You've Got No Fans - How Sponsorship Activation is Adapting to the Covid Environment

The doors are open for sporting events once again (for the most part). Nothing beats the thrills and spills of being at a live event. Glorious victories, the unity of fans chanting their team on, and the nail-biting drama. I mean how good was it to see the Premier League stadiums back at full capacity over the weekend?

After the past year or so it’s safe to say fans have become hungrier than ever to walk back through the turnstiles of their favourite arenas, and the importance of fans shouldn’t be underestimated. Unfortunately, as we know, there are still limitations for fans and some events across the globe. The British & Irish Lions players are now home after an agonising series defeat once again courtesy of world champions South Africa. If you tuned in at some point, you’d be excused for feeling the competition was a little ‘flat’ and didn’t really feel like a ‘proper Lions tour’. There’s no question that the tour going ahead with no fans in stadiums was a major reason for this underlying sense of disappointment. 

The lack of atmosphere is just one element, and we won’t go down the long winding road of the economic impact on those countries that have been forced to close their stadium doors. But what influence does no fans have on brands that have put considerable time and money into a sponsorship? 

All eyes were on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games over the past few weeks and brands were presented with the challenge to connect with fans that were absent from the venues. This isn’t anything new and sports properties over the course of the pandemic have worked to shine a light on sponsors through greater content creation strategies and digital activations. Visa have provided a platform entitled ‘The Visa Award’ for fans to vote on their favourite Tokyo 2020 moment which is meant to celebrate friendship, inclusion, acceptance, and courage. Here you can rewatch those incredible moments, follow your favourites and share those with friends and family. This is just one example of unearthing new opportunities for brands to engage fans at home and enhance their mobile and digital experience.

With the doors closed in Tokyo 2020 and access to talent extremely limited, where else can brands go to capture those vital touchpoints with fans? We worked with Bridgestone, proud Worldwide Partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to promote their new roadshow across the UK last week utilising the success of Team GB at Tokyo 2020.

The Bridgestone Olympic Games Experience gave fans the opportunity to test their skills against Olympians in an experiential part of its ‘Chase Your Dream, No Matter What’ campaign. Engaging participants to adopt an ‘athlete mindset’ to accomplish their dreams and test themselves against Bridgestone Olympic Games ambassadors at events including step challenges and reflex tests. Bringing the magic of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games directly to the fans in a tangible form was some clever thinking. 

These intimate connections are just a couple of examples of opportunities brands jumped on to get the most for their buck in truly difficult circumstances. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are next up, so keep an eye out for brands thinking on their feet, utilising digital and online platforms, and turning the sponsorship model on its head. When one door closes, another opens…

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