Monday, August 31, 2015

When it comes to shirt sponsorships, size doesn't matter; but placement does

Today sponsorships are just another element in any soccer team jersey, but 40 years ago it was something frowned upon. Do you know which was the first soccer club that dared to do it in a European league? It was the Eintracht Braunschweig, from Germany. They placed the logo of popular liqueur Jägermeister on the front of their shirts. The German football association denied the club’s request, but the team just replaced their traditional logo with the Jägermeister stag. Pretty clever if you ask me.

The first English team that had a shirt sponsor was Kettering Town, from the English Southern League, that was sponsored by Kettering Tyres. When league officials ordered them to remove the brand's name from their uniforms they removed just the four last letters and said that "Kettering T" stood for Kettering Town. The league didn't buy it and the club had to remove the rest of the brand's name after being threatened with a hefty fine. Just one year later jersey sponsorship was approved in English football.

Jump ahead to 2015 and we face a very different reality. Sponsorships are now a major revenue source for sports clubs throughout the world. Even those clubs that remained reluctant to "defile" their shirt have finally given in to the bulky figures brands are offering. Advertising is no longer limited to the chest of the players. Some teams place brand logos on the back of their shirts, on their shorts, socks or even on training kits, as we told you last week.

Atlético de Madrid - Plus500

However, the front of the shirt still has a prominent role and it is not by chance. It is, by far, the part that gets the most exposure, both on television and social media. This is something we have seen first hand here at Blinkfire Analytics. One example: last season Atlético de Madrid carried on the back of their shirt the logo of the investment platform Plus500, while the front of their shirt was for Azerbaijan: Land of Fire. This season Plus500 appears on the front of their uniform and they are getting far superior engagement figures.

If we take a look at the data of the last week, Plus500 is the 7th brand with the most engagements on social media, right there with apparel providers like Adidas, Nike or Puma and with powerful sponsors such as Qatar Airways (FC Barcelona), Emirates Airlines (Real Madrid, Arsenal, Milan, PSG...) or Yokohama Rubber. This Japanese brand, the new main sponsor for Chelsea, is another example of a sponsor with a huge positive trend.

Atlético de Madrid - Plus500

And if we take a glance at the data in the Financial Services category of our Brand Leaderboard, Plus500 leads the chart as the brand with the most engagements in the last 30 days, ahead of Barclays, English Premier League sponsor, or even BBVA, Spanish La Liga main sponsor. In this same chart we can see another example of a jersey sponsor that has been getting lots of impacts in the past weeks: Kutxabank, new sponsor for Athletic de Bilbao, winners of the Spanish Supercup against FC Barcelona.

Atlético de Madrid - Plus500

Sports sponsorship is an investment. Brands pay sports teams in exchange for exposure. Appearing on the chest of top level players isn't cheap, but the media exposure brands get from this is huge. At Blinkfire Analytics we detect and value part of that exposure, the part that happens on social channels. Valuation methods used by clubs and brands to measure that social engagement are inaccurate, inefficient and not in real time. BrandSpotter™, our brand detection technology, identifies logos in images and videos shared on social media and calculates the value of that content. Does your brand need a tool like this to negotiate their sponsorship deals? Contact us!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Value of Training Jerseys for Sports Sponsors

We get to see a lot of trends at Blinkfire Analytics (and if you are a customer, you can too!) - but one that continues to stare us right in the face is the value and exposure sponsors get by being printed on uniforms used for training.   Increasingly, rights holders are selling sponsorships of their training shirts, and this is now significant for a few reasons:

The game used to be 90 minutes or 3 hours, but now it's 24 hours

What we mean by that, is in the past, the only time that fans were really exposed to teams and athletes was during the actual game, whether on TV or in the stadium.  Now, largely enabled by social media, we are seeing what the team is doing not only during the game, but before, after, and on their days off.  We see players in training, and we see them relaxing.

For instance, if you happen to be a Liverpool supporter, there's no shortage of 24x7 pictures and videos of the team at training.  In this example, these players are sporting their training bibs sponsored by New Balance and Garuda Indonesia, who are separate sponsors from their main jersey sponsor of Standard Chartered. This was the first time Liverpool has ever sold such a sponsorship,

but these posts get a lot of engagement, and it's not a passing fad.  In fact, in many cases these training posts get more engagement than in-game photos.

Practice shirt sponsors used to be local, but social media has enabled them to be global

The NFL has had sponsors on their pre-season jerseys since 2011. Really?  Yes.   However, because the only people who ever saw them were the people who went to training camps, many were largely local sponsors, that didn't command a material sponsorship value.   Now, with most teams publishing training camp pictures to global audience, the game has changed.

