How ‘wearable technology’ will change the face of collaboration in the sports world

Wearables_In_De_sportWhen it comes to marketing campaigns by multinational companies, two new trends can be identified: a greater focus on the Return On Investment (ROI), and marketing with a greater focus on corporate social responsibility. Many of these campaigns are based on partnerships. Linking these two trends to my vision on the future of sports, two other important developments can be identified: a central focus on active sporting on the one hand, and wearable technology on the other. Together, these four trends result in a completely different type of partnership and rationale behind marketing investments: this is called quantitative sponsoring.

Four trends converge

Sports based marketing increasingly focuses on achieving targets. It involves a more business-like approach in which (big) data is used in many cases to measure the achievement of targets. Added to which, partnerships need to have a social purpose, hence the American term purpose marketing. Almost directly linked to this is the desire to have people not only watch sports, but more particularly, engage in sports. Although the logical connection between greater sports participation and a healthier population is apparent to everyone, the results are difficult to quantify. This is where wearable technology comes in.

The quantifiable man

Nike Plus has done something that a number of sportspersons have been doing for the longest time: quantifying and registering their sports performance. However, there is an important difference: measuring this performance has never been easier (or cheaper, for that matter). When it comes to (sports) marketing, Nike Plus is well ahead of the pack in everything. This also applies to measuring sports performance. With the advent of the iPhone, things have moved up a gear in terms of measurement capabilities. We are now able to track anything. This will bring about a revolution in the image and value of people who actively engage in sports.

The social balancing act of sports-based marketing

The changes in the field of marketing have also left their mark on sports-based marketing: from sending to communicating, with full transparency in almost everything. The sports world and its partners are having a hard time keeping up with these developments. Major (financial) partners find themselves hit hardest. We are talking about the financial sector, alcohol, tobacco and the new ‘social culprit’: calories. As a result, these partnerships are increasingly turning into a new version of green washing. Linking an unhealthy product to a healthy lifestyle is morally deplorable if this is not backed by sound reasoning.

Measuring what goes in and what is being burnt.

There are many examples of business sponsors that sell products that negatively impact public health. For years, I have been advocating a shift in sponsor millions from watching sports to engaging in sports. This process is slowly gaining traction. An important reason for this is that nowadays each individual is his or her own (media) platform. This represents a particular value, which can form part of ROI measurements.

Nevertheless, I challenge multinational companies to take things one step further. This particularly applies to organizations that sell products that are diametrically opposed to a healthy lifestyle: calorie-heavy products, in other words. Whether it concerns Coca Cola or Pepsi, P&G or Unilever, McDonalds or Burger King, Heineken or Carlsberg, all of these companies sell products that (potentially) contribute to obesity and require an intensive sportive lifestyle to achieve ‘a zero calorie footprint’. These organizations should define the primary objective of their sponsoring activities as follows: the net result of the calories burnt as a result of their sponsoring campaigns and the calories consumed through the products they sell should be positive — on an individual level. They should measure what people eat and drink (which is already possible through various apps and is becoming simpler by the day) and measure the amount of calories that are burnt (ditto).

Simply put: [calories burnt through sports activities] -/- [calories consumed] > 0

The ROI for the partnership will thus be linked to the social results of this sports partnership.

Going forward

There are plenty of objections that can be raised in response to this reasoning. Said companies (also) manufacture healthy products, the correlation between calories and bad health cannot always be determined (particularly not on a product level), and the connection between sports and health is also not always fully transparent.

Nevertheless this is the direction we should take. Sports organizations and multinational companies should develop or embrace a transparent platform that allows anyone to view and share their personal input (eating and drinking) and output (sports and movement).

It is time to assume our responsibility. The technology is ready to support this development, and consumers are ready for it as well.