Our thoughts are with the country and people of Ukraine, hoping a peaceful end is near
On Today’s Agenda:
How Celebrities and Sports Ownership Groups Come Togehter
How Things Will Change Over The Next Decade
How A Small College Team Is Making Their Stamp On Social
Are Celebrity-Owned Sports Teams The Future?
Marshawn Lynch and Macklemore Join Seattle Kraken
The value of professional sports organizations has skyrocketed in recent years. Higher viewership, more expensive television packages, increased merchandise options, and better communication with supporters have all contributed to the growth of sports franchises. In 2011, the combined value of the top ten most expensive sports teams in the world was $14.45 billion. Fast forward ten years to 2021 and the value has increased exponentially to $47.67 billion, a growth of 330%.
It’s no surprise to sports fans that their favourite clubs can no longer be owned by local business people whose sole purpose is to bring the team closer to a championship. More often than not, clubs are now being run with a business-first mentality compared to a win-first mentality, something that has not always been the case. For example, Ligue Un runners-up PSG have shown that you can turn a club into a multi-million dollar brand that’s worn and supported by millions, regardless of on-the-field results. This is creating a new way that teams can earn revenue and has largely contributed to the growth of the value of sports franchises mentioned above.
With the increase in value, less-wealthy owners are being pushed out of the industry due to increasing costs of running the clubs in favour of wealthy, sport-savvy owners. Being a multi-millionaire is no longer enough to own a top sports franchise, we’ve now entered the billionaires game.
With that being said, the general public’s opinion toward extremely-wealthy owners has turned sour. After the Super League disaster last year, thousands of football fans paraded in the streets demanding that their ultra-rich foreign owners sell their favourite clubs immediately. Although they pulled out of the Super League quickly to save face, the same owners of the clubs who participated in it remain. This brings the question, do billionaire owners need celebrity owners to help mitigate the public relations issues of running a professional sports team?
This week, the Seattle Kraken added Grammy-winning rapper Macklemore and Seattle Seahawks legend Marshawn Lynch to their ownership group which is led by David Bonderman. Mackelmore and Lynch are undoubtedly local heroes who will participate in various events in the community and help promote the Kraken name around Washington. However, Bonderman, whose reportedly worth around $4.5 billion, is not as well-liked after resigning from his position as a board member of Uber after a sexist joke during a board meeting.
It’s no mistake why celebrity owners are becoming more popular. Owners like Bonderman have little use for the investments of celebrities whose contributions are often a footnote in the balance sheet. The new owners serve as a face that fans can look to when the team has any issues, instead of the criticism being solely directed to the rich owner. Only time will tell if this tactic will become more popular for owners as sports teams become increasingly exclusive toys for extremely wealthy individuals.
Esports and The 2020s
How Things Will Change Over The Next Decade
Over the past several years we have seen the rise of a new competitor in the global sporting contest: Esports. From the likes of COD League, eFIFA Premier League, to Formula1 Esports Series, Esports is challenging the traditional modes of sports by revolutionizing them to the 20th Century.
In even more recent news (and covered by the sports marketeer last year), Overactive Media, the owners of Esports teams Toronto Defiant and Toronto Ultra announced the plans for a new 7,000+ seat entertainment facility in Ontario’s capital, set to begin construction this year.
Esports is only starting its climb, with revenue reaching just under a billion dollars (yes a BILLION) in 2020, falling just $4 million off the one billion mark. In the past 2 years, Esports revenue growth increased by 14.1% in 2021 and another 21.8% in 2022, totalling over $1.13 billion. Esports is set to continue its major advancements in the sporting industry in the coming years and is set to reach over $1.8 billion in 2025 based on the Compounding Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2020-to 2025.
These figures are estimated to be even higher than anticipated, with global esports sponsorships skyrocketing to over $837 million alone. The table below shows the breakdown of the 2022 esports revenue streams, showing notable increases in each stream from the previous year.
This is exciting news people! Esports worldwide are generating immense growth year upon year upon year in multiple revenue streams, opening the door for some crazy partnerships, events, licensing agreements and more.
