Vodacom secure SA title sponsorship for URC

The bold new world of the United Rugby Championship will fly under the banner of Vodacom following the announcement today that the African communications giant has dialled in as South African title sponsor for the new tournament for the next four years.

In South Africa the competition will be known as the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, which kicks off on 24 September as the North and South collide in what promises to be an intriguing and spectacular new global rugby competition.

Vodacom continue their long association with top-flight franchise rugby in South Africa with a new-look competition that will feature 16 teams from five countries, battling it out over 144 matches to reach the eight-team play-offs in a season that will extend over eight months until the final in June.

“The United Rugby Championship heralds an exciting new era for South African rugby that will bring us closer to our friends in the northern hemisphere, and we’re delighted to confirm our long-standing partner, Vodacom, as the title sponsor in the southern hemisphere,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“This is an exciting new venture and promises to deliver international club rugby of the highest standard that will benefit South African rugby in the long run and it was typical of Vodacom’s vision that they didn’t hesitate in taking the opportunity to partner with us.

“We’ve been exposed to club rugby from the north for a while now, but the Vodacom United Rugby Championship is a bold step into a brand-new era of franchise rugby for South Africa, in a competition that will reshape the global game.

“The possibilities for the future reflect a gear shift for rugby in South Africa as well as on the north-south axis. As we’ve seen with the recent British & Irish Lions tour, our teams will be facing some of the best players in the world, testing their skills against some of the strongest club sides and going toe-to-toe with master tacticians on a weekly basis.”

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Michelle van Eyden, Head of Sponsorship at Vodacom, said: “Since 1996, when our involvement with Vodacom Super Rugby began, top-flight rugby featuring the best teams with the world’s best players has been ingrained into Vodacom’s DNA.

“As world rugby moved from the amateur to professional era and then into a time of incredible global growth, Vodacom has supported the game’s journey at every step.

“The Vodacom United Rugby Championship is yet another evolution of our proud association with the very best that rugby has to offer, and we look forward to again providing the platform upon which a new era of north-south competition can set a new benchmark in excellence for the game.”

The new Vodacom United Rugby Championship will be divided into four pools – a South African Pool, Irish Pool (Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Connacht), Welsh Pool (Ospreys, Cardiff, Scarlets, Dragons) and Scotland-Italy Pool (Benetton, Edinburgh, Zebre, Glasgow).

Each team will play 18 regular season games – nine at home and nine away – and all the sides will face each other at least once during the league phase of the competition, which will include double-rounds of local derbies before the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.

Martin Anayi, CEO of United Rugby Championship, said: “We have the best European clubs in our league, and they as well as their fans are all very aware that we’re now bringing in the South African teams that basically feed the world champion Springboks.

“They will be bringing their own brand of big players, strong runner and high-intensity rugby and there is tremendous excitement about that.

“We have a team like Leinster who have been European champions so many times, and they were foremost in campaigning for the South African teams to join so that it can challenge them and continue to raise the overall standard.”

Introducing Treble Group UK

Over the last 21 years, Treble has cultivated an immense degree of experience as a strategic marketing agency specialising in sports sponsorship, rights commercialisation, experiential events, brand activation and communications for leading global brands across multiple sporting codes.

This has enabled Treble to build and grow long-term relationships within the sporting industry, which has seen Treble championing the rightsholders and brands we represent – ensuring we build and manage long-term partnerships that deliver value for the parties involved.

Treble (SA) is excited about the launch of Treble (UK) – a separate business based in the United Kingdom. Treble (UK) will leverage Treble (SA)’s experience, expertise, and where required, business capability to support the establishment of the new business.

The Treble (UK) Executive team are very enthusiastic about building a sports marketing agency with a unique value proposition. The Treble (UK) Executive team has solid global experience, having held senior positions at rights holder, corporate and sports marketing agencies.

Keith Harris, Kyle Nel, Mark Smith and Ben Milhench will be heading up the UK offices. The team bring a wealth of international and professional sports marketing experience that covers Formula One, Football, Rugby, Golf, Pro-Cycling, the Olympics and Esports.

Treble Group’s Managing Director, Kyle Nel, is pleased by this new business development. “We have been wanting to establish the business for a few years now, and feel the timing is right to enter the market. The collective experience, expertise and relationships of this Treble (UK) Executive Team brings to the business is truly exciting,” says Nel.

