Sport is unique in its ability to bring people together from a diverse range of backgrounds. Whether it’s a community uniting to support its hometown hero or the entire world watching a close-run final, sport forms a common language and story that inspires and entertains countless people, no matter what else separates them.
It’s this common language that entices brands like Canon to use much-coveted sporting events to showcase their brand to a captivated audience. It’s hard to overstate the power of sports marketing – in the US alone, sports accounted for 70% of sponsorship spending
While sport has always maintained this incredible ability to connect people, it has changed with the times. And for all the talk of professionalism, sports science and the growing popularity of new sports, perhaps the biggest way it has changed is in its relationship with fans and spectators.
In the past, big sporting events provided a sense of occasion. The Italia ’90 FIFA World Cup was the first time sport really captured my imagination as a young boy due to the unique access and spectacle it provided. I remember seeing some of football’s global superstars for the first time and falling in love with the England players, but it was all over in a matter of 4 magical weeks.
Today, sport is more accessible than ever, which changes the dynamic and sense of occasion. There’s none of the waiting anymore – we can watch a whole host of sports live or on demand 24/7, consuming clips online and getting even closer to today’s superstars through their social media presence.
This access means that sport is both inspiring and connecting with more people than ever before, while also allowing them to engage more directly. And as increasing numbers of fans from diverse backgrounds have more of a voice, it’s important to accommodate this and nurture a two-way relationship for sport to maintain its power to connect people.
Brands have an important role to play in supporting this new relationship, but it means communicating in an authentic and purpose-led way. It’s not enough to simply showcase your brand logo in front of millions of people – you need to align with the core values of the sport and give real value to the fans.
We approach it more as an opportunity than a challenge. Eye-catching activations that seek to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible still have a place (one only needs to look at the universal adoration of Volkswagen’s Tiny Football Car at the 2020 Euros), but they need to be paired with authentic activities and commitments. Whether it’s transforming the fan experience at venues, supporting sports in the local community, or even just giving fans an opportunity to better engage with the event; direct action and value is king.
It’s something I’m particularly passionate about at Canon. We have a long-standing heritage of sponsoring global sporting events, from FIFA World Cups of the past through to the IAAF World Championships and Rugby World Cups in more recent years. The values of teamwork, respect and discipline seen in all sports resonate well with the Canon brand – but we also have the technology and resources to provide support that benefits the sport, the fans and the world as a whole.
Canon’s sponsorship of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is reflective of how modern sporting sponsorships can cater to this changing dynamic between sports and fans. While our brand ethos aligns well with that of the Commonwealth Games, we have an incredible opportunity to inspire a new generation of fans and players by using our imaging technology to showcase an array of different sports that don’t often get global coverage.
This is more important now than ever, as the recent popularity of urban sports at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has shown the value of showcasing new sports to broaden their appeal and nurture the next generation of athletes.
Beyond this, we’re also focusing on lending direct support to the Games organisers with our Medical imaging team providing MRI, ultrasound and X-ray services to ensure the wellbeing of the athletes. At the same time, our Document Solutions team are ensuring the Games back-office runs seamlessly thanks to our Managed Print Services, while we’re continuing our world-renowned Canon Professional Service to help photojournalists capture every moment of the action.
It’s also important for us to use the event to connect with local communities in the midlands area. We’re looking at how we can bring our long-standing Canon Young People Programme to Birmingham to help the next generation understand how they can change the world through the power of visual storytelling, while giving them skills and opportunities that will help them through into later life.
While there’s certainly more to come from us in the months leading up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, I’m excited to be a part of a brand that’s using the power of sport to build our brand and ultimately bring people together.