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Ken Borland

The sports industry has new targets 0

Posted on August 01, 2018 by Ken


Nielsen Sports, the provider of analytics for the sports industry, recently gave their annual presentation on the biggest trends in sports business and the two major talking points over the last year are the rise of e-Sports and the fact that sports bodies and their sponsors have to know who their fans are in this rapidly evolving marketplace.

Their research shows that, on average, only 10-15% of any sport’s fans are actually ‘game experts’ – people who have intimate knowledge of the rules, history, players, tactics etc. So any sports body or sponsor that only targets this section of the fan base are clearly missing out, for instance, on the 30-35% of ‘connection fans’ – for them it’s about the big event and they are the people packing out the stadia for Pink Day, the Cape Town Sevens rugby or the Durban July.

In the past, the relationship between a sport and a brand was based on the sponsor wanting visibility and the sport just wanting money. But this relationship is now much broader and the rights a sports body sells need to be more flexible and more tailored to their specific partners. Sponsors these days want to own stories and content rules in this digital age in which internet advertising spend overtook that for TV worldwide last year.

It was disappointing to hear that our traditional sports like rugby and cricket are battling to grow in this environment. In South Africa, 25% fewer millennials are interested in rugby, and cricket has seen the same drop in support.

The fastest growing sport in the world is e-Sports, which is basically what professional, competitive gaming is called, and unfortunately, rugby and cricket just don’t have games on the market that are good enough. Research has shown that there is a strong crossover between people who play the virtual game on their computers and supporting the actual ‘live’ sport. For instance, Fifa’s eWorldCup drew seven million gamers last year and Formula One enjoyed similar success with their eSports Final, the winner of which gained a one-year contract as a simulator driver for McLaren.

That e-Sports is rapidly evolving into a major player in the sports industry is shown by the fact that one-third of all their fans came onboard in the last year and they are typically millennial men with money to spend. Which means major global brands like Gillette, C-Smart and Mercedes are moving into that space, the higher LSM also attracting sponsors like Audi and Mountain Dew. Gaming is a $32 billion industry now and at the competitive level it is a mega-production, a whole show with adverts, sponsored decks and kids packed into stadia.

This year’s Overwatch League features 12 franchises based in cities like Boston, London and Shanghai who paid $20 million each to participate. The broadcast rights were sold for $90 million and the average audience is 280 000 per minute.

Speaking of broadcast rights, this field has also become extraordinarily broad for sponsors and sports bodies. Pay TV’s influence is still stable, but there are disruptors now in the picture, especially tech giants like Amazon and Facebook and even Twitter.

The cellphone has become a way of life and we are living in a mobile-first generation. Although high data costs hold us back in South Africa, 20% of local football viewers watch via internet streams, with 69% of those people watching the game live and 42% of those watching the whole game.

Rugby has 25% of its viewers streaming the game, 68% of that watching live and 48% for the whole game; cricket’s figures are 22% streaming, 78% of that live and 40% watching the full game.

The sports industry is certainly a very fluid environment for rights-holders and sponsors to get their heads around.

Quotas are the fees CSA must pay for political support 0

Posted on April 14, 2017 by Ken


One way of thinking of quotas is as the fees sports bodies must pay to the minister of sport for political support, so the great news that Fikile Mbalula and his circus have been removed from sport creates a new dynamic.

Of course, rational sports fans and true patriots will be treating the appointment of Thulas Nxesi as the new minister of sport with some caution. Judging by his obfuscation of the Nkandla issue during his previous role as minister of public works, he seems to struggle with figures and the quota calculations used in cricket might be a challenge for him.

Ironically, Cricket South Africa actually presented a report on their transformation successes to parliament’s sports portfolio committee this week and they managed to meet their targets with a bit of wriggle room.

Over the last international season, the Proteas were meant to provide 161 playing opportunities for players of colour and 54 for Black Africans, and they have surpassed those quotas by a percentage point or two.

So the system seems to be working at international level and has been met with approval by coach Russell Domingo and the players, who are probably most grateful for the fact that they now know exactly where they stand.

But our domestic cricket is also vital as the feeder to the Proteas and the different system of quotas used here has certainly detracted from the quality of fare on offer. Not so much in terms of the players not being good enough to play at that level, but rather because of the imbalances caused by having a hard-and-fast rule of five Whites and six players of colour, three of which must be Black Africans.

The Momentum One-Day Cup final was played in Centurion on Friday between the Titans and the Warriors, an exact repeat of the CSA T20 Challenge final.

In the T20 final, the Warriors were unable to play their leading wicket-taker, Andrew Birch, because the quota and the need to balance the side dictated that either he or Kyle Abbott would play, but not both. Similarly, the Titans went into the 50-over final without two of their key players – leg-spinner Shaun von Berg, their most successful bowler, and all-rounder David Wiese, an international and potent force in limited-overs cricket. That’s due to the return from Proteas duty of Tabraiz Shamsi and Chris Morris.

To prevent these occurences, which clearly detract from the occasion of a final and bring the whole system into disrepute, why are the franchises not allowed a package deal just like the Proteas? Why can’t their transformation successes be measured as a total figure at the end of the season? Then playing their best team in a final is possible, as long as they have concentrated on ensuring they are ahead of the transformation curve in the regular season.

It’s funny how quickly solutions can be found when money is the issue. Cricket South Africa’s new T20 Global League has a focus on securing foreign investment and the sport’s governing body has realised that team owners are going to want to pick their teams strictly on merit, or else they will take their money elsewhere.

And so it seems there will be no quotas or transformation targets in that competition. Moral principles and the need to redress the past have all suddenly flown out the window because of money. But CSA would certainly be speaking the same language as Mbalula and his successor Nxesi in that regard.

Are our national team or our professional franchises so unimportant that they don’t deserve the same consideration?

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