“This team has held senior positions for rightsholders, brands and agencies. I know what we have achieved in South Africa, and the vision, experience and expertise from this UK Executive team is very impressive. I am confident that by building trust and most importantly focusing on delivery, the Treble (UK) team will add value and build a world-class business,” added Nel.

Prescient Freedom Paddle

The Treble Team is proud to announce that Prescient remains firmly committed to the eagerly anticipated 2021 Prescient Freedom Paddle, which is set to take place later this month on Freedom Day (27 April).

Now in its fourth year the Treble-owned property, in which sponsorship, event management, marketing and operations of the Prescient Freedom Paddle are fully managed by our award-winning team, sees competitors paddling 27kms around the iconic Robben Island – a symbol of South Africa’s triumph of democracy and freedom.

We are excited that this partnership, which was exclusively brokered by the Treble Group in 2020, has seen us being awarded the added value of a leveraging budget to deliver the sponsorship and association with the Prescient Freedom Paddle brand.

This includes delivering world-class brand activations for Prescient that will serve to enhance their client’s experience on event day, while also working with traditional media services to champion the Prescient brand within the competitive paddling arena.

“After the immense success of the event in 2020 after a postponement from April to October in 2020 and the inclement weather on the day, which resulted in a 5-hour delay in the start paddle race. Approximately 250 paddlers were in their surfskis at the start line. At Prescient, we resonate with the paddler’s perseverance and commitment for success,” said Wisahl Ganief, Head of Marketing at Prescient.

Prescient’s core values align with the resilience and team comradery required for competitive paddling.  Ultimately, Prescient is about partnerships, which has underpinned every aspect of their business since its humble beginnings over two decades ago.

While their global footprint has expanded, their focus remains as concentrated as ever: to deliver maximum value for their clients and leverage their expertise, experience and innovation to help secure the certainty of success their clients desire, even in uncertain times.

Treble welcomes Wimpy’s LSA Sponsorship renewal

The Treble team is delighted to announce that Wimpy has renewed its existing partnership as national associate sponsor to Lifesaving South Africa (LSA). In line with the family brand’s motto, “Enjoy every moment,” Wimpy will continue to partner with LSA to assist the lifesaving family in saving lives.

The Treble Group, which facilitated the initial partnership in 2019 between LSA and Wimpy, played an integral role in the renewal process. Treble Group MD, Kyle Nel, is looking forward to seeing the lifesaving community grow from strength to strength: “I am very excited about building on this existing relationship. LSA is a voluntary institution built on communities and families enjoying a healthy outdoor lifestyle on our beautiful coastlines and inland waterways.

“Wimpy epitomises these values by focusing on bringing families together, while also supporting a valuable cause that affects all South African communities in terms of water safety and saving lives. The renewal represents a major boost to LSA in their efforts to ensure water safety throughout South Africa, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has come with its unprecedented challenges, this partnership serves as an acknowledgement of the selfless work done by the lifesaving volunteers. I wish both LSA and Wimpy every success in this continued partnership,” added Nel.

Wimpy’s sponsorship renewal sees their famous and well-loved brand continuing to support the three main pillars of Lifesaving South Africa, voluntary water safety, the Watersmart education program and Lifesaving SA Champs, which is expected to take place from 2-9 October in Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth.

There will also be a greater reach for learners with LSA’s school Watersmart Program, which is vital in creating awareness amongst the youth around water safety to reduce drowning in South Africa and one of LSA’s most important objectives in ensuring South Africa’s beautiful coastlines, inland waterways and public swimming areas are safe for all South Africans.

“As a family brand, Wimpy is committed to ensuring that special memories created amongst families across South African beaches are happy and safe memories, under the caring eye of our volunteer lifeguards. By also partnering with the Watersmart education programme, it ensures the communities we serve, are better informed and skilled as to how to interact with water allowing for the creation of greater happy moments,” said Jacques Cronje, Marketing Manager, Famous Brands.

