IBC2017: Sporting rights owners are increasingly keen to take on the role of media distributor in order to gain new data, heard IBC delegates

While engagement may have supplanted reach as the ultimate measure of brand and campaign value, the data behind that is even more valuable, concluded an expert panel at IBC.

Ben Cronin, Global Lead of Network Client Solutions, Publicis Media Sports & Entertainment said: “The thing we’re increasingly being involved in takes that reach question a step further – brands aren’t interested in scale for the sake of scale, they’re interested in who that audience is.

“While messaging at scale via sport has been possible for some time, it’s now a case of messaging scaled down to an individual level, so you can understand who is watching what and where. And potentially, by transferring that data to brands they can attribute changes in awareness, but also right down to sales of product.”

Alicia Klein, Director of Platforms and Distribution, IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) agreed emphatically: “Data is now very much at the top of the list – as rights owners we all have a big bullshit reach number, but it’s increasingly vital to know who those people are, what are the demographics, information we’ve historically not had.

“The days of rolling out the big number, signing a deal and coming back in four years to renegotiate have gone.

“We now try and build in use it or lose it clauses, so we can engage the fanbase direct via OTT if the rights holder chooses not to for cost reasons, which means we get some of that incredibly valuable data - reach is still important for us.”

“Once you have recognition, then it’s all about engagement” - Drew Barrand

Cronin agreed: “Some sponsors, some brands are happy with big numbers, but the most powerful engagement comes from combining compelling stories with scale.”

Drew Barrand, Marketing Director, EFL (English Football League) summarised neatly: “If people don’t know your brand at all you need a reach strategy, but once you have recognition, then it’s all about engagement. It depends on the approach of brands, there isn’t necessarily a horses for courses approach.”

Barrand highlight EFL’s vision of the future by presenting its new OTT video platform I Follow, which allows football fans overseas to subscribe and stream EFL games for £110 for a season ticket, or pay per view at £5 per game.

“We’re becoming broadcaster in some ways – a whole new commercial door. These games weren’t broadcast before, so it’s a massive opportunity. Pricing is highly sensitive here, accessibility is vital, there’s no point over-commercialising and turning people off.”

A key trend that has continued to surface throughout IBC2017 was the challenge from social networks, in this case outbidding traditional media for sporting rights and assuming the role of broadcasters in their own right. The panel agreed that the future would hold plenty more debate on that question, but there were definite indicators already:

Klein said: “We’re riding the wave of the last great big, traditional TV deals. The future will be different, and much less monolithic – we’ll have to carve out deals and package up rights differently.

“In short, we’ll need to become more sophisticated.”

Barrand expressed a similar viewpoint: “It’ll all be about maximising commercial value in the future, of course, but yes, we’re riding the last of that wave and need to prepare for the future.

“Achieving the best return on rights in the future will never be in one place, that is certainly clear.”