vs Pro-Team – Which Has A Greater Commercial Advantage?

I have been lucky enough to work in the sporting commercial space with a huge variety of rights holders, ranging from volunteer clubs to governing bodies right up to some of the most professional clubs in the world.

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder what the key commercial differences are between a governing body and a pro team. What are the opportunities, challenges, and trends that we see across these two vastly different models of sporting organisations? And more importantly, how could each learn from the other?

Governing Body v Professional Team

When I compare a governing body and a professional team, I’m not saying that a governing body can’t manage a professional team or that they are not run like a professional unit. What I am referring to here would be the PGA (governing body) vs an NBA team (pro team).

Operationally, which also reflects commercially, the key difference here are the stakeholders that each organisation may be responsible for. Often, a governing body’s priority will be centred around the grass roots, participation, and overall governance of a particular sport or competition. In contrast, a pro team is likely to have their priorities centred around the performance of a senior team and the commercial sustainability of the organisation.

With those priorities come a variety of different commercial scenarios such as:

  • For governing bodies, commercial events are not often a day-to-day events like they are for a pro-team.
  • Most times, the value in partnering with a governing body comes from their access to grass roots participants compared to the possible media exposure a pro-team can provide.
  • The draw of resources across a variety of projects or initiatives is often more spread out within a governing body; “more mouths to feed” as they say.
  • Pro teams have more access to commercially valuable talent e.g. players or officials, on an ongoing basis. Governing bodies usually have less access given their limited time frame and overall contractual obligations.

Use of agencies and third parties

One trend I have noticed is the different role that agencies or other third parties play in a governing body compared to a pro-team. These agencies may include commercial partnership acquisition, event delivery, strategic planning, or project fulfillment.

As outlined above, most governing bodies are not set up to manage day-to-day commercial events or opportunities and, instead, are normally focused on a few key strategic events throughout the year.

The use of agencies, by either type of organisation, will obviously depend on the internal capabilities of that organisation, however, as a generalisation, we are seeing agencies play a bigger role in event delivery and reporting for governing bodies, compared to pro-teams. Their ability to streamline the delivery of one-off events, or tailor a solution for different markets and locations, has meant that a governing body is more likely to rely upon external expertise for the execution of commercial events.

That being said, we are seeing both types of organisations starting to utilise a variety of agencies across the digital and fan engagement space. The trend here is that the technology, consumer trends, and industry-wide insights are changing so often that there is a greater need to be nimble and flexible rather than attempting to resource this internally.

Similarly, both types of organisations are now seeing how these agencies can play a large role in making them commercially sustainable and helping them to tell certain stories to commercial partners.


There are a few challenges for each type of organisation when comparing their commercial partnership capabilities. So, I’ll just focus on one each.

Governing Bodies

The ability to invest in commercial partnerships, fan engagement, game day activations, and new technology is limited by the requirement to fund such a wide variety of programs and teams.

Traditionally there may have been a historical focus on game development or getting a team to the Olympics rather than making investments in commercial programs. Altering these priorities, or at least drawing them level, will take substantial time and energy.

Pro Teams

In this new age of commercial partnerships model, often, partners’ objectives will centre around community engagement or building an audience. This then usually centres back to a large registration database which governing bodies normally have ownership over.


How do we then turn any challenges into opportunities?

For Governing Bodies

For governing bodies, it is time to take these other programs, like game development, multi-cultural events, diversity events, or Olympic teams, and turn them into your point of difference.

Utilise your larger participant database to create targeted campaigns. Utilise your multiple touch points with your participants to ensure you have a rich data set for each. Use these insights to empower your partners with real consumer cut-through rather than needing to rely upon large TV exposure.

For Pro-teams

If you are a pro team, often, you will have spent a substantial amount of energy and resources into creating great supporter allegiance, loyalty, and apathy. Instead of needing a large number of database entries (participants) you are able to communicate with, you are able to rely upon your ability to create brand advocates. You are able to use your fans likelihood to engage with digital content as a true selling point as opposed to just total eyeballs.

Where would you rather be?

What we are seeing is the rise of those rights holders who can access assets from both a governing body and pro-sport organisation to tailor a truly individual commercial partnership and address multiple objectives.

This, coupled with the increased role being played by agencies and data, has meant that there really is no longer a ‘grass is always greener’ position for rights holders.

It is now about turning each commercial challenge into an opportunity.

Written by: Sam Irvine

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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The Changing Face Of Broadcast And What This Means For Broadcast Partnerships

All of the sudden, in 2019, we had more ways than ever before to consume our sports and entertainment content.

Just three to five years ago it was so straight forward; we had free-to-air or cable/pay TV as the broadcasting partners for sport, music, and entertainment. Nowadays, there are endless other channels via social media, dedicated streaming services, secondary TV channels and, of course, still the same main-stay TV channels.

