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What Will Define Sports Marketing in 2020 + 2021?

GMR's Sports Business Journal honorees sound off

We asked our SBJ honorees to give us insight into what they’ve been keeping tabs on the sports world—and what they predict we’ll be watching at this time next year. Here’s what they said (in no particular order).

Ana Shapiro Queenan, SBJ Game Changer

Watching now: As technology in equipment continues to advance in all sports, what is the responsibility of the sport federations and governing bodies to govern the equipment that athletes wear to ensure fair access and competition for all, regardless of sponsorship ties, access to new technologies, income and geography? Some have called for bans on equipment that could potentially improve performance, but others believe that nothing should be done as equipment innovation is part of the evolution of sport. With the summer Olympics on the horizon, it will be interesting to see the new technology in equipment and what regulations will be put in place. 

Watching this time next year: Hopefully we will be celebrating advancement in women’s professional leagues (i.e. ice hockey) and more federations/leagues/teams that commit to equal pay for all athletes, regardless of gender. 

Jimmy Bruns, SBJ Forty Under 40

Watching now: The continued evolution of legalized sports betting and the corresponding impact on the sports landscape. This trend has the ability to drive fan interest and engagement in ways we have rarely seen in the past. The current state-by-state model will make it harder for stakeholders to navigate the complexities of an already complicated issue, but the potential payoff in all forms will have everyone trying to figure it out as soon as possible.

Watching this time next year: More venues will be trying to establish in-game or onsite betting, implementing games, contests and other prediction games to train their fan bases for when the legal environment allows them to fully explore betting.

Tyson Webber, SBJ Forty Under 40

Watching now: The effect of sports and entertainment on politics in the US, as well as the effect of politics on sports and entertainment, especially as it relates to brands and their investment in the space. Kaepernick, LeBron, etc. have all taken strong stances and we have seen divergent brand reaction to these stances, actions and consumer sentiment. Going into a presidential election year, this likely will get elevated and brand sensitivity heightened.

Watching this time next year: We will continue to see athletes and entertainers use their voice and platform for change, no matter who wins the election.

Cameron Wagner, SBJ Forty Under 40

Watching now: With Gen Z and Gen Y demanding authenticity from brands and calling out companies who appear to be supporting causes for disingenuous reasons, brands are seeking how purpose-driven initiatives can be at the center of sponsorships and partnerships, versus an add-on. We are seeing brands evaluate the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on a purpose-driven initiative as a primary criteria with potential sponsorships. As more brands prioritize this, the potential positive impact on communities, causes and initiatives could change the face of the sponsorship model.

Watching this time next year: We’ll be seeing how the NCAA athlete payments rules amendment change will impact the collegiate sports landscape.

Chris Wujcik, SBJ Forty Under 40

Watching now: New revenue sources for sports entities. Not long ago, certain brands/categories were considered taboo in the world of sports sponsorships: spirits, casinos, sports gambling. Also, certain sacred marketing branding locations were once off-limits, like uniforms and jerseys. But as properties are pressured to increase revenue streams, those restrictions have loosened and will continue to expand across the industry. How far will they spread and what will be the next forbidden category to fall?

Watching this time next year: CBD will begin to infuse itself into the world of sports and sports sponsorship.

Adam Lippard, SBJ Forty Under 40

Watching now: Neurodiversity and mindfulness with professional sports athletes. Examples include the Headspace App/NBA partnership, players speaking publicly about depression and anxiety, and the documentary The Weight of Gold, which shares Olympic athletes’ personal stories and struggles with mental health.

Watching this time next year: We’ll see data security, fraud and cheating issues with regards to legalized gambling.

Jessie Giordano, SBJ Game Changer

Watching now: Joint sponsorship agreements to help offset rising rights fees. For example, in June, The Coca-Cola Company and China Mengniu Dairy Company announced that they’ve signed the first-ever Joint TOP Partnership Agreement. 

Watching this time next year: Athletes will put increased focus on tying their salaries and performance to purposeful initiatives. Global football stars like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Juan Mata have already joined Common Goal, donating 1% of their annual salaries for social good.

Todd Fischer, SBJ Forty Under 40 + College Sports Power Player

Watching now: The influence and impact of B2B companies in the sports and sponsorship landscape. B2B companies across sectors including technology, finance, and business services are reshaping the sponsorship landscape with a wave of new investments and authentic enhancements to venues, data application, and customer experiences. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship as leagues and teams look to innovate and enhance their own business operations and B2B companies look for new ways to showcase themselves to customers in high-profile settings, differentiate from their competitors, and create new revenue streams. The ability to show return on investment across customer sales impact and reciprocal revenue generation will keep B2B categories growing at a rapid pace. 

Watching this time next year: We’ll see the implications of significant structural changes proposed by major sporting leagues, including the NBA changing its season to feature a mid-year tournament and Major League Baseball considering “robot” umpires. 

Matt Hill, SBJ Forty Under 40

Watching now: Gender equality in sports. We’re six months removed from the US Women's National Team winning the 2019 World Cup and six months from them attempting to win Olympic gold in Japan. And they’re currently suing the US Soccer Federation over gender discrimination. What implications will the outcome of that lawsuit have on women’s sports in the US and around the world?

Watching this time next year: A year from now, the NFL, NHL and MLS will be approaching their next round of TV rights negotiations. This will be our first opportunity to see how aggressively OTT players like Amazon, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pursue a major national rights package—and how the properties slice up the broadcast rights pie. Are we a cycle too soon, or will any of these players be willing to battle CBS, ESPN, FOX and NBC for the right to stream major live sports?

To learn more about GMR, or to connect with our SBJ honorees, find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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