At the recent New Economy Summit 2018 (NEST) in Tokyo, a diverse group of panelists representing FC Barcelona, NBA, Nielsen Sports and Rakuten assembled to discuss trends in global sports marketing, particularly the art and science of successful corporate partnerships. While agreeing on the importance of data in decision-making, the panelists also honed in on the importance of values that are shared by both the club or athlete and the sponsor.

“We are moving from a sponsorship model to a partnership model,” commented Judith Rubinat, FC Barcelona’s Head of Partnership Activation.

“We are moving from a sponsorship model to a partnership model,” said Judith Rubinat, FC Barcelona’s Head of Partnership Activation.

Sports and sponsorships have long gone hand-in-hand. A sponsor may be aiming to enhance visibility and reputation, while a sports club is empowered to help finance the club’s operation. But the panelists, who represent some of the biggest names in world sport and marketing, were united in agreement that the days of sports teams looking for passive sponsors are over.

“We are moving from a sponsorship model to a partnership model,” commented Judith Rubinat, FC Barcelona’s Head of Partnership Activation. “It needs to be a win-win for both sides.”

Scott Levy, Managing Director of NBA Asia, agreed: “A true partnership seeks an alignment of goals, rather than just a simple transfer of intellectual property,” which has been more common in traditional sponsorships. Mr. Levy, who has overseen incredible growth in popularity for the NBA in Asia, points to its recent initiatives with Rakuten, including Rakuten NBA 32 and Rakuten.TV as examples of goals-aligned partnerships.

Scott Levy, Managing Director of NBA Asia, agreed: “A true partnership seeks an alignment of goals, rather than just a simple transfer of intellectual property,”

Scott Levy, Managing Director of NBA Asia, agreed: “A true partnership seeks an alignment of goals, rather than just a simple transfer of intellectual property.”

According to Ms. Rubinat, FC Barcelona’s motto is “more than a club,” which means that while winning is important, so is playing well. It may sound like a cliche, but perhaps no club in the world of football better represents this philosophy than FC Barcelona. The club is led by arguably history’s greatest player in Leo Messi, who represents excellence in performance and sportsmanship.

Off the pitch and off the court, both FC Barcelona and the Golden State Warriors are deeply invested in their local communities. Rakuten recently announced it was partnering with FC Barcelona for FCBEscola, the Club’s flagship school offering training in the renowned Barca methodology of football to children in more than 20 countries around the world.

Rather than brands asking us for help in justifying their investments after the fact, they are now coming to us at the front-end for insights into where to invest.”

“Rather than brands asking us for help in justifying their investments after the fact, they are now coming to us at the front-end for insights into where to invest,” said Nielsen Sports Managing Director Guy Port.

While it may be true that sports clubs and businesses are increasingly seeking alignment in values and helping support each other’s goals, data and analytics almost always have a big voice in the conversation and decision-making process.

In the case of Nielsen Sports—a part of the Nielsen Entertainment Group—their entire business is focused on analyzing fan behavior and advising clients on the effectiveness of their sports marketing initiatives. Their Managing Director, Guy Port, shared some unique perspectives from the other side of the equation.

Rahul Kadavakolu, Rakuten's Director of Global Marketing and Branding, moderated the session, discussing Rakuten's global sponsorships with NBA, Golden State Warriors and FC Barcelona.

Rahul Kadavakolu, Rakuten’s Director of Global Marketing, moderated the session, discussing Rakuten’s global partnerships with NBA and FC Barcelona as well as broader issues in sports marketing.

“Technology has had a revolutionary impact. Data analysis is moving so quickly and changes how we work. Rather than brands asking us for help in justifying their investments after the fact, they are now coming to us at the front-end for insights into where to invest.”

The insights shared by all panelists demonstrated that the sports marketing industry is continuing to evolve. It is becoming more data-oriented, and more values-based at the same time. Diverse perspectives like these are setting the stage for even more rewarding partnerships for sponsors, clubs and fans worldwide.


Read more reports on NEST 2018 here.