Naming and Big Data: students study current sports industry trends

Students of the MSc in Sports Industry Management have been delving into the world of sports marketing. The students have been discussing the latest sports marketing trends in industry insider Alain Hotzau’s classes, who – as well as being a lecturer at emlyon business school – is the founder and MD of several sports-related companies.

So what trends are important right now? We take a look at two current sports marketing trends: naming and big data.

What’s in a name? Naming rights in sports sponsorship

Selling naming rights can be a big money-maker for stadiums, and more and more sports arenas are now prefixed by a company’s name. As an advertising strategy, it works well: brands get their name on the lips of potential customers and also benefit from positive associations with a sport or team. In Paris, AccorHotels spends €4.15 million per year (over a 10 year deal) for the naming rights of Bercy arena – now known as ‘The AccorHotels Arena’. And in 2015 Marseille’s stadium was sponsored by telecommunications company Orange for an undisclosed amount, becoming the ‘Orange Vélodrome’.


In Lyon too, we can see this trend. The MatMut Stadium Gerland, formerly Stade de Gerland, has benefitted from a naming deal with insurance group MatMut. However, Lyon’s newest stadium, the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, has not yet been snapped up by a brand looking to add their name above the door. MSc in Sports Industry Management students toured the OL stadium in January. They were shown round by MSc in Sports Industry Management graduate Nathan Constancias, who now works as Project Manager BtoC for Olympique Lyonnais. It remains to be seen if Parc OL will look for a naming rights deal, but it may be beneficial as they start to branch out into hosting other sporting events and concerts.

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It’s not only sports venues that are getting the naming treatment – football tournament the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) has been sponsored at different times by both Orange and petrol company Total, changing its name from Orange CAN to the Total Africa Cup of Nations, or Total AFCON.


The concept of naming rights isn’t new. Back in 2004 energy drink company Red Bull rebranded a Formula 1 team, and ever since it has been consistently (and successfully) naming sports events and sports teams; in 2005, 2006 and 2009 it took over and renamed three football clubs (Salzburg, New York & Leipzig). It’s been a highly effective marketing approach, which is why Red Bull is used as a case study during the sports marketing classes of the MSc in Sports Industry Management. Hotzau’s classes focus on why and how Red Bull is ahead of their competitors, and why they have such a big budget for sports marketing.


Big data & stadiums: a perfect match

Another big trend: connected stadiums. With 70% of fans bringing their mobile device to a stadium and using it during a game, it makes sense to incorporate wifi access and dedicated apps into the venue experience. As Alain Hotzau explains: “Connected stadiums are commonplace now. It’s not just what’s happening on the field that’s important. Sports venues need a wide range of tools and initiatives aimed at making the consumer experience last longer for sport event ‘consumers’”. Stadium apps have the potential to allow visitors to do a lot at the push of a button: ordering food and drinks from their seat, live updates on match statistics, and even the possibility to view instant replays.

While these apps aim to enrich the user experience, they also mean that stadiums can collect data on their users. This insight into consumer behaviour can create better fan experiences, but is also a goldmine for marketers. Using key insights for the collected data allows them to tailor marketing to very specific user profiles, and in turn drive more revenue. Data collection is one of the hot topics in the sports industry and MSc in Sports Industry Management students have worked on this industry trend across business cases and courses. During their business case with Nike for example, one particular group worked on data collection and how big data enhances customer experience and sales. Find out more here!

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Social media is also becoming an important part of sports marketing. Eight out of the 25 most ‘checked in’ places on Facebook are sports arenas, and marketers of live sports events are constantly innovating to engage fans beyond the live event, often through social media. We are likely to see this continue in the future, particularly with digital sponsorship.

Sports marketing is a complex topic with many different facets. What we know for sure is that in the future we can expect more sports marketing trends to centre on the user/consumer experience, and that big data will feature prominently. By studying these topics and meeting with key experts of the industry who analyse these trends, students of the MSc in Sports Industry Management at emlyon business school are getting ready to jump-start their career in an ever-growing and highly coveted industry.

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