The eyes of the footballing world were on Germany last weekend, as the Bundesliga became the first major European league to return to action following the sudden stop on live fixtures in March.
Enjoying the attention of the sporting spotlight, Sky Sports Deutschland attracted 3.7m viewers to the Saturday fixtures on their subscription channels and another 2.5m on their free-to-air channel, doubling the average domestic figure during the Saturday timeslot, according to DWDL.de. Globally, there were at least another 1.3m viewers tuning in to the Saturday fixtures across the UK, US, Netherlands and Italy, reported by SportBusiness.
It wasn’t just on television where strong numbers were recorded, with fans on Social Media also turning their attention to the top flight German competition. The word “Bundesliga” was mentioned over 1.0m times on digital platforms over the weekend, with over 71% of these coming from Twitter. Nearly one-fifth of these mentions came from Germany, however the next highest countries included the UK, US, Brazil and Nigeria, highlighting the global reach the Bundesliga has.
During Matchday 26, Relo Metrics tracked over 1,700 posts related to the return, which drew 51.6m engagements across social media platforms. With all other major leagues still in lockdown, large footballing accounts such as 433, B/R Football and SPORTbible posted heavily about the Bundesliga, leading to social media accounts outside of player, team and league accounts driving 60% of the total engagements. This highlights the importance of tracking social media across all sources when calculating the full value derived for rightsholders.
The new reality of sport provided unique opportunities for teams to get creative in maximising sponsorship value with the world watching.
Relo Metrics identified three new ways in which brands could be incorporated into the new sporting landscape where social distancing and fanless stadiums are the norm:
1) Masks are a Valuable New Asset
The key to the return of the Bundesliga was the hygiene protocol introduced by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) to keep everyone at the ground as safe as possible. The first new feature in the Covid-19 sporting environment was evident as soon as the teams stepped off the bus, with players and staff sporting masks featuring a club logo and team colours. Both during and following the match, players on the bench and the majority of the coaching staff also wore masks, and this new phenomenon was picked up across social media channels with over 220 posts featuring the facial covering, including a 12 minute press conference with the coaches of RB Leipzig and SC Freiburg in masks.
From Relo Metrics’ analysis of the Borussia Dortmund mask during the Revierderby, the club logo had over 70 exposures and 2 minutes of screen time across television broadcast and social media. Should this mask have included an identifiable logo of one of their key sponsors, the mask alone would have generated a potential €327.1K in Total Media Value (€42.4K in Sponsor Media Value) for them. By way of comparison, the Opel logo on the sleeve of the Dortmund jersey drove over 510 exposures and €295.5K in Sponsor Media Value across all platforms.
2) Social Distancing Extends to the Bench
Another feature of the DFL’s hygiene plan involved players and staff applying social distancing measures while on the bench. Seats were spaced 2 metres apart across the league, and RB Leipzig went even further when they enlisted the help of an aircraft staircase to bring bench players from their seats in the stands down to the pitch. Similar to the players masks, this new seating arrangement gained the attention of social media channels with over 110 posts featuring the bench across the major social platforms.
The bench for Borussia Dortmund is a placement which normally features sponsors Evonik and Puma against a yellow backdrop. While the size of the bench at the Westfalenstadion was increased to adopt social distancing, the regular sponsorship did not follow suit. If ground officials had replicated the regular bench across the additional area where players were seated, key sponsors could have seen an additional increase of nearly 400 exposures across domestic television broadcast and social media, resulting in over €1.1m in Sponsor Media Value.
3) Fanless Seats Provide Significant Sponsor Potential
While football is back, it is only possible without the attendance of passionate fans. Playing in front of empty stands in Geisterspiele (ghost games) in Germany was a reminder that these are not normal times. Nevertheless, some teams used the empty stands as an opportunity to drive more value for sponsors, as was the case in Augsburg where a large WWK Versicherungen banner covering multiple sections of seating was visible on screen.
Through Relo Metrics’ White Space technology, we analysed the potential value the Revierderby would have brought brand partners if a similar banner was utilised at Signal Iduna Park. Given this placement is one that is featured the majority of time the main camera angle is on screen, it has the potential to drive significant value for partners. We uncovered a potential of €2.7m in Sponsor Media Value across television broadcast in Germany that could have been sold to brand partners.
With many of the large sporting leagues looking to restart, the initial findings from this weekend’s Bundesliga action demonstrate the opportunities and appetite that exist in global sports. Despite the fact that the pictures and sounds emanating from the stadium look and feel different in a fanless environment, the impressive television and social media numbers prove that fans are more keen than ever to engage with sport from their homes. With a creative approach, rights holders have the chance to seize this opportunity to drive incremental value for existing partners to make up for shortened seasons, while also exploring opportunities to attract new brands that wish to associate with unique and newly available placements to drive brand exposure.
If you’re interested in learning more about Relo’s sponsorship analytics capabilities, download The Brand Guide to Optimizing Sponsorship Performance and visit the Relo Metrics Website.
Written by Harshad Kale