Certainly, these global brands like Pepsi and SAP run the risk of getting picked up by the media associated with somewhat negative stories,

Oh No

but where we really see this used to a team's advantage is when teams like the Minnesota Vikings put their sponsors, in this case, Verizon, front and center in the posts they publish, which is an excellent best practice for actually activating these training jersey sponsorships.

The Vikes 

Important to note in the above examples when you look at the engagement and values -- increasingly most fans go directly to their favorite teams, leagues, and players for sports news instead of engaging with the media companies.  Again, social media has enabled all teams to become publishers themselves, and in many respects taking the media companies out the equation and enabling direct sell sponsorships into media.

Okay, so what's the big deal?  Is this really a material issue for clubs?  

Yes, indeed, and they know it.  Manchester United, for example, originally had a deal with DHL for £40mm but bought back the rights because they knew they could sell it for more, which they did to Aon as part of a larger sponsorship deal.  Chevrolet is ManU's main shirt sponsor, but in a recent 30 day period, our systems calculated that Aon actually had a larger earned media value!  (although, to be fair, ManU recently went on a summer US tour that appears have been prominently sponsored by Aon)

Glory, Glory, Man United

And yes, those numbers are millions of US dollars.   That is, if Aon wanted to buy social media ads on a Cost per Engagement (CPE) basis, that's what it would have cost them on the respective networks to get the same number of engagements (likes, favorites, shares, retweets, loves, etc) that they got organically through ManU's distribution.

So whether you think sponsoring training shirts is just a normal every day occurrence (like in soccer) or is a gateway drug to the ugliest Winnipeg Jets jersey you've ever seen (C'mon SI, my grandma can use Photoshop better than that!) - there's no denying that the clubs and leagues that can pull it off tastefully will create a new material revenue stream that scales with the world on a 24x7x365 basis.

Friday, August 14, 2015

No Hashtag? No Problem.

You don't have to look far these days to see a hashtag.  Hashtags are all over television commercials, billboards, we've even seen them on soccer jerseys, and even end zone paint.  Marketers have been using hashtags for quite some time to track their campaigns.  There's no shortage of tools that can track them.

However, they rely on the humans actually tagging their content the right way with the right hashtags.  Hashtags made a lot of sense when the social web was mainly text based, but really becomes an afterthought in many campaigns these days.

Are we seeing the death of the hashtag?

Case in point:  the recent #StraightOutta campaign-turned-meme in concert with Beats by Dre-that was activated by having a number of athletes tweet a picture of themselves with a graphical overlay riffing on the cover art of N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" and then providing a way for anyone to follow suit through a tool to generate one for themselves as a way of cross promoting the movie release.

However, the athletes in question used hashtags inconsistently, or not at all.

Take for instance, one of the most prominent athletes in social, LeBron James, who posted on both Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with the hashtag #StraightOuttaAkron but with the correct mention tag of @beatsbydre.

When what he was probably supposed to do what JaVale McGee did, which was separate the #StraightOutta tag, from where his is from, Flint, Michigan.

or what Thierry Henry did with just a plain #straightoutta

And then Dwayne Wade posts on Instagram with no hashtag related to the campaign at all:

Our point being, dear readers, is that all these posts have value (that are going up up up each day!) but if you are only looking at textual hashtags on social, which has become a visual medium, you aren't tracking your campaign reliably. The visual execution of the campaign is fantastic, and easily trackable if you have the means. We have the means.

What we mean when we calculate value, is that if you were to execute this campaign by purchasing the engagements in each of their respective network auctions (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) - depending on how you targeted the campaigns, it would cost you about this much to equal the organic traffic on a Cost Per Engagement basis.  (We'll get into our different valuation methods available in a future post here, really soon).   But it can be very material when you add it all up.

Of course, getting back to the point of this post, if you were only tracking your campaign hashtags in text, you wouldn't even be able find most of the posts in this screenshot below, let alone add up the value!

Alright.  Enough.  Basta.   I gotta go out and see Straight Outta Compton.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More updates for Multiple Social Handles

Last week, we announced the availability of multiple social handles for rights holders.  We told you we would continue to roll out updates supporting this change, and we don't like to be liars, so here are two of said changes!

First, in this example from Bayern Munich, who has 4 Twitter handles for German, English, Spanish, and US - we now breakdown growth on aggregate, and handle by handle.   The inner circle shows the aggregate growth, and the outer circle breaks it down.

Inner circle: aggregate growth by channel

Outer circle: breakdown by handle

But that's not all!   Yes, secondly, the bar chart showing audience growth by time period has been updated with stacked bar charts, so we can now see how total twitter followers across handles "stacks" up to Facebook and Instagram, for instance. See what we did there?