“Lifesaving South Africa welcomes the renewal of the relationship with Wimpy in our efforts to prevent drowning.  The brands of Lifesaving SA and Wimpy are synonymous with family and healthy and safe recreation. Our core mission is to channel massive efforts of energy to ensure that our young nippers and micro nippers, at all of our voluntary clubs, are taught to be water safe and competent in and around water bodies and to ensure they understand the risks and are able to mitigate those risks. Moving into the schools and communities, we view this partnership in taking our #WaterSmart campaign to greater scales to ensure that water safety reaches every vulnerable child and home,” said Dhaya Sewduth, Lifesaving South Africa President.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has come with unprecedented challenges, this partnership serves as an acknowledgement of the selfless work performed by the volunteer lifeguards and their ever-present vigilance and watchfulness, so that one’s guard is not dropped. We are confident that the partnership with Wimpy will go a long way in promoting a safe, healthy and exciting lifestyle. For that we are grateful for the Wimpy sponsorship,” he concluded.

Treble and Lifesaving South Africa welcomes the ongoing support from Wimpy – a well-loved family brand that shares our passion for water safety to keep all communities in South Africa safe.

B&I Lions tour to SA confirmed

SA Rugby and the British & Irish Lions confirmed on Tuesday that they were aligned on delivering the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa in the scheduled playing window.

The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today.

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Mr Jason Leonard, Chairman of The British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mr Mark Alexander, President of the South African Rugby Union, said he would inform the Executive Council of SA Rugby of the alignment.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Mr Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

Mr Alexander said that the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.

SA Rugby assured everyone who had purchased tickets through the ticket ballot or as part of the official hospitality programme that they would be entitled to a full refund, with the mechanic to be communicated in due course once any revised schedule was confirmed.

Those who had bought official travel packages through SA Rugby Travel would be contacted by a company representative in due course.

Mr Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.

“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”

Mr Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.

“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Mr Alexander.

“However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”

The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

Issued by SA Rugby Communications

SunBet strike it lucky with WPPR

The Treble Team is proud to announce that SunBet, the online betting arm of Sun International, has joined the Western Province Professional Rugby (WPPR) family as sponsors of the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province teams.

SunBet, which offers a secure online platform through which bettors can bet on the outcome of games, will be an associate sponsor for both teams until the end of 2023.

The deal, which was exclusively brokered by the Treble Group, sees the Cape Town-based sports sponsorship agency securing a third sponsorship agreement that includes iconic sporting brands such as the Six Gun Grill Cape Cobras, Emirates Lions and the well-supported DHL Stormers and DHL WP.

Treble MD Kyle Nel is delighted with this new development and what value it brings: “Looking ahead we foresee exciting times in the rugby market with the unprecedented proposition of the DHL Stormers playing in the Pro16, which is a competitive northern hemisphere competition aligned with the top Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh clubs,” he said.

“Treble is proud to have played a major role in ensuring SunBet partners with a world-class rugby franchise that comes from a long and proud tradition of rugby excellence” says Nel. “We’ve recently seen SunBet partnering with the Six Gun Grill Cape Cobras and the Emirates Lions, so we are excited to see them joining forces with a leading rugby brand beginning a new journey with a new rugby stadium, which brings other exciting opportunities”

With SunBet being aligned with one of the oldest and most iconic rugby brands in the South African rugby, and now moving to the majestic Cape Town Stadium, there will be added value to the brands it represents. DHL Stormers are a team that has plenty of support around the country, and even the globe, having produced a number of leading Springbok stars over the years with talent that is the envy of other South African rugby teams.

The sponsorship makes SunBet the official sports betting partner of the teams, while the SunBet logo will feature on the shorts of the matchday kit of both the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province going forward.

WPPR is proud to welcome a sponsor of SunBet’s standing at the beginning of an exciting new era for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province. The teams are at the start of a new chapter and SunBet’s support has further bolstered an impressive sponsorship portfolio, which links WPPR with top brands in the ongoing quest for excellence.

Sponsorship of the teams forms part of SunBet’s plans to expand its presence in the sports arena as it increases the number of games upon which bettors can bet on its secure, online, platform.

SunBet General Manager, Nitesh Matai, said that SunBet is proud to be associated with WPPR as a sponsor.

“Now fans can enjoy game time on TV as well as on our secure platform, where they can place bets against which team they think is most likely to win,” he said.

HSBC Cape Town Sevens to be staged in December as season finale

The HSBC Cape Town Sevens will take on a new mantle after World Rugby announced that the popular event in the Mother City will be the final leg of a revamped and shortened HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2021.

The South African leg of the Series will return to the Cape Town Stadium from 10-12 December after a Covid-enforced absence in 2020. Ticketing details will be announced in due course.

