Sports sponsorship has always been an ideal way to raise brand awareness, but the rise of Generations Z and Alpha, Covid and technology have impacted how brands approach sponsorships.
Oppo, for instance, previously partnered with FC Barcelona for its Oppo Reno FC Barcelona Edition limited-edition smartphone, which featured Barcelona's Blaugrana colours and different functionalities created especially for the club's fans.
The Chinese electronics giant also worked with the club for digital branded content to raise engagement among fans, TV advertising, and visibility on first-team match days at Camp Nou, the home stadium of FC Barcelona.
However, Dylan Yu, marketing director for Singapore at Oppo, says the brand took advantage of the downtime during the pandemic to review its marketing strategy and found that its competitors' technology was becoming similar.
After speaking to its Gen Z customers, Oppo found that they wanted to align with brands willing to share similar values and opinions before committing their trust to the brand.
That guided Oppo's new brand proposition, 'Inspiration Ahead', which sets the direction for the brand's sports partnerships with organisations like UEFA, Wimbledon, Roland Garros and the International Cricket Council.
"Our new direction for our sports sponsorship is to create more touchpoints with existing and potential users because it is not just about how we can customise our products anymore," Yu explains to Campaign Asia-Pacific.
For example, fans at Wimbledon used the brand's Find X5 Pro function during matches to take photos; this function is said to reduce false hand movements and improve sharpness.
"We also allowed our users in our global membership programme to redeem their points to attend the semi-finals or finals of the competition. For visitors to Wimbledon, we had booths to allow them to experience augmented reality with our smartphones," says Yu.
Data-driven fan engagement
As a rights holder and sponsor, Oppo wants to gather as much data as possible to measure brand engagement and evaluate key metrics like brand awareness, purchase intent and leads generated. Using these data, it will then be able to target specific customer groups both demographically and geographically.
For example, Yu says that Oppo's data from Wimbledon, French Open and the Australia Open were the most popular Grand Slams in Singapore. With this data in hand, Oppo worked with French tennis player Gaël Monfils at Wimbledon in 2021 to produce content on tennis.
"We have used the data for our global ambassador programme, where we find photography influencers and content creators who are relatively unknown to bring them to Wimbledon to experience a Grand Slam," explains Yu.
"The data has also helped us to conduct contests. For example, we have created a VIP room where we invited winners globally, including the Asia Pacific, to experience tennis matches in premium comfort."
For its sponsorship with UEFA, which includes competitions like the Champions League and Super Cup, Oppo will offer football fans the opportunity to go pitch-side throughout the Champions League season and capture critical moments with its products.
Yu explains Oppo wants to use the data to reach audiences with precise targeting through tools like pre-roll ads and localised campaigns for football fans in Singapore and across APAC.
"We are looking at organising watch parties for fans or allowing fans to have video calls with football stars," he says. "This content creation strategy will help us broaden the impact of our partnership with UEFA and explore the technology to precisely reach that."
The future of sports sponsorships
Change abound in traditional sports. Whether digital platforms, artificial intelligence, augmented reality or virtual reality, all of these new developments have changed how sponsors, athletes, federations, clubs and leagues offer their services to consumers.
For example, a report by Grabyo in 2021 found that 79% of sports fans are ready to go streaming-only and are unhappy with the lack of streaming options. They may also choose not to watch live sport if it is only available through broadcast TV subscriptions.
By 2026, Grabyo's report suggests that the pay-TV market will only have a 28% customer share of global sports fans.
Oppo is exploring how to adapt 5G and even 6G technologies and AR glasses in future activations for its sponsorships to create immersive experiences for its consumers. It is also looking at doing more around esports and gaming.
It previously worked with Riot Games to launch a limited Reno7 Pro League of Legends edition for the Chinese market. The device had visual changes compared to the standard version, including LoL colours around the frame and camera and limited edition features.
"For top-rated games, for example, PUBG, we want to look at how we can run the PUBG faster on our devices or prevent information pop-ups for our users when they are playing the game," says Yu.
"We are also looking at tech inside the phones to detect how hot they get when users are gaming. There are also possibilities of allowing our consumers to win tickets to esports competitions or communicate with the players on esports teams. Ultimately, the direction will be similar to our sports sponsorship, where we try to create a relationship with our users."