This was the future presented by Norm O’Reilly, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa specializing in sports business and marketing, at Marketing’s 2012 Sports Marketing Conference in Toronto’s Rogers Centre on Tuesday.
O’Reilly presented research he’s gathered from several sources to illustrate what he sees as a period of significant change in Canada. Pointing to the quickly aging population and the fact that fewer Canadians are getting married and having children, getting kids involved in sports will become a huge challenge as time goes on.
In fact, O’Reilly deems Canada to be facing an “inactivity crisis.” He said according to his research sources, only 13% of Canadian youth do “enough physical activity.” Participation in children’s competitive sports is also in decline.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for marketers trying to affiliate themselves with sports. O’Reilly noted opportunities around the concept of “festivalisation” of sports events. As an example, he said sponsors have been referring to the CFL’s Grey Cup as a festival.
Indeed, creating a massive multi-day event around the Grey Cup was an important theme in Chris Rudge‘s presentation later in the morning. The chair of 100th Grey Cup Festival in Toronto, Rudge (pictured) said his intent is to give fans and sponsors many different opportunities over 10 days of Grey Cup festivities in which to take part.
“We have to be sure that we make a big event and talk about it like it’s a big event,” he said. “This is about creating anticipation.”
Variations on the “festivalisation” theme also came from Tom Wright, director of UFC’s Canadian operations, and Charlie Johnstone, general manager of the Honda Indy in Toronto. Both spoke about creating opportunities for their fans to connect with their sport beyond the actual sporting event.
Another important trend O’Reilly sees is the subtle decline in sponsorship evaluation.“People are afraid of negative results,” said O’Reilly. “But if you’re going to grow sponsorships, you need to know what’s wrong.”
All of this ties in with what O’Reilly sees as the goal of any sports marketing: long-term relationships with consumers. “You want season ticketholders, not one-game buyers.”