Treble Group is honoured to be part of this world-class event. Our operations team has successfully delivered an unmatched food and beverage solution for the past five events in a row since its move from Port Elizabeth, catering for over 100 000 rugby supporters during the course of each event, which always proves to be highly festive.

The condensed 2021 World Series includes five women’s and four men’s rounds and kicks off in Paris with back-to-back women’s tournaments on two weekends in May, before the teams set sail for the Olympic Games, scheduled for Tokyo in July.

The World Series will then recommence with men’s events in Singapore (29-30 October), followed by joint men’s and women’s events in Hong Kong (5-7 November), Dubai (3-4 December) and finally in Cape Town (10-12 December).

Detailed discussions are continuing with London and Vancouver on the viability of hosting men’s events in the window following the Olympic Games and prior to the HSBC Singapore Sevens in October and further updates to the schedule will be given when available.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux welcomed the announcement and said that the rugby fraternity had been waiting for confirmation of one of the most anticipated sports events in the country.

“The HSBC Cape Town Sevens has delivered a world-class event for spectators and players alike since we moved the tournament to Cape Town Stadium in 2015,” said Roux.

“We are working very hard to ensure the same high standards and expectations are met this year, given the changed environment and expected pandemic guidelines that will apply.”

Roux said the 2021 season would be a taxing one on players and administrators and applauded World Rugby’s efforts in this regard.

“We have seen the disruptions caused by COVID-19 in the last year and it was not easy to get all the moving parts together, especially as the postponed Olympic Games also impacted on the normal planning,” added Roux.

“Credit must go to those involved to make sure that we will not only have a World Series, but also one that could finish on an absolute high here in Cape Town.

“We saw a very good appetite for the dual format of the tournament in 2019 and I am convinced that the same will apply this December. The fact that we will be the final tournament of the series will add to the excitement and drama that is so closely associated with sevens rugby.

“Matches will be played over three days and with some of the world’s best athletes and the unpredictability of sevens, the HSBC Cape Town Sevens will yet again provide our spectators with hours of excellent entertainment.”

World Rugby Interim Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Today’s announcement of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 schedule marks a significant and exciting moment for rugby seven’s re-emergence from the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic and we thank HSBC and all Series partners for their unwavering support, and host organisations and participating unions for their hard work, patience and spirit of collaboration.

“As a key driver of game growth, particularly in emerging markets, the continued success of rugby sevens and the Sevens Series is a strategic priority for World Rugby and our US$4 million funding to support sevens programmes is a clear demonstration of our commitment. This unique Olympic year provides a huge opportunity to reach new audiences around the world and introduce them to the speed, skill and excitement of rugby sevens, encouraging them to become future fans of the Series.

“Above all, the health, safety and wellbeing of players, fans and the wider community remains our top priority and all stakeholders will continue to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and work closely with host governments and health agencies to ensure a safe, secure and highly impactful return to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.”

Sunbet wins big with Emirates Lions sponsorship deal

Sun International’s online betting arm, SunBet, has added the Emirates Lions to its ever-expanding list of sports sponsorships. The announcement follows deal signed last month with the Cape Cobras cricket team, which further shows SunBet’s growing commitment to South African sport.

The deal, which was exclusively brokered by the Treble Group, sees SunBet being aligned with one of the most iconic rugby brands in the South African rugby landscape. The franchise has produced a number of leading Springbok stars over the years, including 1995 World Cup-winning Bok captain Francois Pienaar, who lifted the coveted trophy at the famous home of the Emirates Lions.

“Looking ahead we foresee exciting times in the rugby market with the Lions playing in the Pro16, which is a competitive northern hemisphere competition and supporters are excited about the new experience. Treble is delighted to have played a major role in ensuring SunBet partner with a world-class rugby franchise that is Lions Rugby” says Treble MD Kyle Nel. “We’ve recently seen SunBet partnering with the Cape Cobras, and we are excited to see them joining forces with a leading sporting brand at an iconic rugby stadium.”

General Manager, Nitesh Matai, said that SunBet was proud to welcome the Lions Rugby Company to its growing family. “We are excited to be associated with a leading brand in the rugby sector. As a recognisable and trusted brand, we take great care in who we align ourselves with and believe that the Lions Rugby Company complements our values and will be a successful partner. The SunBet platform is safe and secure and offers unrivalled rugby betting options. This deal communicates our brand and platform to the right audience who can explore those options.”

