Staff Reporters
Feb 8, 2024

APAC marketers navigate ethical challenges amid global surge in sports media spend

TOP OF THE CHARTS: WARC's latest insights reveal five key trends impacting marketing leaders today, including the challenge of overcoming "sportswashing" as media investment rises in the industry.

Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty Images.
The WARC Marketer's Toolkit 2024 is a strategic resource released by WARC, providing support for marketers in planning and decision-making for the upcoming year. It is based on their proprietary GEISTE trends research, with insights from over 1,400 global marketers, and one-to-one interviews with marketing leaders. The 13th edition of the toolkit identifies five key trends that are expected to shape global marketing strategies in 2024. These include socio-political polarisation, the integration of generative AI, a crisis in masculinity, the phenomenon of "sportswashing," and a focus on community-based sustainability. The research aims to help marketers navigate challenges and capitalise on opportunities in the evolving landscape.
We unpack the "Sportswashing" trend and how it's unfolding globally and in APAC.
Key findings:
  • "Sportswashing" refers to the alleged practice where entities with poor human rights records invest in sports to improve their public image.
  • Investment in sports is seen as a strategy to bolster reputation, raising ethical considerations.
  • Brands should consider the significance of having a clear purpose, ensuring that their values are genuinely integrated into all facets of their marketing. This entails not necessarily terminating sponsorships when challenging discussions emerge, but rather, it demands a readiness to interact with dissatisfied consumers and a commitment to open and meaningful dialogues on challenging subjects.

  • Marketers are urged to develop new content formats, engage with diverse sports communities, and use data-driven insights for performance tracking.

  • 36% of APAC marketers think that although useful, buying advertising/sponsorship for top tier sports events is just one part of their media plan.

  • TV firms are spending ever greater sums for sports rights. Global spending on sports media rights is forecast to reach $60.9 billion in 2024, per SportsBusiness data, up 18.9% on pre-pandemic levels, with traditional broadcasters digging deeper to retain access to prime sports assets.
  • Major live sport moments still deliver mass audience reach. Over 115 million viewers tuned in across Fox properties to watch Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII last year making it the most watched US telecast of all time.
  • However, sport will not reverse declines in linear TV ad spend. In the UK, spend with linear TV is forecast to remain in decline (-1.6%) throughout the summer of 2024, according to WARC Media data. A similar picture emerges in Germany (-0.6%), which will host Euro 2024, although France bucks the trend (+4.9%). In the US, a recovery of linear TV spend (+6.3%) will owe more to favourable year-on-year comparisons and the upcoming US Presidential election than to sport.
  • Fragmentation of sports rights threatens mass reach moment. NFL coverage spans broadcast and cable TV (NBC, ESPN) as well as OTT (Peacock, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV) and mobile app (NFL+). It is becoming costlier and more complex for fans to follow all live games.
  • Social media is taking centre stage as a sports channel. 93% of 18 to 24-year-olds engage with sport on social media at least weekly. However, Gen Z fandom is more ‘fluid’. Younger cohorts are often more interested in athletes’ stories, rather than teams or competitions.
  • Streamers are tapping into a passion for sports stories. Amazon and Netflix are beginning to acquire live sports rights. However, they are also capitalising on a desire for behind the scenes storytelling, with documentary series such as Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive.
  • Advertising remains a key part of the Super Bowl experience. Nearly three-quarters (73.0%) of those planning to watch Super Bowl LVIII on 11 February intend to watch the commercials. Last year’s broadcast earned Fox an estimated $650 million in gross ad revenue, with brands spending up to $7 million for a 30 second spot.
Campaign Asia

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