Dragan Perendija, Andrej Kandare
The technology software company SAP has been expanding its relationships within the sports and entertainment worlds. They are partnering with some of the biggest global sporting brands – Manchester City FC, Bayern Munich, San Francisco 49ers, NHL, NBA and others – to showcase the company’s technological expertise. SPORTO talked to SAP’s Bjoern Ganzhorn and Achim Ittner about the influence of technology and the strategy behind their partnerships.
SAP's technology helps sailors analyse their performance and optimize their strategy.
In the world where technology and digitalization have been playing an ever more important role, Bjoern Ganzhorn, Head of Global Sponsorship at SAP, explained for SPORTO Magazine the idea of mutually beneficial relationships between the company and their sponsorship partners as well as their guidelines ‘Authentic’, ‘Global Yet Local’ and ‘Sustainable’. “Sponsor partners need to actually use the products and services they promote. If there’s no product showcase, then there’s no business case. Authenticity breeds credibility, credibility breeds trust, and a partnership based on trust yields the most for both parties,” Ganzhorn clarified the first guideline of ‘Sponsorship 2.0’. “Today’s fast-changing and technology-enabled marketing and consumer landscapes demand a dynamic model of corporate sponsorship that goes beyond a simple and difficult to justify ‘pay-for-placement’. Globally relatable compelling and brand-driven stories lead to greater message scale, impact, and more consistent benefits for the partnership. And the real way to remain sustainable is to have partnerships that are versatile, that cover the first two guidelines, opening additional avenues for revenue generation,” added Ganzhorn. He also revealed their strategy and partnering approach: “We not only help our partners run better on the field, in the stands and in the front office, but we also enable them to more intimately experience SAP, see the value of our products and services, and then share the story authentically. That’s a more inspiring than simple logo placement! It’s a collaborative effort.”
“Nowadays, everybody can have access to stats in real-time. Fans are creating and consuming content whenever they want, leveraging social media channels. Another reason why live-stats are getting more and more important is the growth of real-time betting companies.”
They continue to cooperate with numerous ambassadors and have recently boosted their team with the tennis star Angelique Kerber, who is an early adopter of the SAP Tennis Analytics app (that helps to analyse her performance leading into and during WTA matches). SAP engages dynamically with their ambassadors and use their feedback for new developments; along with Kerber, some of the brand ambassadors include the TV analyst and former NBA star Grant Hill and NHL’s expert and ‘Hall of Famer’ Eddie Olczyk.
Real-time statistical experience, connected stadiums and the future
“Professional sport is, like every business on the highest level, a very competitive field”, confirmed Achim Ittner, Head of Business Development Sports at SAP. “Our technology provides teams and organizations with important insights, so decisions can be taken faster and better. This applies for sport-clubs – on the coaching side – that want to do personalized training-management, data-driven talent-scouting or injury prevention, but also on the business side, where the clubs want to know more about their fans in order to provide them with better services that fulfil their needs. And, of course, the needs of the fans have also changed a lot in the recent years.” The whole consumption of sport has changed. Only a decade ago, people were mainly following sports live in the stadiums and on TV in the comfort of their living rooms. Fans now have immediate access to live statistical experiences, which signifies the importance of real-time data in the industry, and how it links to the behaviour of sports fans in the 21st century. One of SAP’s recent projects was with the NBA and its 65 years of history and statistics. “Statistics didn’t use to play an important role during the events. One of the main reasons is simple: the information was not available in real-time and it was the choice of the journalists when to provide stats. With the introduction of live-stats and second-screen mobile applications, nowadays everybody can have access to stats in real-time. Fans are creating and consuming content whenever they want, leveraging social media channels. It’s getting much easier for a fan to act like a coach as he has all the information available live. Another reason why live-stats are getting more and more important is the growth of real-time betting companies,” explained Ittner.
#CityPulse Fan Wall at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.
SAP also provides statistical insights for the fans of NHL and WTA and leverages sponsorship through different assets and competitions, in addition to the afore mentioned, in golf, sailing, football … Recently, SAP joined forces with FEI (The International Federation for Equestrian Sports) to push forward the FEI’s global fan engagement strategy for equestrian sport. An immediate key benefit of this partnership is the dressage free app ‘Spectator Judging’ that allows the audience to get in the judges’ seats during the competition and create real-time scores and rankings, which are then shown side-by-side with the official results on the arena scoreboards. Concerning the fan engagement side, SAP is also involved with the #CityPulse Fan Wall initiative, where supporters of the Manchester City FC have access to key player statistics and a range of exciting contents in the build-up to the home games at Etihad Stadium. City Football Group’s goal is to become the most digitally engaged and innovative group in the world. They currently engage with 50 million followers across all social platforms. “This is a huge asset, but also needs to be managed properly. We have powerful cloud platforms that can easily work with this amount of data but initiate campaigns that are focused to an individual fan. We can offer each fan an individual and personalized fan-experience although they are part of a huge fan community,” is convinced Ittner.
“We also enable our partners to more intimately experience SAP, see the value of our products and services, and then share the story authentically. That’s a more inspiring than simple logo placement! It’s a collaborative effort.”
Together with real-time data, the question of digitalization in stadiums arises. According to Ittner, there are two drivers in influencing a connected stadium: fan engagement and security. The technology is already here, with cameras tracking movements, face-recognition technologies, beacons, access-control system, E-ticketing … Ittner describes this as digital situational awareness: “It’s up to the club and the society how they want to leverage these technologies. This can be in the context of security in order to identify blacklisted hooligans or in order to personalize fan-experiences in the merchandising store with personalized offerings.”
Where does the future lie is a common question and recently it has been, more than ever, linked to the use of technology. Among recent developments, Ittner lists the internet of things, big-data, big-data semantic analysis, digital twins and, where also SAP has a go, machine learning: “I expect that machine learning will have a great impact on the improvements for tactics and training exercises. A machine could act as a coaching-tool to improve the scoring skills of a player.” One example of ‘futuristic’ technology, a 360º football-training machine Footbonaut, has already been used in Germany since 2012. Ongoing technological changes have made the beginning of the 21st
century very interesting and in some aspects sports industry, together with partners like SAP, is trying to be at the forefront of innovation.
This text was first published in the SPORTO Magazine No. 9 (May 2017).