It is and has been a difficult year for sport and without an end date in sight it is likely that there are more hardships to come. Therefore, the importance of data for the strategic direction of International and National Federations’ commercial, marketing and sport development initiatives is paramount. Not only to keep them financially stable but to make sure that they have the next generation of fans and athletes ready at their fingertips.
One-way federations have achieved this is by encouraging people to become members of their sport. By collecting first party data from their members, governing bodies are able to see exactly who they have playing, watching and interacting with their sport, and this in turn helps them attract more of the same. As the ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti once said, “reliable and processed data in relevant areas can help sport federations gain new insights about the impact of their activities, thereby supporting them to improve everyday decisions”. This type of data analytics can also help to enhance the fan experience and grow the visibility of their sport to an entirely new section of the population as they can make educated guesses about who else might be interested in becoming part of their sport’s community.
Sponsorship is really where the importance of data comes into its own. For governing bodies, it is invaluable to be able to give potential sponsors figures such as, how many participants and fans engage with and play their sport, and how large their social media reach is. This is because, without a demonstrable case that a ROI can be achieved, many sponsors are just not willing to commit, especially when purse strings are being pulled tighter than ever. The onus is therefore on the Federations or sports body to have a compelling offering in order to achieve this, and this is typically through stats. From this however, they are able to create longer lasting and more targeted brand partnerships and deals that have a greater connection to the sport and members associated with it. Rights holders generally focus their sponsorship analysis heavily on owned assets like shirts and broadcast rights, yet, it is often the social channels of players, fans, influencers and leagues, that can offer an ever-greater value, which is what Federations now need to focus on.
Gaining IOC recognition is a goal that most sports set out to achieve, and again, without statistics to back up their argument that they deserve to be an Olympic sport, they won’t get very far. Furthermore, out of the 33 international federations participating at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, 28 receive substantial aid from the IOC, but with the postponement of the Games this most likely means that their payment will also be held back, thus proving the importance of smaller sports becoming financially independent and IOC recognised sports having a focus on areas such as membership that helps bring in money.
The sports industry is adapting and maximising fan and participant engagement to collect, analyse and activate around data, which in turn is the key to unlocking new revenues streams for National and International Federations, who, in these hard times, need creative ways to stay relevant and afloat. First party data is essential is today’s landscape for Federations to achieve their short and long-term goals and to continue growing the sport they love.