The deal will also enhance the experience for SunBet customers, giving them interactive access to players, coaches, and management, as well as insider tips. When spectators can safely return to stadiums, customers can also look forward to enjoying VIP hospitality at the home of the Emirates Lions.

SunBet’s sponsorship, which runs until the end of 2023, allows it to expand its marketing strategy to have its brand associated with games played at the Emirates Airline Park.

Pieter Burger, Managing Director of EPS (Pty) Ltd, welcomed SunBet on board as a new partner of the Lions Rugby Company. “As we head into 2021, we are delighted to welcome on board our brand new sponsor SunBet, to be sported on shorts. We are proud to be associated with a company like SunBet, Sun International’s premier sportsbook, and an affiliate that the Lions have long been associated with. We know it will be a long and prosperous relationship.”

DHL announced as Official Logistics Partner for the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series

Treble is proud to announce that DHL Express, an international leader in the logistics industry, has joined the family of official global partners for the Castle Lager Lions Series 2021.

Partnering with the British & Irish Lions – a major global rugby brand – and the world champion Springboks is a massive coup for the world’s leading logistics company. Both teams will rely on DHL’s key and tailored logistics services as part of a unique partnership,

For the first time ever, the agreement sees all players involved in the series sporting the DHL logo on the back of their jerseys, meaning that DHL are backing the Lions and the Springboks – three-time Rugby World Cup winners – both on and off the pitch with both teams reinforcing DHL’s brand message; Excellence, Simply Delivered

Treble is excited about the prospect of being aligned with one of rugby’s greatest touring sides and exposure that such an event represents for the DHL brand on a global scale. Our award-winning team look forward to executing world-class on-the-ground activations both on and off the field.

The CEO of DHL Express, John Pearson, is thrilled to be adding the Springboks as a partner to DHL’s existing partnership with the British & Irish Lions Tour next year and further building on their global ties with the rugby world.

“Rugby represents many important values such as teamwork, passion, speed and respect, all of which are core qualities that resonate very strongly with our DHL brand values. With both, we further highlight our commitment to rugby and to keeping the world connected. We look forward to engaging with the teams and fans of both the Lions and Springboks before and throughout the Tour.”

As ‘The Team Behind The Teams’, DHL will provide specialized and tailored logistics solutions to both teams on and off the pitch ensuring delivery of all equipment – such as crucial coaching, training and technical gear for a touring party of over 100 people. From coaches, support staff and management, to DHL employees and fans, they all play a key part in ‘The Team Behind The Teams.’

Jurie Roux, SA Rugby Chief Executive Officer, adds: “DHL is a brand that is synonymous with delivering excellence so today marks the partnership of two teams who strive to be the best. DHL have consistently been a supporter of rugby here in South Africa, so we are delighted to have their expertise behind us as we bid to defend our turf against the Lions.”

DHL has been a key partner of the Lions since 2005 delivering the last two Tours to New Zealand in 2017 and Australia in 2013, adding to its longstanding partnership and association with rugby on a global and local level. DHL as a brand is synonymous with rugby globally, thanks to existing partnerships with Rugby World Cups, World Rugby Sevens Series, DHL Stormers in South Africa, Ireland Rugby and Harlequins in England.

“We are thrilled to support both the Lions and the Springboks in the build-up and during the Tour,” said Hennie Heymans, CEO Sub Saharan Africa at DHL Express. “As official logistics partner, we leverage our logistics expertise to help deliver the teams off the field so that they can focus on delivering success on the field. With the addition of the DHL logo on the back of each team’s jerseys, it truly reinforces our commitment of being “The Team Behind The Teams.”

Re-imagining the Sport Industry in SA

The global Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst to critical thinking, honest engagement and a recalibration of the sports and entertainment industry.

As everyone in the sports and events industry scrambles to react to the unforeseen situation that Covid-19 has forced upon us, I have spent most of my time engaging with the Treble team, our clients, and our valued partners.

I recently wrote a piece that was published on Sport24 discussing potential ways to reshape our vision in the sports industry, and internally within Treble, I have focused on proactively managing the financials to keep the business afloat, whilst stretching the team to seriously review our business offering and how it might be affected going forward.

