Business Of Sport - Have you got your Ear to the Ground?
Business Of Sport - Our questions put to Richard Adelsberg from Ear to the Ground
Richard is MD at Ear to the Ground., a UK based sport and music marketing agency, working with some of the world’s biggest brands and rights holders in global sport. Clients include Nike, Beats by Dre, PlayStation, UEFA, Arsenal, Fanatics, Championship Horse Racing and Cricket World Cup.
Their Fan Intelligence network of over 6,000 creative, intelligent & culturally influential fans makes the agency's insight & creative processes stronger whilst helping clients crossover into wider culture, lifestyle & entertainment.
We got up close and personal (emails from 350 miles away) with Rich and asked him his thoughts on the sports marketing world in 2019 and beyond…
The Sporting Blog : Rich, in your opinion, what have been the most beneficial campaigns in sport over the last few years? For fans and brands alike.
Rich Adelsberg :The most obvious and high profile campaign would be Nike ‘Dream Crazy’. In such a divided world I think it’s massively important to stand for something and Nike have unequivocally backed their ambassadors.
Nike are living truth that brands can have an opinion and stance on the subjects that people care most about. Plus they boasted a pretty sizeable sales spike!
TSB : How do brands and rights holder measure the impact of these campaigns in a meaningful way? Are 'likes' and re-tweets meaningful engagements anymore?
RA : Likes and retweets can still be meaningful engagements but it depends who they are (and if they are actually real!) but it is most important to understand what you are actually trying to achieve. Too often clients don’t really know what success looks like before they go into a campaign so end up falling back on vanity stats to make themselves look good when they get quizzed by their bosses.
I know it’s easy for me to say but I wish more clients actually thought about what real success was in the context of their wider business challenges. It’s so lazy (and misleading) to ask your agency to inflate numbers and show reach / views figures to your boss because you know it will tick a box.
I’d hate to think about how much money is wasted every day through this smoke and mirror reporting. Impact can always be easily measured with the right upfront planning, I just question whether people are up for the difficult questions and hard work that the truth may bring.
TSB : At what point did you see 'sports & entertainment' become one in the same thing from an agency point of view?
RA : We’ve always believed that sport and music fans share almost identical characteristics and behaviour traits, this is why it’s a natural specialism for an agency that is obsessed with understanding fan-bases. Fans differ so greatly from consumers, if you can understand these differences then you can start to work out how to drive engagement with a brand or rights holder.
The wider entertainment ’tag’ is sometimes a little bit of an add on I find - it’s quite often traditional sports agencies trying to convince their clients that they understand culture. I think it’s really important to know what you are good at and just do that really really well.
TSB : Do you see the role of the agency changing at all over the next 5 years?
RA : Yes, it has to. It will probably change more than once. The world is changing so fast and the agency model has to keep up. That doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the holy grail of retained work. It just means that agencies must be prepared to evolve and continue to make themselves relevant to the clients they are trying to help.
We’ve developed and invested in a tech platform, Fan Intelligence, for this exact reason. We’re seeing media owners pitch for big strategy work and ad agencies fight for influencer work - it’s pretty competitive at the moment but as I said before don’t fight for everything or else it’s easy to get lost in what is a convoluted and confusing landscape.
TSB : Aside from your existing clients, who are the brands and sporting properties you'd love to work with in the future?
RA : We are lucky to work with some phenomenal brands and rights holders (UEFA, Beats by Dre, Nike, PlayStation, Championship Horse Racing, Cricket World Cup to name a few) but we are looking for two more pillar clients to add to our roster.
I’m not going to name specific brands but I actually wouldn’t mind working more with the perceived less sexy brands. Some of our most challenging and successful work has been with financial, energy and alcohol brands who have signed a sport or music sponsorship - so i’m going to say a brand in one of those sectors. I’d pick up the phone to Red Bull, Coca Cola and Lucozade if they called too!
TSB : Next big thing in sports marketing?
RA : It’s hard to give only give you one so here’s 5 quickfire areas that everyone should be considering:
1. The continued rise of OTT broadcasting and the inevitable power plays from rights holders like UEFA, EPL and La Liga.
2. All eyes on female sport - this summer will be huge and we’ve been planning for 18 months plus with some clients. However, very few brands have figured out their role still and are in danger of lacking authenticity
3. Non-endemic brands and their role in eSports. We firmly believe that eSports audiences are actually very open to these brands but only if they approach things intelligently and with purpose
4. Sport x Music campaigns. We strongly believe that nothing compares to a campaign that brings sport and music together, plus young sports fans now expect it. We’ve seen incredible results when these two worlds collide but we’ve also seen it done very badly! It still needs to make sense and not feel forced.
5. Acquisition of specialists. The industry is changing so fast and some established agencies have been caught on their heels. Their response will be restructuring and acquisition. Agencies who innovate through sports tech and independent agencies with a clear specialism will be the most sought after.