Is this a danger for partnerships?

On the surface, without much thought, most people would conclude that this evolution is too much dilution and dangerous to the success of broadcast partnerships. I have had many conversations with people who say that the peak of broadcast deals has been reached and that sports, in particular, need to start planning for sharp declines in revenue and deal sizes or face significant turmoil commercially at the time of renegotiation.

I totally disagree!

Why I Disagree

If you delve into the variety of options now, you will note that in the main, the actual broadcasters are the same. The commentary and the feed all come via the main broadcast partner.

The exception to this are some smaller and commissioned broadcasts. These, however, would have previously gone un-broadcasted anyway.

As such, the main broadcast feed, regardless of the channel, is still being captured, shared, and consumed with the main broadcast partner as the source. Further, the positive is that, in some cases, new audiences are being reached who may not have previously engaged with the mainstream broadcast.

The larger reach and variety of options that are now out there lend themselves to partnership opportunities between providers and allows these providers to diversify their risk of paying high broadcast fees without taking away from the rights holders needs in this regard.

What does this mean for sponsorship?

This question has different answers depending on what the Brand is sponsoring.

For Rights Holders

This is potentially great news! Branding-based assets within partnerships will still receive their same exposure whilst the variety of options at the disposal of viewers mean greater flexibility around when and how they consume.

For Broadcasters

In terms of on-screen partnerships during the main feature of the broadcast, this too shouldn’t be affected, however, this does represent a challenge or risk to advertising attractiveness given the streaming or subsidiary options may not broadcast commercials. The loss of this revenue, should it head that way, would put pressure on fees able to be paid for broadcast rights; particularly on free-to-air channels.

Does this Represent any Upside?


And it benefits both parties.

The biggest upside to this is the fresh and more dialed-in data which can now be captured through the social and streaming broadcast options.
Unlike in previous years, where audiences are a number and perhaps a location, the subscription or member-based services can give us who, what, when, and where and then dive deep into exact location, age, gender, consumption rates, income details, and interests.

The stories we can then tell off the back of this information is super exciting.

What’s Next?

We are already seeing some sports where certain elements of their broadcast are being chunked out for certain interest points to help attract more specific audiences. The NBA’s last two minutes of the game option is a good example of this.

This also represents broadcast options for second tier sports given variety and volume is going to be key to success for these emerging broadcasters and we are already seeing this. KAYO Sports, a recently launched service in Australia, has over 500 sporting options to choose from which would not have been as readily attractive to broadcasters before.

What will be interesting is how mainstream broadcasters try and diversify their risk and how rights owners try and leverage the diverse scale at their disposal to grow, not decrease broadcast revenue.

Written by: Mark Thompson

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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Expanding Competition Geographies and How Sponsorship Needs to be Approached

As a life-long Rugby fan, I watched on eagerly this year as Pro14 Rugby (who are also a great client of us here at KORE) expanded their competition into South Africa.

A traditionally Western-European competition took advantage of the reduction of South African teams in the Southern Hemisphere competition by inviting teams from South Africa in to join their competition.

South Africa is a Rugby-mad country, so this is obviously a potential coup for the Irish-run Pro14. We have also seen expansion in the MLS, NHL, and NFL in the USA and we see it spoken about almost daily in all other parts of the world.

It does, however, throw up some interesting considerations in terms of costs, relevance, and opportunity for the commercial teams involved with the impacted rights owners and brands such as:

Cost Considerations

Commercial managers need to consider the additional impacts to their work when looking into expanding competitions … it isn’t all increased revenue. Some examples of these considerations may include:

Broadcasting into new territories comes with costs.

Not just infrastructure costs such as transport and logistics, but people costs too.

Sponsorship costs will increase.

Often sponsorship measurement is charged by territory, so reaching into new time-zones and regions bring an expanded cost. So too will the need to track new broadcasters and potentially new sponsors in these regions.

Relevance Considerations

Often, with expanding competitions, the seasons don’t push out longer. As such new teams may bring an irrelevance with them in terms of both viewership and partner activations. In fact, there were stories floating around this year that, in a certain competition, viewing numbers on the streaming platform were recorded at almost zero due to the irrelevance of the teams playing to the existing and traditional audience.

This impact could actually result in less aggregated viewership numbers which means less value to partners and broadcasters.

Sponsors too may only be interested in activating in certain markets, some of which may not be relevant with expansion. This could result in lower sponsorship fees being paid because of the dilution of exposure to their desired market.


These could be massive!

New broadcast partners entering into new territories can be amazing and for the same reason relevance may not be attractive, it may also be even more compelling and call for increased sponsorship values.

