Here at MTM Sport, we have barely had time to calm down from the ICC World Cup final before the men’s Ashes series started yesterday. In case you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, the final provided one of the most dramatic endings to a global tournament of any sport, ever. Words largely fail to do justice to the drama that unfolded a couple of Sundays ago.
The ECB had been invested a lot of time, energy and resource in setting up England to win the tournament, but it was not just to experience the thrill of seeing the team lift a major global trophy. There is a lot riding on the successful delivery of a lasting and meaningful legacy from hosting and winning the competition.
The beginning, not the end… A ‘legacy’ can include many things, for example economic benefits (supporting new jobs and skills, encouraging trade, inward investment and tourism), social change (inspiring cultural cohesion and understanding), and regeneration (reuse of venues, new homes, improved transportation). But it is a fourth outcome that the ECB have been most focusing on since the last edition; delivering a sporting legacy.
A ‘legacy’ can include many things, for example economic benefits (supporting new jobs and skills, encouraging trade, inward investment and tourism), social change (inspiring cultural cohesion and understanding), and regeneration (reuse of venues, new homes, improved transportation). But it is a fourth outcome that the ECB have been most focusing on since the last edition; delivering a sporting legacy.
Continuing elite success is certainly one aspect, but most important is encouraging greater participation grassroots level and drawing a new generation of fans to stadia to watch Tests, T20s, 50-over games and, of course, The Hundred when it launches next year.
Delivering a sporting legacy is perhaps the most challenging of these four areas, but it is becoming increasing relevant as many NGBs face a trade-off between reach and revenue when negotiating rights deals. Does it sell major rights packages to pay-TV, where money is more readily offered but audiences are smaller, or to free-to-air where reach is greater albeit for a below-market-value rate?
The ECB, for example, relies on the current broadcast deal for around 50% of its annual revenue, but no live international cricket had been available on FTA for 14 years, until Channel 4 hastily reached an agreement with Sky for the final. In this time participation in the game has declined – yes, this is due to many factors, but many pundits hold up the lack of visibility as the major factor.
No mean feat
To prove just how difficult it is, look no further than the 2012 Olympics, the largest sporting event this country has ever hosted, won partly on the back of delivering a legacy to transform a generation. However, just one Olympic cycle removed from the event, national activity levels are broadly flat.
UK population activity levels
Part of the reason that it is becoming harder to deliver a meaningful legacy is that sport increasingly competes in the wider world of entertainment – no longer is it football versus rugby, nowadays it’s sport vs Fortnite vs The Avengers.
Here’s how sport’s rivals see the competition, thanks to one of MTM Sport’s favourite quotes:
‘Build it and they will come’ is no longer a fit-for-purpose strategy. So what can they do to? Here are five key ingredients for making sure that the buzz of a big tournament reverberates long after the trophy has been claimed.
Understand your audience
The media landscape is changing partly thanks to the evolving consumer – making it easy for the public to engage with your sport in a crowded market is a complex task. But there are many ways to pique the public’s interest including devising new formats (Golf Sixes, The Hundred, Tennis Tens), and embracing innovation in production techniques (fixed cameras, VR / AR, data and analytics integration).
However, rights owners plan to do it, or if they aren’t yet sure, consumer research has a huge role to play.
Package your rights intelligently
We talked about pay-TV versus FTA earlier, but that’s only part of the picture. Rights owners have to sell rights to multiple platforms in many countries across traditional broadcast and new digital technologies. Should rights owners take a short term hit by selling some inventory to Amazon or Facebook for example in return for some insight into what the future of rights deals might look like? How do you make money in countries where piracy rates are in the 90% bracket? How do you deliver real-time clips packages to access a wider audience?
Keeping up to date with the latest best practice and innovation in this area is the best way to remain at the cutting edge of rights deals.
Use the power of partnerships
You could argue that broadcast deals are no more – owners and holders could now be described as “rights partners”. These kinds of relationships are vital in delivering transformative change to sports – look at what Sky have done to road cycling in this country with millions more on two wheels. Partnership also extends to advertisers, sponsors and other associated parties – they all have a role to play in the delivery of a legacy by new accessing audiences.
Having happy partners is vital – MTM works with many clients to review the state of partner relationships, including currently with a leading UK sport NGB and a global tech giant.
Mine your data
New fans are drawn in by global tournaments, but how do you maintain contact with them afterwards. Collecting their data and opening a dialogue with them is a good way to start delivering on your legacy promise. Data analytics can also help deliver a better matchday experience, making crowds more likely to return; modern smart stadia offer a wealth of data-led insight.
Whatever data you hold, knowing how to use it is the next step – sports organisations require robust comms strategies backed up by rich databases.
Create a compelling business case
Stitching all this together is one thing – but there are many more aspects to consider. Schools strategy? Merchandising and retail? Recruiting new coaches? Legacy is an organisation-wide endeavour, not just the remit of one department.
Just like on the field, you are going to need a strategy to deliver change off it. But probably best not to take it as far as a super over…