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Sports marketing: How data collaboration has transformed sponsorship



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February 8, 2023 | 7 min read

The NFL and their brand sponsors can expect a record number of viewers for Super Bowl LVII

In Altman Solon’s 2022 Global Sports Survey, it was revealed that viewership of live sporting events has grown across all surveyed countries since 2020, in some cases by as much as 32%. Post-pandemic there has been an unassailable boom in total sports interest, which - when coupled with the growth in prominence of women’s professional sports - is driving increased activity and interest from brand sponsors who want to capitalize on all of this fan engagement.

Behind the scenes, teams, clubs and rights holders are also increasingly digitizing their matchday and fan engagement experiences through electronic ticketing, mobile applications, contests/sweepstakes, AR/VR experiences and fantasy sports. This is all creating fertile ground for a revolution in how value is defined and delivered from sports sponsorships, as data becomes a key currency.

As a result the term “data clean room” is now becoming commonplace in the modern sports marketer’s lexicon. This technology, and the broader practice of data collaboration, is rising in prominence. Data collaboration allows those increasingly data rich stakeholders to provision secure, permissioned access to their data for key sponsors, without compromising fan trust or falling foul of privacy regulations.

But how exactly is data collaboration being leveraged in sponsorship marketing today? Let’s break it down by looking at some of the main constituents, the different offensive and defensive tactics, and the use cases they are employing in the market to secure an edge…

What upsides can rights holders & governing bodies expect from data collaboration?

Most sporting bodies today look vastly different to as recently as five years ago. We have seen the rapid maturation and adoption of cloud, mobile and video technology which has allowed professional bodies like the NFL in the USA and Premier League in the UK to amass incredible amounts of data on their fans, scaling into the hundreds of millions of records.

A byproduct of this newfound intelligence is that the rights holders are now looking to leverage this data to secure more partners, increase their share of sponsorship budgets, and be proactive in painting a more detailed picture of their fanbase.

Offensive tactics for rights holders & governing bodies

  • Bring well-lit data & insights to the table in new sponsorship negotiations
  • Create new opportunities to partner with sponsors leveraging their own data
  • Utilize data clean room tech to power high margin, identity based fan media networks

Defensive tactics for rights holders & governing bodies

  • Bring detailed insights & analyses to the table in sponsor renewal pitches to retain budget
  • Counteract any sponsor concerns around attribution of impact & effectiveness

Playbook example

A sporting body is using Habu in the sponsorship pitch process to allow potential and existing sponsors to bring their data and overlay it with their fanbase on an aggregate basis. Reports are provided which allow brand partners to understand demographics, density, and even potential sales lift by combining external transactional data sources.

How do brands and sponsors gain value from data collaboration

It’s not just the rights holders leaning into data collaboration though. A perfect storm of identity deprecation, regulation and the disappearance of third-party data has industries big on sponsorship marketing actively pursuing clean room enabled initiatives today.

Everyone from auto OEMs, to B2B software, to consumer goods companies are now looking at how they can utilize technology like data clean rooms to power direct data collaborations with their global sponsorship portfolios. Partly this is to increase their level of understanding and consumer insights, but increasingly in a high-inflation world it is becoming important to drive and attribute direct outcomes from what are often expensive, long-term partnerships.

Offensive tactics for brands and sponsors

  • Broker access to unique fan data by utilizing their own data clean room technology
  • Combine insights and signals from rights holders with their existing media activity to attribute impact and understand halo effects pre, during and post events
  • Connect their consumer models to scaled fan datasets to obtain unique insights and inference to gain a competitive advantage over peers

Defensive tactics for brands and sponsors

  • Get more “bang for their buck” to appease CFOs at a time of increased investment scrutiny
  • Reduce dependency on existing third-party data sources and the walled gardens

Playbook example

A global CPG is using Habu to build completely custom fan journey funnels. They have partnered with a global sporting body to co-analyze the various CRM attributes and fan segmentations, without the data needing to be moved or exposed. These audiences are being addressed with co-branded media before and during key events, with the ability to measure sales impact at a segment level.

How do agencies play a part in data collaboration?

As data collaboration goes mainstream, many savvy agencies are licensing and adopting data clean rooms themselves, bundling the technology in with existing sports marketing services. By bringing this innovative new technology into their service and strategy offerings, these agencies are able to differentiate from their competitors and win more pitches themselves.

Additionally, agencies have the unique opportunity to create bigger network effects within their broader client bases, increasing value and client stickiness. They also have an opportunity to bring clean rooms to a greater set of sports constituents by aggregating the mid-market and long tail of events and brands.

Importantly, many of the traditional concerns around data handling and access which have hit agencies in the past are able to be negated with clean room technology. Clients, whether rights holders or brands, are able to retain custody of their data throughout but get the outcomes they need from their service and strategy partners.

Offensive tactics for agencies

  • License clean room tech and bundle as part of agency offering to create new product streams
  • Out compete agency peers with differentiated data offering
  • Derive outcomes from client data that was previously inaccessible due to regulation and privacy

Defensive tactics for agencies

  • Insulate agency and agency data-driven products against potential new privacy or regulatory changes
  • Minimize access to client data, reducing risk exposure

Playbook example

A leading sports marketing agency is using Habu to provide clean rooms alongside their existing media planning and buying services. This is allowing them to utilize the overlap of a sponsor’s and a rights holder’s data in order to drive highly targeted activation into the walled gardens, ultimately delivering better on-target reach and performance for their clients.

Final score

Inherent network effects already present in sports marketing and sponsorships make this the perfect place for data collaboration to take off at scale. We may only be in the early innings of data collaboration in sports, but the pace of adoption and use case iteration points to this being a mainstream year for technology such as data clean rooms.

For now, the onus will largely be on rights holders to innovate and bring data offerings to the table, but we will also see the larger global brands looking to establish control and build their own clean room programs in order to take advantage of their scale and clout. We should expect more agencies to jump into the fray, bringing hybrid commercial and service models that take the best of their expertise and combine it with cutting edge technology to produce new data products specific to the sector.

If you want to know more or talk through your own data collaboration use cases feel free to contact us via our website or reach out to us at

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