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November 14, 2016

How Marketers Can Make Their Game All About The Game

Posted by Sumit Virmani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:15 PM

At Barclays ATP World Tour Finals 2016, London: 'World First' Tennis Experience in Virtual Reality, powered by Infosys [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WljstZA2ERk]

Every marketer dreams of getting the audience to root for a brand. And for those seeking to inspire such devotion in customers, the time has never been more conducive to find ways to achieve it through sports marketing, a channel that has often been envied for its reach, but also criticized for its relatively high entry barriers and uncertain ROI. Today, any popular sport commands the love and loyalty of millions, with pervasive digital connectedness only amplifying the phenomenon. Little wonder then that sports marketing is a popular strategy for global brands. Including our own.

But is sports marketing only for brands with deep pockets and a long-term horizon? Is 'logo sponsorship' the ultimate high point? What is the role of innovative experiments in sports marketing? Let's try and answer some of these questions as I share with you the experience of our 12-month journey with ATP World Tour, the governing body of men's professional tennis worldwide.

This journey also led us to deeply appreciate the passion, the deep emotional connect and the bonhomie that bind sports fans with each other and with the sport, and also why this is far too tempting for marketers to resist. That's also the reason why the marketing fraternity, it seems, has upped their own game in this space.

What began, for early adopters, with merely slapping a logo onto the experience of a fan - often relegating the brand to a 'blind spot' in a reverberating arena of high-octane emotions - has evolved into something so much more purposeful today. Today, brands like Coke (through NASCAR, Olympics, and the like) and PepsiCo (NFL, NBA, among others) are creating meaningful storytelling opportunities by building compelling connects between their values and the core values of the sports they sponsor. On the other hand, many technology brands are integrating their capabilities in a variety of ways to further elevate the experience of the sport itself - both for fans and for players.

When it came to what we are doing with ATP World Tour, we wondered if we could inspire and delight our audiences by telling our story - of how technology can amplify people to be more, let the world experience that story for itself, and then showcase to businesses our technology services and ways in which these can empower them.

As our technology (Infosys Information Platform) analyzes over 25 years of data, from 85,000+ tennis matches, it makes the game of tennis be more for fans and players. Fans receive in-the-moment insights while players and coaches have access to data-driven pre and post-match analyses that could help them understand their own and their opponent's games better.

With the excitement of another season-ending ATP World Tour finals in London underway until Sunday 20th November, tennis fans can experience the adrenalin-rush in a whole new way - in fact it's a 'world first'. Visitors to the O2 Fan Zone are immersing themselves in the matches by stepping into unique interactive pods, a virtual tennis world, and this experience is powered jointly by Infosys and Sony. Utilizing both headset tracking technology and physical controller interaction, fans are creating reactive and customizable virtual environments, where data insights and visualizations provide in-depth context as the match unfolds. And in surround sessions, our engineers and consultants are conducting immersive get-to-know-how-technology-can-work-for-you chats for businesses, so they can begin to imagine ways to leverage the right suite of technology services to similarly delight their own end-users.

This has been an incredible experience so far. And a big part of the excitement is from the learning. Learning that it is possible to drive both brand meaning and metrics simultaneously. We can spark the imagination of the masses - potential employees, investors, clients and also generate potential customer value in measurable terms. We can market both in sprints and in a marathon run at the same time. Riding on the social virality of the experience while also leveraging its enduring value to help businesses experience our brand promise. It's been an opportunity to build our brand experience, and also market to influence sales directly. And the quick prototyping of new and more effective tactics and the continuous improving - not unlike what sportspersons themselves do - has been the delightful extra.

If I had to sum up in a word - the opportunity sports marketing presents for brands, I'd say - incredible. And then I'd add the disclaimer that this opportunity is only as valuable as the credibility of the association between the brand and the sport - the congruence of the values they share. Because, as every good marketer knows, every logo derives its meaning from the quality of all the things and experiences it identifies, and therefore it's always worth one more closer look, one more time before taking that call-to-brand. Be it the next shiny object or sweaty sport.

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