I have read a number of published pieces on how our industry will never be the same, and yes, we have addressed the same questions such as, “How will our existing offerings need to be realigned? Should we be moving aggressively into the digital space? Etc.”

This effort has been against an uncertain backdrop of trying to keep the team positive, while you communicate salary reductions and the ever present ‘elephant in the room’ – potential retrenchments.

Our senior management team have consulted extensively as to how businesses are approaching the balancing of books and handling the human resources factors responsibly. This is a first for many businesses and I have adopted a principle of total transparency and dialogue across the board.

We are a “Treble team” and I will work as hard as possible to hold the team together. This is highly challenging for any business as there is an unknown to a major variable, being the “duration” of the impact of this global lockdown.

I have explained to our team, it’s not about whether we can return to the office at level 3,2 or 1. We are an industry that needs the entire economy to open up, businesses to recover, marketing budgets to be committed and more critically, a medical solution be found so that the passionate supporters and athletes can attend our live sporting events.

Externally, I have watched past and present professional sports personalities, their teams, rights federations, sponsors and media partners all dive into the digital space. We have seen players showing themselves training at home; explaining good hygiene practices; challenging each other to various challenges; using this time to help where they can and joining online streaming platforms to engage with supporters via posting comments into the feed.

Treble has been no different, we have updated all our communications platforms to showcase our work, promote our offerings to try and stay top of mind and remain positive. However, I seem to be grappling with more fundamental questions.

Have we as an agency, and all the relevant stakeholders, used this opportunity to fundamentally look at themselves and broaden their reference points to understand what has been changing anyway? The Covid-19 Lockdown has given us an opportunity to stop the bus and think critically about the rapidly changing sports industry and what is global best practice in other industries.

I will borrow the words of someone I recently had an enlightening conversation with, who until recently held the position of Global Head of Sponsorships for a multinational financial institution. Over a long online conversation, we grappled with the above points and he strongly believes that sponsorships are a critical and powerful tool in the market mix.

But rightsholders, and even professional players, need to appreciate that the real value lies with the end customer – the passionate supporter. A large part of the sports industry is sold on the number of eyeballs – being spectators and audience ratings. Major domestic, global rightsholders and personalities market and sell themselves by stressing their attendances, the number of followers they have on their social media platforms, the world-class players that are part of their product, and broadcasting audiences.

The issue is sports still does not control the access or have detailed intelligence on their supporters. Sport and individuals are beholden to the social media platform algorithms and T&Cs regarding their partners engagement on their social media platforms.  Even the online ticketing solutions are often provided by third party service providers, whose aim is to drive foot traffic to their stores or online platforms.

Sport can learn from the music and gaming industries, where I use the following example during the lockdown. Travis Scott released his new soundtrack within the Fortnight gaming platform. Who is Travis Scott, and what does the launch of a song in a game have to do with anything?

Thinking critically, I watched my teenage son contact his friends to ensure they were in the special “world” within the game at a specific time. They spent an hour playing within the game running around as they waited for Travis to appear. The event was the same as a concert of old! Thousands of fans singing and cheering waiting for the main act. Travis finally appeared as a huge hologram of himself, with his new track playing and the boys went mad.

This is my point when I say we have a lot to learn. We are looking at the convergence of entertainment and technology platforms. Sport needs to fully immerse itself into utilising those platforms to capture the minds of this new generation.

Currently, Treble is unpacking how do we effectively stage a virtual FIFA 2020 tournament, which is great, but I don’t believe it gets to the fundamental questions and opportunity we have right now. The value is in having a direct relationship with the fans. Do we really have a direct relationship with them or are we still just pushing content across our communication platforms and counting “likes”?

Do teams and players have any detailed understanding as to their passionate supporter base? Even better, do they have any diagnostics in place to develop bespoke solutions for those supporters?  Yes, Treble could dive into the digital space, but where do we begin? We should start with the end customer in mind. The technology is available, and the passionate fans are open and prepared to engage.

This lockdown has proven that young and old have been immersed in using technology (my 70-year-old in-laws discovered this ‘new’ TV channel called Youtube). Passionate fans want to get closer to their teams and players. They are prepared to grow with them and are willing to share information if their team or favourite player can create a valuable proposition that they trust and speaks to them.

Covid-19 has been a catalyst in recalibrating the way we view sports as a product, and we need to change our mindset if we are to succeed in ensuring that this industry remains relevant in the brave new world we are currently entering.