There's much more to sports marketing than just buying TV airtime. In BBC-aired football matches, for example, brands on shirts such as O2 for Arsenal and Vodafone for Manchester United dominate. And earlier this year, MindShare's sponsorship arm, BroadMind, negotiated Ford's renewal of sponsorship for the Champions League. Ford also sponsors Sky Sports soccer within a framework dubbed "destination football". Between them, these brands head an integrated European strategy that stretches beyond TV.
Yet the problem with football is that so many brands want to be involved with it. Surely there must be more effective or economical ways to secure uncluttered media exposure and build loyalty?
Rugby union, for example, has a loyal audience among 25- to 45-year-old ABC1 men, and, according to Octagon, there's a seven million-strong universe of rugby union fans, ranging from passionate supporters to casual viewers, making the game attractive to sponsors such as RBS, Zurich, Orange, Land Rover and Peugeot because of its high disposable income.
Apart from the Six Nations, the BBC controls free-to-air coverage of the European Rugby Cup (sponsored by Heineken) while Sky has top-flight club rugby. But there's also the Rugby World Cup, which appears every four years on ITV. The 2003 RWC is likely to be a hotly contested proposition because of the wealthy audience it attracts.
This year, the RWC will be held in Australia during October and ITV1 and 2 will have exclusive coverage. With key fixtures scheduled for weekend lunchtimes, the event is on track to win big audiences. "England and Ireland are doing well, which will drive viewing," Mark Butterfield, the Granada sales director, says. "In terms of clients, I expect to see interest from tourist boards, soft drinks and airlines, as well as traditional rugby-supporting categories such as financial, automotive and branded sportswear."
Although it is dangerous to stereotype sports, some conform to expectations.
In the UK, 81 per cent of golfers are male and 86 per cent are ABC1, according to the sports marketing giant IMG. If there is an unexpected angle, it's that 43.5 per cent of golfers are 25- to 44-year-olds, with a further 20 per cent in the 15 to 24 bracket, which challenges the popular myth that golfers are middle-aged executives. In terms of broadcast, IMG reckons about 71 per cent of golf watchers are men, while 60 per cent of golf watchers are ABC1.
In terms of audiences for key events, the BBC's coverage of the 2002 British Open started with one million viewers on the first day and peaked at around 4.5 million on the fourth and final day. Other prestigious tournaments, such as World Matchplay and the Ryder Cup, draw two to 3.5 million for the BBC. On Sky, the Ryder Cup peaked at 1.56 million (rising to an estimated 2.4 million when out-of-home viewing is added to the total).
With Sky and the BBC controlling all golf, airtime opportunities are limited. However, this isn't a block to using golf as a cross-media communications platform. Apart from excellent coverage on Sky, IMG says 7.5 million people in the UK are interested in golf, with 3.3 million enjoying reading about it. Of the 975,000 who play regularly, 26 per cent have been on a golfing holiday in the past year. At the right price for the right client, that makes it a sponsorship no-brainer.
In contrast to golf, cricket has carved out a niche for itself on Channel 4. Although the Cricket World Cup was exclusive to Sky, Channel 4 has the lion's share of England's home Test matches until 2005. In 2000, a series between England and Pakistan attracted peak ratings of 2.8 million, Channel 4's head of commercial marketing and research, Hugh Johnson, says. More typical is one to two million, particularly on weekdays.
The English Cricket Board sold C4 its cricket rights as part of a long-term plan to revive interest among young audiences, though this has yet to reap rewards in terms of attendance. BMRB research in 2002 showed the most avid audience is men aged 55 and over, while TGI figures show the number of 16- to 34-year-old men going to games has dropped sharply in the past five years.
Johnson says there hasn't been much of a shift in cricket TV audiences since the sport moved over from the BBC, although the proportion of 16 to 34s as part of the overall cricket audience has risen slightly. "We've seen improvements in audience perception since we took over from the BBC, but until England's Test performances improve, it'll be hard to draw new young audiences," he says.
That said, the European Sponsorship Consultants Association's chairman, Nigel Currie, is optimistic about the ECB's ability to reignite interest in county cricket. "The ECB knows that young people can't commit a day to watching a match, so it is introducing a competition called the Twenty20 Cup, in which games will finish in an evening," Currie says.
Of course, other sports could play a role in a client's sports marketing mix. F1, despite its problems in 2002, still attracted 2.5 to three million per race on ITV, while C4's World Rally Championships and BBC2's Superbikes notched up another one million viewers each. Clients that favour the high-octane motorsport environment will be hoping David Coulthard's win in the opening race of the new Formula One season will trigger renewed British interest.
Strong domestic performances boosted tennis and athletics in 2002, with 13 million watching Tim Henman at Wimbledon. In athletics, the feelgood factor from the Commonwealth Games stayed all summer - Munich's European Championships attracted 6.9 million viewers - and looks likely to help London towards a 2012 Olympics bid. Unfortunately, from a spot-ad perspective, these events were on the BBC, but this didn't preclude exposure for sponsors.
Jeremy Clark, the managing director of Total Sponsorship, whose clients include Norwich Union, says: "According to SportZ, the sports brand equity study co-founded by Mediaedge:cia and Total Sponsorship, athletics is the third most-watched sport on television, attracting 31 per cent of UK adults. More importantly, athletics appeals to a predominantly ABC1 audience, and is equally popular among both sexes. Our research also shows athletics promotes a healthy lifestyle and provides excellent role models for children. All these are important factors in Norwich Union's decision to extend its 'grassroots to glory' sponsorship of UK athletics to 2006."
WHAT'S THE DAMAGE?
Sporting event Cost TVRs
Champions League ITV 80 955,500
F1 live race 50 1,104,700
C4 Cricket Test 8 1,125,200
Sky Premiership 10 311,400