by Struan Campbell (@struan18) As the world has been cast into turmoil, trying to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, disruption across the sport and entertainment industry is in the spotlight.

The NBA, NHL, Champions League, F1 and Premier League, to name a few, have all been suspended in the last week. There’s growing uncertainty if these events will actually conclude and question marks around two of the year’s biggest events: the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Euro 2020. At the same time, music artists/bands like Miley Cyrus, Madonna and rock giants Pearl Jam have called off tour legs as the covid-19 pandemic takes its toll on the live-music scene.

Closer to home, we’ve now seen both the Absa Cape Epic and Two Oceans Marathon called off. It’s inevitable that many more passion-point gatherings will be cancelled, creating a headache for brands that have planned campaigns and programmes around them as part of their marketing solutions for 2020.

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This leaves the sports marketing/sponsorship industry in an unprecedented situation, where months of planning go to complete waste and budgets are pulled. So, where to from here? Here’s how I reckon we can respond to this as best as possible:

Do the right thing

First and foremost, our industry has a responsibility to help the cause. We can do two things to make a difference.

1. Call off events that pose a risk

The first is actually calling off events that pose a risk. There’s no point in proceeding, regardless because of short-term commercial gains. Let’s take advice and direction from the health authorities and implement recommendations as early as possible as we play our part in “flattening the curve”.

2. Educate to combat virus spread

Secondly, use high-profile platforms and assets to help educate audiences on how to combat the spread of the virus and how to handle contracting the virus. Between athletes and teams with significant followings and media pull, we’ve a great opportunity for using them as a channel to spread the right messaging on how to manage the pandemic. Jurgen Klopp has done a magnificent role in conveying the right messages to football fans.

If brands are able to help the cause, using their sponsorships and endorsement partners without bringing in any commercial camouflage, we can make a real impact.

Peripheral content to replace the suppressed feed is your opportunity

With live sport and music largely turned off (both broadcast and events) and people staying away from public spaces, we’ve the opportunity to create content to fill the void in the now-foreseeable blank live calendar. It’s time to hustle and produce some content with teams and players who are, all of a sudden, far more accessible to shoot. This will all come down to agility and creativity; the ability to craft and turn around entertaining content that fans will find of value, in the absence of their regular fix, is going to see brands making the most of the difficult months ahead.

It’s worthwhile considering that broadcasters, in particular SuperSport, will be on the lookout for content that’s of value to their viewers. In addition to that, standout content backed up by strategic media-placement and timing (where fans were consuming their joy ordinarily) will give brands more buck than before.

Adjust for a hopeful second half of the year

There’s no denying this is hitting our industry hard. Events that’ve been budgeted and forecasted for are being pulled left, right and centre, with dire financial consequences for agencies and corporates. Let’s take a minute to think about what this means to Heineken for the Champions League, Vodacom for SuperRugby, and Nedbank and Absa across their PSL football competitions. This is a big deal for brands that rely on the sponsorship space to deliver their campaigns.

The only way to make some in-roads of recovery for 2020 is to get going as soon as possible on proactively planning on how to use the lost budgets on solutions that will create value for clients as soon as the green button is pushed back on. Again, this is going to take time and resources that were never in the pipeline but, without finding ways that brands can claw back their lost opportunities, it’s going to be bottom lines lost to the virus.

In unique, incredibly challenging times like this, where nothing like it has been experienced in our generation, it’s all about how you adapt and make the most of what’s in front of you. Our industry has the responsibility of playing our part in combating this attack, and the opportunity to react in ways that minimise the damage being caused. I do look forward to the good that will come out of this as marketers rally and respond to the entertainment industry under siege.

See also


Struan CampbellStruan Campbell (@struan18) is co-founder and director at Levergy | M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment South Africa, working on brands including DStv, New Balance, Audi, SuperSport, BMW, Energade, Nedbank, Heineken, and Sasol. He is the most-awarded individual in the sponsorship industry, including success at the Sport Industry Awards, Loeries, Bookmarks, Assegais, PRISMs and Marketing Achievement Awards.

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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