Digital had been singled out as the star player in the sport and entertainment industry. It was convincing in its role too – managing to find relatively cost effective ways to target audiences previously considered notoriously tricky to engage, creating content that can be shared and distributed in an instant, providing feedback on a new product or campaign, or building awareness of new/emerging brands. Everyone quickly became enthused by its potential and agreed the need for a digital strategy that would work alongside and supplement any pre-existing brand strategy.

Convinced that a digital media strategy should be considered separate and almost exclusive to the brand strategy, brands and rights holders started to employ experts across different channels from digital to communications to strategists. This meant that campaigns were pulled together using numerous agency teams, individual contractors as well as a blend of internal experience from those operating within the business. This has proved to be a successful model for a number of years and led to the emergence of a specialist ‘breed’ of individuals whose expertise helped to ensure that campaigns were correctly thought out, strategised, leveraged and evaluated.  The developments of experts within the social and digital parts of the industry were arguably the most elusive yet sought after. It was perhaps fair to say that no one really understood how to maximise the star players’ potential. Agencies, brands and rights holders were therefore falling over themselves to get access to these experts in order to try and keep up with the evolving digital world and to try and determine how to utilise specific platforms and channels to ensure the desired target market was reached and objectives were met.

The sport and entertainment industry has now had another change of heart as we see larger companies (and even some SMEs) still looking to employ experts but subsequently build a holistic internal team across strategy, digital, PR and activation (to name a few).  There are obvious benefits to this internalisation:

  1. It’s easy for everyone to keep up to date with (evolving) brand strategy and objectives
  2. Everyone has an internal understanding and perspective of the business and current direction of travel
  3. It might be more financially beneficial (you can employ individuals to work on specific campaigns on a short term/contract basis)
  4. It enables the key stakeholders to maintain control

Sounds ideal, but where does it leave agencies? Is agency dead?

A credible agency, with brilliant, capable and intelligent people will arguably be able to benefit any company (regardless of size). Agencies are able to provide:

  1. Objective / unbiased opinions
  2. Challenge previous activity as they are not so emotionally involved
  3. Use expertise and previous experience across multiple brands and rights holders
  4. Provide lots of creative ideas
  5. Utilise contacts (whether that is to market test a theory, broker new partnership deals, get the best available price, work with agents to ensure the best talent and ambassadors can be found to leverage the campaign, etc.)

Whilst I am perhaps biased given that I currently work for an agency, I feel that agencies are still relevant and can remain an invaluable resource. We are all aware of the increasing competition within the sector as quality agency numbers grow; however the pressure to create meaningful and engaging campaigns can only be a good thing for the industry. As content is king and distribution is queen, agencies can continue to work as an extension of the wider internal team to challenge and facilitate creative thinking creating a win-win scenario.

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