Fuse’s Reasons to be Cheerful Series, Part 2

Fuse’s Reasons to be Cheerful Series, Part 2

Pandemic Sparks Surge in Creativity


Fuse chief executive Louise Johnson talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled incredible content innovation, in the second article of a three-part series running this week.

Amid the uncertainties linked to COVID-19 over the past year, sports marketing agencies have worked diligently and creatively to meet the demands of rights holders and brands. In some cases, it’s forced them to develop multiple contingency plans to ensure they deliver effective campaigns and activations.

It’s no understatement to say that more has been achieved in the last 12 months than over the past five years. Sport showed immense imagination in finding ways to continue to engage audiences, and did so more effectively than other aspects of our culture such as film.

Rights holders, broadcasters and brands were forced to reboot their communication strategies to target people stuck at home.

There are many examples. Formula 1 creating virtual Grand Prix versions of their races, with real drivers battling it out with fans and celebrities, stands out as a blurring of the physical and virtual that has added a whole new dimension to the sport.

Some broadcasters added shared viewing options to apps to increase audiences. BT Sport launched its ‘Watch Together’ function that allows friends and families to jointly view Premier League matches and talk at the same time, blurring the lines between football watching and a Zoom call. Verizon did similar for the Super Bowl weekend via the Yahoo Sports app.

Broadcasters’ creativity is likely to get more intuitive and innovative, opening up the new shared viewing experience for sports.

Many brands have seen media plans becoming obsolete overnight, with OOH and print media suffering from people staying in the home. Sponsorship has had its own challenges but shifting to virtual engagement methods has reaped rewards. The pandemic has accelerated the rise of virtual advertising.

Two case studies from the Fuse locker showed what was possible: the launch of the Official British Irish Lions app, powered by Vodafone; this incorporated a brand owned ‘Digital Lion’ activation, accommodating the first ever fan avatar creation at scale. And Southampton FC’s partner Sportsbet created a new VR hospitality experience that uses virtual reality to recreate the magic of matchday at home.

Our industry hasn’t had a reputation for being innovative. But that’s changed fast. The push to be ever more inventive in delivering sports events, broadcasting and brand activations will continue apace. Driving deeper engagement for brands, who have witnessed the clear benefits, will not only maintain their investment in sport but also encourage others to ink sponsorship deals.