by Struan Campbell (@struan18) We’ve now had some time to settle, observe, learn and adapt within a very different sport and entertainment world. The disruption has left us reeling and our outlook on what is to come and how to potentially react has been moulded with new information day by day. I’ve had a lot of questions from clients in our space which have been looking for advice under the circumstances. Here are my answers to some of the most-common questions in the hope of helping more of those across the industry thinking and asking the same things.

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Q: Should we not be keeping a low profile during this time and waiting things out?

A: No. Here’s the thing — in these times, people crave their passions more than ever before as they look for distractions in a limiting and more-anxious environment. This is when brands can prove the legitimacy (or not) of their connection with an audience and passion. The rewards will come for those that play meaningful roles in making the most of a difficult situation.

The key question for now is how can we use, reimagine or adapt our rights and relationships to give audiences the joy and respite of their passions?

As long as we are empathetic, show integrity and are not being opportunistic, it’s time to step up, not back. With sponsorship assets and access to content than can bring people joy, as well as being able to get across powerful and responsible messaging, you should be using your sponsorship rights in a time when they can influence behaviour like never before. Stay true to your brand values and carry on connecting people to their passions, albeit what may be outside of your comfort zone.

Here’s some good examples of activity that does so.

Practical help from adidas #HomeTeam

Unite and support the new heroes

Assets used as role models and effective conveyors of responsible behaviour


Play on

Q: When will things be turned back on?

A: Things are not going to return as we knew it for some time. We can expect action to come back but I don’t see mass crowds being able to gather until things are safely under control. When that is, we just don’t know. What we’ll probably see is sporting events taking place behind closed doors and possibly intermittently for a longer period than we expected.

The below from German football club Borussia Mönchengladbach is a great example of creativity being applied in such a context:

The live-music business which provides artists with a large proportion of their income is even more of a worry because, while we’ve seen some live-stream performances, these can’t be executed sustainably for multiple dates in the same way a live-tour schedule can.

What does become more of an opportunity than ever are brand tailored partnerships with artists for bespoke live-streamed performances and interactions. Traditionally, for the most part, opposed by artists, they now become more open to partnerships of this nature. For example, think alcohol brands that are struggling to interact outside of a live event world.

Q: What should the plan be then until things resume to the way it was, whenever that is?

A: Find ways of innovating to adapt to a different way of sport and entertainment being delivered in the meantime, and planning for the return of normality at some point, is the most-sensible course for action.

Being relevant and adding value within the modified delivery will be really important. There will be more opportunity in the content and social media space, as experiential is substituted for virtual consumption. In short, using partnership assets in creative ways will be the difference for the time being.

Q: What should we do when things come back as they were?

A: Nothing will symbolise the return to ‘normality’ like the resumption of our passions without substantial limitations. These will be emotionally charged like never before. It will be all about how we tap into the emotional fervour in a sensitive and appropriate way, celebrating and rewarding fans for their perseverance and endeavour.

We’ll have time to prepare for this. If, as a brand, you’ve had a meaningful contribution and haven’t put your head in the sand until then, you’ll be welcomed back. Those that navigate this whole period well and develop more connection and trust with audiences will be in a far-stronger situation then when we went into this thing. A big opportunity actually, isn’t it?

The overriding takeout here? Have a voice and make a contribution. Just make sure it’s genuine and of value to the audience you’ve got the privilege of dealing with. It’s not an option to freeze now if you want a future in what will almost certainly be an even more passionate live sport and entertainment world, when people cherish more than ever. Because those fans will remember the brands that remembered them.

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, winning at Sport Industry, Loeries, Bookmarks, Assegais, PRISMs and Marketing Achievement Awards.

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