Stacked Bar Charts

Plenty more to come and we will update you here as we are rolling out new improvements every day.

Announcing: Valuation as a Service

This is the first of a series of posts this week on our new valuation features

When we started Blinkfire Analytics, the first thing our early team members who had worked in the advertising businesses of the likes of Google, YouTube, and Twitter, as well as many other digital websites, noticed was that digital advertising inventory in the sports world was valued manually by hiring research companies, or by using television audience numbers that couldn't accurately be measured.  This struck us as odd and remarkably inefficient as advertising in the digital world had been operating with digital marketplaces and auctions, at least since Google launched AdWords over ten years ago in 2004.

When we've seen these digital valuation reports, they generally list followers and estimates of impressions, and are a printed PDF from data that is months old, and generally stale the day in which the report is delivered.  But as you can see in the graph below, it's normal for these channels to be growing 5-20% each month, so the salespeople were out there negotiating with very old data!

This is somewhat new in the sports world. The number of seats in the stadium is fixed.  Television, although changing and expanding in new markets for certain sports (e.g. BPL in the USA) is more seasonal.  But audience numbers in digital and social is where rights holders and brands are seeing massive growth.  Digital is becoming more and more material to the sponsorship valuation equation, and clearly in the next renewal cycle, the astute rights holders will all have social distribution as a part of their deals.

Social channels grow from 5-20% over 30 days!

So we strove to develop something different that would solve this valuation problem in real time.  Something more akin to the analytics and display tracking mechanisms we had build at FeedBurner, Google Analytics, and many other projects. Something where you could push a button at any time and get numbers for the meeting that is going to happen in 30 minutes.

To date, we've been working with a number of beta partners to figure out how this data can be leveraged in sponsorship negotiations.

We've had teams use this data to negotiate front of jersey sponsorships in soccer, and negotiate higher renewals for in stadium signage.  We've had brands use this valuation data to track ROI of campaigns and in stadium sponsorship across sports.   We've seen agencies who manage relationships between the rights holders and the brands license our data to paint a better picture for their clients, and make more informed decisions about strategy, again with the press of a button.

We will have more to say about valuation later in the week, but for now, licensed users will start to see valuation numbers permeate throughout the product.

Valuation post by post

From partner rollups (see top image), to individual post cards, to shareable video post views, to channel and sponsor drilldowns (pictured below).

Valuation by social media channel drilldown
Please stay tuned as we talk more about how we are valuing media, the different parts of the product that can be tailored for your specific sport or geographic market, and of course how you can use Blinkfire Analytics to optimize your spend or make more money on sponsorship assets.

But we know you can't wait.  Contact us!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Announcing: Real Time Video Clip Brand analysis with BrandSpotter™

List of videos processed in real time with sponsors

If video (on TV) killed the radio star, when it comes to brand engagement with Millennials, video clips on social are going to kill TV.   There have been a number of studies done on this.  And we've seen it in practice.

In fact, just looking at the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight and what happened on Periscope, it seems that many would rather watch a video of a TV screen than watch an actual TV screen itself!  It's cliche by now, but the second screen is really the first screen.

Although many rights holders are still receiving a bulk of their revenue based on TV numbers, and therefore sponsorships in sports are based on TV, we see the next renewal cycles changing dramatically in this regard.

As we view this shift is imminent, we want you, our trusted customers who are currently valuing sponsorships based on exposure, to be in the best position as the eyeballs move from television to clips shared through mobile on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, among other services.

With that in mind, we've launched our Real Time Video service to track the engagements of all "clips" shared by Leagues, Teams, Brands, and Media companies as they are published.   Yes, that's right, as they are published.

This isn't "research" into a few select videos you published last year.   Blinkfire Analytics will show you how you are generating engagements from your videos as you post them.  Would you drive a car by looking in the rearview mirror?  We didn't think so.  You have to read the road while driving, and it's the same with the daily evolution of engagement on social media.

Armed with this powerful data, you can adjust your publishing and sales strategy throughout the season, not sell based on last season's numbers.

Here's a few example of videos we have processed in the last few weeks after posting:

Valencia CF Example (click for engagement details)

New York Mets Example (click for engagement details)

FC Barcelona Example (click for engagement details)

Each video post also comes with an easily shareable view that can be passed to other team members, sponsors, or anyone in your content development team.

Shareable post view

We know that many of you have been participating in our Real Time Video beta program, and we thank you for all the feedback that has gotten us to launch this more broadly.   If you'd like to add Real Time Video to your existing license, or sign up for a new monthly, quarterly, or annual package, please contact us or email your account manager directly.