Although the two occasionally intersect - at the Olympics or the World
Cup - the universe of sports marketing exists parallel to our own. Yet
these two sectors share more than the odd similarity: contacts are
crucial, ideas are what make things happen and people break away to set
up their own shops.
In this sense, Rob Norman’s decision to pack his bags and join Prisma,
the ISL breakaway sports management outfit (Campaign, last week), is not
a complete leap into the unknown.
Still, we must ask ourselves, why would adland’s favourite new-media
whizz kid - a man, one could say, who has a brave new world at his feet
- want to make such a move?
One answer, of course, could be that he is mad. But those who know
Norman, a man one might best describe as the thinking person’s new-media
guru, will be aware that this is not the case.
A better answer, I think, is that for those who ply their trade in new
media, sport is where the action is. It is simply the sector where new
ideas and ways of advertising and marketing will be tested, and where
they are most likely to have the biggest impact.
And looking at it from the other side of the window, it is sport that
will offer advertisers, particularly the global brands chasing large
audiences, the marketing vehicles they crave.
A small paragraph in last weekend’s press about Nike signing up the
Brazilian football team for dollars 400 million gives us a clue. As part
of the deal, the story explained, Nike will have the right to host five
friendlies a season, featuring Brazil against teams from Europe, Asia or
the Americas. ‘Nike,’ the story continued, ‘...will also sell the TV
rights to the games it organises.’ This, in other words, is Nike as
And where Nike leads, it won’t be long before Adidas, Reebok and Umbro
will follow. You can see it now: Adidas teams up with Germany, Reebok
with Holland, Umbro with Argentina and, before you know it, there’s a
mini tournament. Some boring friendlies with nothing at stake? Not on
your life. Nike lines up Sky, which markets the hell out of the games,
and off you go with other advertisers fighting to climb on the gravy
train. And that’s before you even get to the Websites and other new-
media paraphernalia. That’s the theory. But what is the true media price
of such a property to Nike? This, of course, is where Prisma and Norman
Down the road, however, one big question looms: what will the effect of
digital TV be on sport? It’s a bit of a puzzler. Digital is all about
narrowcasting but sports events, up to now at least, have been seen as
broadcast (in the true sense of the word) events. For advertisers such
as Nike, making the most of new media will be the biggest challenge of
the next ten years. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Rob Normans
of this world have spotted that sport is where the action is.