Nielsen Sports SA Unveils Interesting Research Findings

“Fans are changing the game”, says Nielsen Sports South Africa, and it’s tough to disagree, following the release of its 2022 Global Sports Marketing Trends report.

Nielsen unveiled some of the key findings to the South African sports industry at two breakfast functions in Cape Town and Johannesburg over the past week, and some of them were quite revealing.

Key Topics

For starters, the presentation, led by Nielsen Sports SA Managing Director, Jean Willers, identified four key topics, before the unpacking of some of the data to emerge in the report:

  1. Consumer and fan behavioural shifts
  2. Impact on sponsorship models
  3. Impact on sports media and content distribution
  4. Takeaways for brands and sports rights-holders

There isn’t the space here to run through all the findings, so I’m just going to extract some highlights, specifically as it relates to the local market.

For example, the over-the-top (OTT) media service market, from a sports broadcast point of view, may not be as developed here in South Africa as it is globally, but if one looks at local viewing and consumption habits – and Nielsen’s stats bear this out – South Africans have become increasingly more accustomed to obtaining their content – whether it’s sport or other – directly from the internet.

For Willers, here it’s about rights-holders “building a digital community” and meeting their audiences on the platforms they want to be engaged with on.

Then there’s the growth of ‘non-live content’ – thanks to the likes of Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’ and ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ – which, in turn, is driving the live experience, whilst there’s also an increase in multi-screen viewing, pushed on by a younger audience, which is certainly the case here in South Africa.

This ties in with the broader theme of sports audiences looking for more engagement with a particular property, with a desire for that engagement to be more ‘personal’.

Beyond that, fans want more from the brands they engage with, and here’s a warning:

Interesting Stat

“Fans want action and progress from brands, with 55% surveyed saying they weren’t convinced that the measures brands are taking are contributing to real progress.”

Sponsorship Takeaways

Some key takeaways from the sponsorship section included the growing global emergence of cryptocurrency brands in this space, with Willers warning that whilst that hasn’t yet happened in the local market, those with a vested interest needed to understand this space, as it’s more than likely headed to South Africa at some stage.

Additional highlights included reference to the growing profile of women’s sports and how these now need to be ‘unbundled’ from overall sports sponsorship packages, as they now stand on their own as individual properties.

Here, a team such as the SA national women’s cricket team would seemingly be the type of sports brand that now comfortably stands apart from its male counterparts, with a different proposition for potential sponsors.

No surprise that another takeout referenced the increasing growth of eSports, including locally, whilst local betting brands were identified as major players in the South African sponsorship industry, and here you just need to see the activity of the likes of Betway and Hollywoodbets to understand why that stood out as a local trend.

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Interesting Stat

“81% of those surveyed completely or somewhat trust brand sponsorships at sporting events.”

A clear opportunity for brands in the sponsorship space?


So, what deductions can be drawn from Nielsen’s 2022 Global Sports Marketing Trends report?

For Willers, he believes sports properties and media owners should take away four key points:

  1. “Identify and maintain a dedicated first-party data strategy” – this point would seem to tie in with the suggestion that rights-holders need to get to know and understand their audience better, along with building that ‘digital community’
  2. “Determine the right balance between short and long-term sales objectives”
  3. “Embrace the power of athletes” – that’s as modern-day athletes develop a stronger ‘voice’ and feel empowered to speak out on issues important to them. Taking this point further, with the ‘influencer’ market growing all the time, an opportunity exists for rights-holders and brands to tap into how this ‘power’ can translate into greater engagement with a sports product or brand
  4. “Measure effectiveness, not just value”

And what about the brands themselves – those that are in the sponsorship game?

For Willers, three key points:

  1. “Ensure marketing plans are holistic and include definitive influencer marketing strategies” – this backs up the point made above, with regards the growing influence of athletes
  2. “Tap into broadening sponsorship opportunities”
  3. “Expand traditional sponsorship measurement” – this would seemingly refer to how ‘traditional’ sponsorship models are now no longer the ‘go-to’ option for industry players, who are now exploring different approaches to sponsorship agreements, such as performance-related or short-term deals

That final point touches on a broader theme, as it relates to the sports industry and not just the sponsorship ‘sub-sector’.

That is that the game has changed, and the industry is not what it was two years ago. Sure, many of those changes were already in the pipeline, pre-2020, but many have been accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brands, sports properties and media owners need to make sure they get on the right side of this change, to ensure they stay ahead of the game.

Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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