Expansion also opens the door for regionalization of sponsorships – meaning the same properties which may have been sold out can potentially be sold again into new markets.

So, is Expansion Good or Bad?

Generally, it is a good thing. When done well, the increased fan exposure, new audiences, increased content, and continued invigoration of competitions is a good thing.

It isn’t often we see expansion across continents so I am eager to see the upside impact this has had on Pro14 and particularly what it does for quality of competition in expansion within single markets such as MLS in the USA, as this too can have an impact on audiences and sponsor interest.

Written by: Mark Thompson

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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Leaders Week London 2019: Data Continues to Dominate

Last month, KORE attended and presented at Leaders Week London 2019, hosted at Twickenham Stadium and once again, Leaders delivered on another great event.

The new location outside of Central London created more consistent attendance through the week; the conference room was filled all day and the presentation rooms were just an escalator ride up one floor which it made the whole event easy to navigate, plus the entrance walk via the hallowed turf of Twickenham was a big hit. Added to that the introduction of multiple networking events, my decision to stay in Twickenham for the 3 nights was a good one, as it helped me enjoy all aspects of the conference. 

So, what did I learn at Leaders London 2019? 


As professionals in the sports and entertainment sector, there is certainly no shortage of conferences available to us in any given month. What I really like about the Leaders Events (London and New York), is that along with attracting senior talent from rights holders and other players within the industry, they have found a perfectly balanced mix between education and networking throughout the week. 

The main conference hall had many more areas to sit and network this year and the after-dark sessions were just as well attended, with some fantastic banter and relaxed business conversation.  It made for some solid business, solid education, and solid socializing all in one!


Data was a common theme throughout the conference. It’s clear that our industry is continuously improving technology, processes, and human understanding surrounding data and yet, our greatest challenges remain how to:

  • Use our data
  • Commercialise our data
  • Analyse our data
  • Improve our business because of our data

Several sessions presented data utilization case studies, and while most were well ahead of the overwhelming majority out there (particularly the Non-North American organisations in attendance), the presenters still accepted they have a long way to go in the data transformation of their businesses. 

The future of data capture, analysis, commercialisation, and business improvement is exciting and we’re starting to see progressive clubs truly taking it to the next level – more on that later! 


While “Big Data” and “Measurement” remained buzz-words, no matter which room or topical stream you followed it all came back to using that data to drive fan engagement and understanding of the customer. 

Even Nielsen Sports who have led the way around commercial data and measurement, took this conference as the stage to launch a new Fan Data platform, further proving what we’ve already known – that any commercial model for a sports and entertainment property needs to focus on the fans, and in particular:

  • How to engage with them
  • How to understand them
  • How to track their behaviors
  • How to use that information for commercial growth

It made me happy to see this, as we also saw that those who can get in front of this trend through technology, systems, procedures, and storytelling are the ones excelling in our industry. 


It seems just a year ago, most organisations were walking around these conferences still trying to undertake a “digital transformation project” or “assessment of their needs” when it came to technology. 

This year, most people I spoke to had already embarked on CRM projects, had engaged with specialised platforms focusing on specific business needs or, in the best cases, started to build their own environments to bring together multiple technology solutions in a single hub to enable business intelligence efforts. 


Many great sessions piqued my interest throughout the week. However, it was the ones that highlighted how clubs built their data and fan engagement programs that really stood out to me, particularly the KORE Software sponsored session presented by the Los Angeles Football Club’s VP of Business & Data Strategy, Ryan Bishara. Here were my favourite parts of the presentation:

  • Ryan highlighted that being a new club, LAFC had the opportunity to get their business intelligence and technology stack right from the start without any legacy programs or practices holding them back;
  • The solutions LAFC have build are not reliant on one single provider or platform selling them a “one-stop-shop” for all their technical needs as this doesn’t exist in their eyes, but rather finding specialists in multiple areas to create a sports-specific tech stack to give them the operational and insights functionality needed to drive their business;
  • Ryan’s presentation was not only top-line about what their platform does for them, he dove into real insights and stories which drove home the successes. Ryan walked the audience through why they chose the vendors they did, how they all fit together to create their ecosystem, how they use the information, and finally pulled it all together into a real-life example of how they used this to sign the MLS’ first ever sleeve deal (which was announced the next day).

For me, this is the type of thing that I go to these conferences for – to get under the skin of an organisation, not to hear someone push a product. Yes, everyone in the room was well aware that KORE is LAFC’s overlaying CRM platform and data warehouse provider, but that’s not what makes their story so compelling – it’s the systems and data they are pulling in and how they are understanding it to make commercial gains that were the real takeaways from the session.

