Why Data has become (or why it should become and still is not) an important part of MotoGP Racing and MotoGP Sponsorship

Data have always been part of motor racing. In the old days it was common to see engineers write down numbers and sketch diagrams to analyze and better understand the behavior of the bikes.
Nowadays, everybody has in mind images of technicians on the grid with computers connected to the bikes transferring data until the last second before the start of the race, and long lines of screens inside the boxes are a familiar view. 

Obviously collecting any and each reaction of this incredible machinery is fundamental -together with the sensibility of the riders- to improve the performance, to find the right set up, to be more competitive.

A new kind of data

However, while numbers, figures, metrics, and information flowing from the track to the engineers’ computers are still super important, another type of data has crawled its way to the top in sports and especially in sports marketing. 

Fan data, meaning the amount of information and knowledge we have about our audience is getting more and more important by the day. How old is our fan, what are his or her buying behaviors, how does he or she engage with our sport product and what technology are used in order to do so? Richer, more complete data are key for a better, stronger offering -and this is especially true in a world where customers and clients expect their services and products to be highly customized and tailor made. 

Enriched databases and well-run CRM operations are becoming more and more popular among first-tier professional sports team, even though of course some leagues and series like the Premier League and the NBA sure are leading the pack in that sense. 

Scarcity of resources and the necessity to improve the sponsorship packages.

In motorsport the business competition among the teams’ sponsorship departments to secure new partners is as fierce as what you see on track between riders.

Scarcity of resources, deriving  from the infinite streams of media channels that companies can invest in, made the job of sponsors seekers particularly challenging. From 2020, Covid, the impossibility to travel and to entertain potential partners at races, made the situation even worse.

To be honest the sponsorship packages sold by sport teams are fundamentally the same as they were 20 years ago. Unfortunately, when the sceanrio changes dramatically so must do the industry.

Teams and organizations must improve their offerings, they must change their way of thinking and delivering their services in order to become competitive against other forms of entertainment.

Ok, but what should we do? 

Using Data could be the solution, even if it is not going to be easy.  Sport in general -and bike racing in particular- is crowded with slow adopters, and a risk adverse attitude often leads to the most comfortable solution, not the best one. Had Christopher Columbus had this approach, America would not have been discovered yet.
The offering is still very hinged on spaces on the bike against money (plus some services). The sector runs the risk to miss an opportunity because time is crucial if it wants to stay relevant for the big ADV spenders

Why Data? To better serve your sponsors and to differentiate your sponsorship package from your competitors’

Sport is sterile without the passion of the supporters, but what do they really like? What do they want? Where do they live and what can we do to better serve and engage with them? The truth is that sports properties do not know well their fans. We need to know all that we can to deliver to the fans the right message at the right time. That’s why Data collection and data analysis is so important, because they allow to set up a CRM activity on solid basis and to use it in favor of the sponsors.

Companies that decide to sponsor a team that use this method will have a privileged access to their supporters. They share a common passion with the fans and they can communicate with them on an emotional level. Moreover, it’s highly likely that the fans will be willing to receive direct communication from their favorite squad.

In a world where any and each product is fungible, being capable to add up passion to an item or a service makes the difference to the bottom line.

Imagine to talk with a potential sponsor and tell them that you know where their customers live, or how many potential customers interested in their product or service are linked to the team and potentially contactable.

But we cannot do it… we do not know our supporters

And this is exactly the weak link of the chain.

A common mistake

Most of the time the communication between teams and fans is handled via social media. So the social media own the database of your most precious belongings, your adoring fans. 

This is a common mistake. Teams in any sport and category produce content that fuel the passion of their supporters and they post it on their social media.  When these teams want to talk with all their fanbase and make sure that they see their message (maybe related to one of the sponsors) they have to pay the social platform (I am sure that the “do you want to sponsor your post” resonates with you all)

A Change is needed
The first step to take is to disintermediate the communication path between teams and Fans and go from the current Team -> Social Media -> Fans to a  Team -> Fans structure with the social media used to spice up the operation and to nourish the Database construction. 

How to do it

To do it, the Teams need to create some touch points (landing pages or apps just to name a few) to start collecting data. Teams and sportsmen, as I was saying a few lines ago, have a great advantage if compared to any other form of entertainment: they can count on the infinite passion of their supporters and they can tactically run promotional activities such as competition aimed to gather data. Who will say no to downloading the APP of his/her hero/Team against the possibility to win a signed helmet or a VIP Hospitality Package?

This operation will result in the creation of a proprietary database of passionate supporters and passion is a powerful business driver. When you have the data you can enrich them (adding anything you need) and you can exactly segment your target.

My Team is different, my offering is different.  A new and more impactful package for your sponsor

With this amount of information, you will be able to offer to your potential sponsor a stronger and more effective package. In fact, you will be in the position of ensuring your partners that you will be delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right person.

Long story short, thanks to your DB you will be transforming a generic offering aimed to anybody to a more modern and targeted one. Instead of a sponsorship package you will be offering a digital marketing program based on sport aimed to connect directly the sponsor with your fanbase This is going to differentiate you massively from your competitors.

Another Advantage: different commercial opportunities

Having this approach will result in other advantages as well. Anybody in sponsorship is aware that the sponsorship budget is limited if compared to the entire marketing budget.  Offering this kind of services will open new potential budgets that are out of reach for sports marketers. You will be offering digital marketing activities based on sport, 

Is this a disruptive approach? Yes it is, but why not? If doing the usual old thing doesn’t allow you to thrive it is high time to try something different.

To tell the truth some sectors are experimenting the use of data with satisfaction. In the States there are quite a few operations that are very interesting and in the old continent Real Madrid with its partner Microsoft and UEFA are doing a great job.

Will it be easy to get there? No, but it has to be done because the market will reward the teams with a vision.

The challenge that a motorsports marketing agency is facing is double. First, they have to convince the teams they must change their approach to sponsorship and the way they put together the services on offer. 

The second challenge is linked to timing. Agencies need to produce quick results and any transformation implying the construction of a DB takes time.Are you interested to know more about it? We are a London based sport marketing agency willing to help.

Shashank Jain

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