Most recently, we’re even seeing the impact of professional video esports streaming on top platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming. More and more streamers are involved in the streaming industry. With the likes of FaZe Clan and Toronto Ultra, the combination of professional streaming popular video games and esports goes hand in hand. Contributing to the growth of esports, popular streamers such as Aydan and FaZe Booya play both in the Call of Duty League and stream daily on Twitch.
We’re even seeing Snoop Dogg take part in this immense growth. Recently, Snoop Dogg was added as an operator skin in Call of Duty: Warzone, both for his fame in the music industry, and as a result of his 725,000 followers on Twitch watching him play Call of Duty and Madden 22.
With everything the gaming industry is proving to us now, is that it can stand on its own two feet and compete with top sports around the world. With billions being generated in revenue each year, esports will only continue to rise, slowly making it one of the most-watched sports in the world, and as we all know, the future is digital.
How David Is Taking On Goliath With Reels
A Small College Team Is Making Their Stamp On Social Media
Talk is cheap if you can’t back it up with proof. While that statement paints a very blunt picture of reality, it does speak to the truth of a results-based society – which is the name of the game in sports, and sports marketing. Earlier this week, we came across a Twitter thread of how a NCAA Division 2 volleyball team was able to add 22,000 IG followers in 2 months. Let’s dive into it:
The University of Tampa (UT), home to 10,500 students (as of Fall 2021 enrollment), participates in the NCAA’s Division II, the second tier of collegiate sports in the USA. With 14 NCAA sports (plus cheerleading, which is non-NCAA), the size of their athletics department is modest. UT does not host a football team, which is arguably the largest NCAA sport – giving us a glimpse into the weight of the program. However, what the UT’s volleyball program has accomplished on social media shows that a well-executed plan can improve any team’s social media presence.
The team’s Instagram account (@tampa_vb) had under 10,000 followers at the beginning of February, which was during the team’s offseason. Their 352% in follower growth translates to a total of 28,900 followers as of April 19th. So the question is – how did they do it?
Short form content. Social media marketers talk about the boom of Tiktok, which has led to every social media platform offering a short form video version of content (IG Reels, Facebook Stories, Snapchat Stories, etc.). The UT volleyball team started using Reels in December of 2021, and since then, have posted a total of 56 Instagram reels, an average of over 11 per month (or 2-3 per week). This consistency is critical, regardless of the engagements early, you can see the steady growth of views on their reel content. Another note on reels – there is no linear growth trend. Some highlight reels have amassed over 1.2 million views, with one reel even posting 62.8 million views. However, their feed is mixed with sprinkles of videos with under 50,000 views as well.
The reels are simple, consistent of practice highlights, in-game highlights, and some off court interviews and promotion. The reels are not taking the latest popular dance trends, but uses trending audio bites, which allows for their reels to organically appear on Instagram Users’ explore page. Platforms like Instagram make it easy to take viral audio clips and add them to any reel you upload.
As of Friday, April 22nd (the day this edition of the Sport Marketeer was sent to your inbox), the University of Tampa Volleyball IG account has 74,300 followers and counting. The contrast between static posts and reels is night and day – averaging over 10,000 likes on the reels compared to the sub 500 likes on their gameday and scrimmage posts.
What does this all mean for sports marketers, athletes, and any individual (or team) looking to expand their social media brand presence? Actions speak louder than words. In a chapter of James Clear’s Atomic Habits, he discusses that people often mistake motion for action. Meaning that time spent planning and strategizing is confused for actual progress and real action. On social media, no one sees the planning and preparation that goes into a post – only the post itself. Getting over the barrier of planning for perfection and allowing for room to make mistakes and improve starts the cycle of action. A social media strategy is crucial to grow a brand with an intended goal and mission. Being stuck in the loop of planning and revising without ever executing is where even the greatest of plans can falter.
One last note on the University of Tampa’s volleyball program – there is no men’s volleyball team at the university. The account, and all content is centered around their #1 ranked DII volleyball program – and it’s all female. While the growth of women’s sports continues to be underestimated by some, the numbers don’t lie.