For anyone interested in learning more, check out this on-demand recording of Setting the Foundation: Developing the Partnership Process with LAFC

Next year, I’m coming back to Leaders for two things:

  • Continued amazing networking
  • More deep dives into business practices which tell a real story and provide real insights

See you all at Leaders 2020!!

Written by: Mark Thompson

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now: Career Advice in Sports Business Intelligence

If you’ve ever listened to KORE Software’s Inside Sports Business Intelligence podcast, you’ve probably heard Russell Scibetti ask “If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice early in your career, based on what you know now, what would it be?”

Over the last several months we’ve received excellent advice from our industry expert guests. Here’s a recap of our top takeaways: 

“Always play devils advocate”

 – Amy Johnson, Director of Database & Analytics for LegendsSoFi Stadium Project

There’s so much great insight that can come when you dig deeper and challenge the status quo, instead of just going along with the trends and accepting what comes to you. Question everything, understand the purpose behind your action, and recognize there’s no one “right way” – just what’s right for you. 

How to Educate Fans on New Teams and Stadiums with Amy Johnson >> 

“Learn how to sell your successes better, both internally and externally”

Mark Bashuk, Director of Business Analytics, Oakland A’s

Is your team doing a lot of really great work that you’re proud of? Are you sharing those wins with upper management and your peers? What about externally, with other industry professionals who understand the challenges faced? Often, successes don’t get the same amount of attention because teams are hesitant to honk their own horns and share with their network. 

The mindset should be that everyone sells; even if you’re not selling to a customer or prospect, you’re selling yourself and your accomplishments to your management team, to your peers, to your industry. 

Managing Rapid Digital Transformation in BI with Mark Bashuk >> 

“Surround yourself with people who challenge you and who think differently – don’t be afraid of it”

Al Guido, President, San Francisco 49ers

You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room! Surrounding yourself with good people who question and challenge you personally and professionally leads to growth. You have to be okay with some level of discomfort to grow, so don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something and try to accept that things don’t happen as fast as you’d like them to. 

The Convergence of Business Intelligence and the Fan Experience with Al Guido, President of the San Francisco 49ers >> 

“Know You’re Never Going to Predict the Future”

Kris Knief, Director of Business Intelligence, Vegas Golden Knights

We can carry this piece of advice beyond sports – doesn’t it always seem to be that if you have a specific plan in mind that’s the exact moment life throws you a curve ball? Knief believes everything works out one way or another as long as you enjoy the process and have patience with what’s to come. 

How the Business Intelligence Team for the Vegas Golden Knights Overcame Challenges to Deliver Big Wins with Kris Knief >> 

“I don’t know that I would change anything”

Aaron LeValley, AEG Sports and LA Kings

This was one of the best “non-answer, answers” ever! Aaron expands on the idea that the successes, failures, and job changes along the way made him into who he is, so if he had the approach then that he does now, who knows what other factors could have come into play. Enjoying the ride, having patience, and believing in the people you work with pays off and helps you learn, regardless of the bumps along the way. 

Using Data Analytics to Improve the Fan Experience >> 

“Pay More Attention to Relationships with People”

Neda Tabatabaie, Vice President of Business Intelligence, San Jose Sharks

As business intelligence professionals we’re very logical and data-driven, but we don’t work in a silo. In our professional and personal lives we need to interact with people who think differently and who have different skillsets. Just like we use data to segment and customize in the BI world, we need to use that same skillset in our relationships and listen, collecting data in a different way. Understanding the importance of customizing your message for your audience is key. 

Tabatabaie also agrees with Aaron LeValley that making mistakes and imperfection is a part of the process, saying “whatever happened is what brought me here.” Sure, things could have been better or more impactful along the way, but it would have changed the journey. 

How Neda Tabatabaie is Driving Innovation for the San Jose Sharks >> 

“Never Lose Focus of the ‘So What?’”

Chris Zeppenfeld, Vice President of Business Intelligence, Charlotte Hornets

With so much data flowing into our systems, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of your work without taking a step back to ask yourself ‘So what?’ Zeppenfeld suggests taking an action item first approach, so before you’ve even started the project you know exactly what the impact could be to your organization. He suggests asking yourself “if we did know this thing, what would we do differently as an organization?” at the start of the project to make sure you’re focusing your time on highly impactful projects. 

Creating a Business Intelligence Team with Chris Zeppenfeld >> 

So, what would your advice be to your past self?

Connect with us on LinkedIn or Twitter and let us know! Then, subscribe to the Inside Sports Business Intelligence podcast on your favorite podcasting platforms for even more advice, insights, and expertise in each episode.

Written by: Kelly Veilleux

KORE is the global leader in engagement marketing solutions, serving more than 200 professional teams and 850+ sports and entertainment properties worldwide, providing practical tools and services to harness customer data, facilitate sponsorship sales and activation, and create actionable insights.

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