Professional sports is one of the more fascinating business sectors on the planet. It represents the ultimate arena for watching profit collide with the competition; the more your team wins, the more money your organization makes. The stakes are entirely evident and never elusive. For those used to cloak and dagger ways of gauging business performance and achieving financial success, the idea of open and honest metrics determining who wins and who loses can feel like a welcome breath of fresh air.
However, as anyone working in the world of professional sports can attest, there’s more action on the sidelines than most people think. While the fate of any sports franchise ultimately rests on its rate of victory and degree of performance, the realm of business-to-business partnerships plays a significant role.
One needs to look no further than the nearest arena or stadium. Are they ever named after the team or the owner? While that used to be the norm, today’s sports venues are typically named after local companies, otherwise unaffiliated with the team. These businesses paid for those naming rights, forming a partnership with the team in the process.
Think it ends there? You’d be wrong. Any first-year program sport management major can tell you the role of B2B partnerships in pro sports is one of the most critical aspects of running a successful franchise. It’s what keeps earnings up when the chips are down and helps maintain community attachment during those less-than-ideal seasons.
One of the more common examples of B2B partnerships in professional sports is promotional giveaways. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, hockey, or other, there tend to be several promotional giveaways happening at games throughout the season. From bobbleheads to t-shirts, these items tend to be sponsored by a local business. For instance, Purina is a pet supply company based in St. Louis, Missouri, known for sponsoring several promotional giveaways for the Cardinals baseball team and Blues hockey games. Like many other B2B pro sports partnerships, Purina and St. Louis pro sports go back decades.
But let’s not forget about “proud partners.” From Coca-Cola to Uber, countless companies of all shapes and sizes are known to reach out for permission to call themselves proud partners of various professional sports clubs. Whether fans realize it or not, these partnerships plant a seed of association in their heads. Hours, days, or weeks later, the association between Brand X and their favourite sports team may lead to a purchase decision that would otherwise never get made.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see what’s in it for the companies willing to shell out millions for these naming rights, promotions, and partnerships. They‘ve almost always seen a boost in traffic, leads, and marketing return-on-investment. It’s one of the only true win-wins in the world of sports.
B2B partnerships in pro sports are also an excellent way for up-and-coming companies and industries to legitimize themselves in the eyes of skeptical consumers. For instance, the Washington Wizards basketball team recently announced a new official team partnership with Socios.com, a company specializing in relatively innovative blockchain technology. While they’re far from the only company trying to carve out a niche in the world of digital ledger technology, they specialize in forging ways for fans to become financial stakeholders in the teams they follow. Pairing up with sports clubs across the world makes sense.
Few industries operate in the cut-and-dry world of professional sports. Unlike the realm of general business, where profit and loss hinge on an almost endless array of platforms and circumstances, success and failure in sport boil down to two outcomes: winning and losing. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors in play. The most significant of which is the way teams can form partnerships with local businesses. While it might not influence what happens on the field, it provides some financial insurance if things don’t go according to plan. And in the world of pro sport, they rarely do.