Retail Technology, Sports Sponsorship And A Worldwide Marketing Opportunity

Technology Technology

In April 2019, the Dell Technology -sponsored World Golf Championships (WGC) Match Play tournament was on the plan for the globe’s best golfers.

Besides the headline partner, there was a variety of business technology corporate sponsorship on show – including numerous logos from B2B companies targeting the retail market. That is set to continue for the remains of the PGA and European Tour calendars.

Workday – a cloud ERP system for finance, HR and planning, which is used by the likes of Amazon, Avon and Levi’s – was displayed on WGC event runner-up Matt Kuchar’s sweatshirt throughout the week. The company sponsors many top golfers of the world, including five-time main winner Phil Mickelson.

Organizations recognized for their retail technology are promoting their names more in the golfing world – particularly JDA Software through its just agreed partnership with Spanish Ryder Cup player and rising star Jon Rahm.

Golf’s continual ability to draw a C-suite audience looks to be at the heart of retail technology organisations’ policy to put their money into the sport and its leading lights.

According to Kevin Iaquinto, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer for JDA, a myriad of C-suite decision makers are involved in the large-scale digital transformation projects now taking place in business. He says golf is a perfect space to capture the attention of many of them.

“For JDA, which is well known in supply chain and retail, we’re trying to reach the broader C-suite and raise awareness,” he says. “As we looked across the various advertising and sponsorship channels, and which ones reached the C-suite most effectively, golf is at the top of the list.”

The agreement with Rahm sees JDA’s logo appear on the golfer’s clothing every time he plays on tour. Through its corporate hospitality attempts, the tech company is also interested in inviting customers and prospects to play a series of golf with Rahm and linking him at executive conferences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Working with Rahm – who resides near JDA’s headquarters in Arizona and plays on both the US PGA Tour and the European Tour – allows JDA to make a “whole integrated marketing campaign” based on his global appeal, says Iaquinto.

A range of Rahm-powered digital marketing and social media activity planned for raising brand consciousness and curiosity in the B2B space is presently under expansion. “It helps us expand the reach beyond the tournaments themselves,” he says.

In recent years, the incorporated component of the sportsperson-B2B company partnership is the keyway sponsorships have developed. As per Mostyn Goodwin, partner and head of media sector at OC&C Strategy Consultants, the arrival of digital communications has sustained a shift in the model of these agreements.

“Sponsorship has broadened from ‘name my sweatshirt or stadium’ to ‘activation’, which is the use of that sponsorship in all kinds of communication,” he says.

“From email, Twitter and social media to using personalities as brand ambassadors at industry events, the proliferation of media channels means you can activate your sponsorship in far more creative ways, and really ram your point home with customers in a way you historically couldn’t.”

Market research

While with all marketing, there is a constituent of guesswork relating to what will resonate with current and probable business clients, but Goodwin says it can be measured.

“A sponsorship campaign would have a business objective – you can track social media mentions, awareness from surveys, web traffic, and success rate on pitches before and after,” he says.

“Any campaign linked to an objective is monitorable, not always to the pound and penny, but you can understand it through a whole series of marketing econometric analyses as long as you can link it to a business outcome.”

According to Goodwin, the olden days of “slap my sponsorship on something” or selecting a sport to associate with only because the executive team or owner of the business like it are less common now.

A sporting platform

European software titan SAP has placed itself particularly in the role of technology associate when it comes to sports sponsorship. It even observes its work with the German football association, Bayern Munich and Manchester City as something similar to a loss leader maintaining wider business objectives.

These partnerships are all component of SAP’s marketing team’s plan to produce eye-catching user cases of its technology that can be employed in integrated campaigns. In addition, it denotes a sharp move in approaches for the business in the past five years, as it seems for more convincing ways to convey its message across to its target clients.

Lars Lamadé, head of SAP sponsorships in Europe and Asia, says SAP first started sports sponsorship around 20 years ago, but it was mainly focused on hospitality and interacting with customers outside a standard meeting room.

“The first major one was Formula One,” he says. “I initiated it, and we were looking for something we could do all over the world.”

Since SAP’s technology has developed and following the invention of Hana, its marquee analytics platform, the strategy has changed to focus on “some really cool showcases”, says Lamadé.

Watching performance

In the instance of Manchester City, SAP’s analytics packages are utilized to watch performance and movement of the player on the pitch and in the gym, producing data the club’s management can use when preparing training or matchday policy.

“When we can analyse how the players are moving around on the football pitch, do we then sell to a lot of football clubs? Yes,” says Lamadé. “But will it be core? No.”

“But for a retailer like Walmart, if it has the same question and wants to analyse customers walking through stores, where they stop and where the products should be, these customers see the tech in sport and consider how they can use it in their shops.”

Sports is one of 25 industries SAP sells software to, and its worldwide application resonates with business decision makers. SAP is glad to provide its technology to the sporting world in the expectation it makes other bigger business verticals – for example, retail and manufacturing – pay attention.

Lamadé is interested to secure a partnership in cricket or rugby to help generate an attractive case study for the Asian business market, but he says SAP is decreasing sports sponsorship spends. The team will unwind initiatives before opening new ones, as part of an executive-led decision to slow investment after many years of significant expend.

Competition warms up

OC&C study, published in 2018, supports this inclination. It demonstrated global sports sponsorship developed by circa 6% per year between 2011 and 2015, but the annual rise has come down to around 4% in current years.

“There are more opportunities to sponsor, and more competition – and there’s probably some more rational decision-making in marketing teams,” says Goodwin from OC&C Strategy Consultants, who is confident official technology partnerships hold vital authority on retail technology departments and IT teams.

“These companies are serious not just on the sponsorship side but also about providing services to these forward-thinking, innovative organisations.”

There remain plenty of routes to sell for B2B technology companies using sports sponsorship as part of their marketing armoury.

Information for teams and fans

Oracle says the new global competition featuring the world’s fastest race boats, SailGP, is supported by its cloud product providing similar data to teams and fans.

“The information derived from 1,200 sensors placed on the athletes and supercharged F50 catamarans, plus onboard cameras and microphones, brings viewers closer to the action, helps teams analyse their performance and gives remote umpires the details they need to make calls with confidence,” says a company spokesperson.

This sits next to its ongoing professional tennis tour partnerships – and its January 2019 signing, a 20-year naming rights partnership for San Francisco Giants baseball team’s Oracle Park stadium. Venue sponsorship is also part of SAP’s policy, with its name attached to the stadium of San Jose Sharks, an ice hockey team majority-owned by the technology company’s co-founder Hasso Platner.

According to Marcel Bolin, chief technology officer of flooring retailer Carpetright, sponsorship deals have some impact in his tech investment decisions, but describe it as a “tenuous link” around brand recognition.

“It creates curiosity and, depending on what I’m looking for in the market, it may prompt some brand awareness,” he says. “But I wouldn’t be making a final decision based on what a company is doing in sports sponsorship or what sport they are sponsoring.”