Don’t let a sports scandal deflate your brand

by John Snyder, CEO, Grapeshot

Professional sports inspire a passion and engagement in fans that is rarely seen elsewhere. That’s what makes them a perfect media vehicle for global marketers and a perfect target for their brand budgets. But what happens when a sports scandal erupts and your brand is left holding the deflated ball?

The rough-n-tumble world of global professional sports is a potentially hazardous place, not only for athletes, but also for brand marketers who invest commercial media and sponsorship dollars in these high-stakes events.  Over the years, we’ve seen professional sports tainted by scandals, any of which could potentially be a PR disaster for the brands associated with it. But the payoff is so great that the risk-reward ratio still overwhelmingly favors investing in sports marketing.

So I have some really good news…

Advances in data-driven marketing technology mean that marketers now have the ability to enhance brand safety for their sports investments as never before. Over the past several years, technology platforms and software have been introduced that allow brands to monitor where their digital ad investments are going, and to divert spending away from any scandalous or controversial content in real-time.

Imagine if this technology had been available to us in the past. All of those auto and beer companies, who partnered with Major League Baseball for decades, could have easily separated their brands’ messaging from the discouraging avalanche of negative press surrounding the performance-enhancing drug scandals of the 90s and early naughts. MLB superstars like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were alleged to have made steroids a cornerstone of their training regimens, giving MLB, and marketers by association, a huge black eye. If scandal were to erupt again in the MLB universe of today, marketers could safely avoid any content dealing with the controversy.

The National Football League is the single most popular spectator sport in the U.S., and its global popularity is growing. However, the future popularity of the game has been threatened by ongoing controversies over player safety and concussion-related injuries. Brands can be reassured that digital brand safety technology will allow them to monitor the situation, and to inoculate themselves against any bad press.

This summer, sports fans will find themselves targeted by the world’s biggest brands, both at the Summer Olympics in Rio, and the COPA Soccer tournament, which will bring the world’s best players to the USA. Marketing partners for these global events will be well prepared to perform due diligence with their digital ad teams to and ensure that they have real-time brand safety protocols in place.

Professional sports are a source of fun, enthusiasm, and passion for fans. Now marketers can confidently join in the fun while staying in a brand safe environment. With brand safety technology in play, sports can remain a win-win proposition for the leagues and the marketers.

More from Digiday

Cannes Briefing: How Cannes Lions 2024 became the Festival of Creators

The power of the creator economy and its hold on the advertising industry is on full display at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year.

‘More content is better than less’: An annotated Q&A with Esports World Cup CEO Ralf Reichert

With an eye-popping $60 million-plus prize pool, the Esports World Cup has been met with both excitement and skepticism by longtime observers of the space.