Sponsorship: Digital Match-Making

As the world’s sports industry is seeing continuous growth with no signs of slowing down, the growth of the number of people consuming it runs parallel. In the information age that we are presently in, the world’s digital capabilities are flourishing, especially in developing countries. By capitalising on the sheer size of this market, businesses have the ability to reach international audiences and grow their consumer base.

A digital marketing channel which is seen regularly within the sports industry is sponsorship where businesses are sponsoring sports events across the globe. Thompson (2016) suggests that the ultimate goal of digital sponsorship would be creating mutually beneficial content which in turn encourages consumer retention for both parties involved.


(Bacon, 2016)


Looking at the graph presented above, it is clear that the viewing habits of fans across the globe is shifting and this is ever present in emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China (Bacon, 2015).



One of the first major examples of digital sponsorship was Budweisers campaign in which they sponsored the 1998 France World Cup on the Sky Sports site. Cracknell (2001) states that Budweiser’s strategy was to target males aged 18-34 in order to inform them of their business whilst emphasising their sponsors of the event. The sponsorship was a success and has led to the two companies continuing to work with each other to this day.

Another example of a sponsorship deal which perfectly highlighted the collaboration between two companies is the deal between theSPORTbible and Table Tennis England which featured a qualifying match being streamed exclusively on theSPORTbible’s facebook page. Due to sports associations being more aware of the change of demographic concerning viewing habits, they understand that more young people are using the internet to view things rather than TV. Due to this, there was an opportunity for theSPORTbible got utilise their platform, which gets more than 110,000,000 views a week, to sponsor the event (Madill, 2016). This case again highlights the increasing digital consumption of sports which businesses should be aware of in order to exploit the market.



Of course, utilising digital sponsorships isn’t a risk-free procedure and ultimately such large deals can be extremely difficult to negotiate, especially in the rapidly growing market, where the demands from consumers are ever changing. Imada (2017), explains that one aspect of digital sponsorships that is often overlooked is whether the deal is targeting the right audience. For example, a deal which targets an audience of 18-24 males which actually resulted in more impressions from people from other age groups, or females, would not be considered a successful sponsorship. This can be very costly for businesses as sponsorship deals in such a rapidly growing market can be extremely expensive.

Another risk for sports sponsorship deals is unforeseen events which more often involves the sporting committees. An example of this is International Association of Athletics Federations corruption allegations which led to Nestle ending the 5.6m a year deal. Kinmont (2016) suggests that due to many similar events like this happening, sports sponsorships are increasingly risky business. This has also been evident with deals with FIFA, with many sponsors shying away from deals due to corruption. Bowden (2017), explains that this has led FIFA into a position where they are struggling to find a sponsor for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.


Taking the risks into consideration, a digital sponsorship deal still has the potential to benefit both parties exponentially, and this is evident when looking at how lucrative some of these deals are. Of course it isn’t just for the huge global events, as sponsoring smaller events is a much more likely option for SME’s. If executed effectively, digital sponsorships still provide a way for businesses to efficiently market themselves to a target audience and build on their digital presence in an ever growing market.






Bacon, J. (2018). How sport sponsorship is joining the digital age – Marketing Week. [online] Marketing Week. Available at: https://www.marketingweek.com/2015/04/22/how-sport-sponsorship-is-joining-the-digital-age/ [Accessed 2 Jan. 2018].

Bowden, E. (2018). FIFA: Russia World Cup 2018 is struggling to find sponsors. [online] CNNMoney. Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/01/news/fifa-sponsors-russia-2018/index.html [Accessed 3 Jan. 2018].

Digital sponsorship 2002, , Centaur Communications Limited.

HuffPost. (2018). Risks of Digital Advertising and the Value Provided by “People-Based” Measurement. [online] Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/risks-of-digital-advertising-and-the-value-provided_us_5935cef3e4b033940169cd2d [Accessed 3 Jan. 2018].

Kinmont, S. (2018). Is sports sponsorship still worth the risk?. [online] Available at: http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2016/03/16/sports-sponsorship-still-worth-risk [Accessed 2 Jan. 2018].

Madill J. (2018). Driving Fan Engagement. [online] Available at: https://medium.com/@jonnymadill89/driving-fan-engagement-in-the-digital-age-what-digital-disruption-really-means-for-sport-e4444f595a61 [Accessed 3 Jan. 2018].

Thomson, M. (2018). Digital Sponsorship Benefits. [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digital-sponsorship-benefits-how-manage-increasing-mark-thompson [Accessed 2 Jan. 2018].