Who’s Getting Paid in Sports Partnerships’ Future?

March 4, 2024 Who’s Getting Paid in Sports Partnerships’ Future?

Predicting technology trends is a fools’ game for most of us not named Jobs, Gates, Zuckerburg, Cook or a handful of other tech luminaries.

Yet there is considerable focus on mixed reality and spatial computing right now and a growing consensus among Silicon Valley denizens and many others that we are turning the corner to widespread adoption of devices such as Meta Quest and Vision Pro.

Making that leap will bring about significant changes in our everyday lives, including how we consume content, both live and recorded. It also will immerse us more fully in the experience of being a fan of sports, music and other passion points.

Consider NASCAR president Steve Phelps’ comments at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last week, as reported by Sports Business Journal. “One idea that we’re contemplating is, in real time, participating in the race. As the race is going on with 40 cars, you are the 41st car. You’re participating as part of that AR/VR experience, which would be really cool.”

SBJ further reported that “development of the experience initially began on Meta VR headsets, but an Apple Vision Pro version is expected to follow” and that the entire initiative could be ready in a year.

While NASCAR’s project and similar concepts being discussed and trialed across multiple sports carry tremendous potential for fan engagement, partnership value and other benefits, there has not been much detailed discussion to date of who will control the intellectual property involved and how it will be monetized.

Presumably, content that will be distributed through Apple, Meta and other tech company’s devices will involve payment or revenue sharing between that company and the sports or entertainment rights holder, be that a league, event organizer, team, athlete, artist or other entity.

That means that legacy media companies—which for now remain the top recipient of brands’ dollars aimed at reaching fans—will be out of the equation for these types of next-gen partnerships, just as they are with recent agreements such as Apple’s 10-year exclusive media rights deal with MLS.

With so many new developments on the verge of becoming reality, brands must be prepared for a new partnership landscape and start exploring and answering questions such as:

  • How much value should we place on these new interactive fan experiences?
  • What is their value relative to more traditional live event broadcasts or streams?
  • What impact will they have on live attendance and broadcast viewership and how will that impact where we allocate our partnership dollars and activities?
  • Do we see these new assets as standalone partnership opportunities or as activation elements to add to sponsorships of live events and other content?
  • Who will control the content we are most interested in associating with and do we prefer dealing with rights holders versus tech companies versus media companies?
  • Given their vast resources, it is not improbable that some or all of the big tech companies will develop their own sports competitions and leagues, or purchase existing rights holders. How can we best prepare for a future where Apple, Meta and others could control significant sports and entertainment properties and their content distribution channels?

Considering these important questions and forming preliminary strategies now will put sports and entertainment marketers in the best position to take full advantage of these new and exciting opportunities when they move off the drawing board and onto our screens.