By: Steve McNelley, SVP, Consulting & Integrated Client Services, rEvolution

Sports may have drastically changed these past few weeks, but what we love about them hasn’t faded (nor will it). We still take pride in wearing our team and player jerseys; we revel in binge-watching moments and stories of sports greatness; and we are still passionate about debating the GOATs (if now virtually). Sports fandom definitely feels different right now but it’s just as strong. As brands, investing in and authentically connecting with these fans is more important than ever.

Sports partnerships will prove the difference in the strength of sports’ return. This is not the time for brands to shy away, rather the time to step up and think strategically, stay optimistic (and realistic), be nimble and unafraid to take risks. Rather than think about just the dollars and cents, we need to come together as sports marketing experts to create custom solutions that get us through this together — and ensure sports come back stronger on the other side. Sports fans aren’t gone, but the old ways of engaging with them are (for the time being at least). It’s up to us to highlight these new moments of fandom and offer innovative ways to connect and enhance experiences.

At rEvolution, we’ve always known our integrated marketing model is a key differentiator – it’s what makes us stand out as an agency in the sports business. Now, it gives us an even greater edge as we leverage our comprehensive data and analytics resources while also tapping experts from every service team to consider the current pause and eventual return of sports from every angle. We’re evaluating games without fans in venue, neutral sites, shortened seasons, conference/division realignments, digital-heavy experiences – with the ultimate goal to deliver meaningful, innovative marketing solutions for our client partners. We accept the challenge to be even more creative: finding new value opportunities with existing assets (in-venue signage, videoboard, retail promotions, branded spaces and fan fests) and uncovering how technology, such as dynamic and geo-targeted signage, can increase inventory and meet demand for TV-visible assets.

We’re all looking forward to sports returning to what we consider “normal.” While the road back to “full speed ahead” will be long, it’s one full of opportunities for meaningful engagement. If we’ve ever needed motivation to kick ass as sports marketers, now’s the time. It’s going to take cooperative negotiation from sponsors and rights holders, plus a lot of innovation from creative, to find new ways of keeping fans engaged as we rebuild sports as we know them.

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Steve McNelley (SVP, Consulting & Integrated Client Services) leads rEvolution’s consulting group with a deep knowledge and understanding of the sports industry, including expertise across brand marketing and advertising, sponsorship strategy and consulting, as well as technology integration. If you’re in need of a sounding board for your current partnerships, don’t hesitate to reach out to him any time. You can also find an overview of rEvolution’s consulting expertise here.