C-level Executives Make Corporate Marketing Predictions For 2018

Last week, Sports Business Chronicle highlighted the year ahead and how C-level executives see the upcoming 12 months playing out across a variety of areas in sports. We featured social/digital media, ticketing, esports, AR/VR, general businesstechnology and the media world.

On Monday, Sports Business Chronicle asked some C-level executives and founders, what are the trends/hot-button topics you’re following in corporate/experiential marketing for 2018, and what is your big, bold prediction for the space next year? 

You’ll find that the two questions for most of these articles are similar — that’s on purpose. Participants could answer one or both questions and were limited to 100 words total (not 100 per question). Below are their emailed responses, which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

To follow the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #SBC2018.


Trends/topics: Following the intersection between sponsorship and content as more and more brands will want to “own” the platforms for a larger share of voice and more control Instead of being one of 20 sponsors the shift will be less is more. Especially with content being king. Will be interesting to see how sports they have a passionate following can move into the streaming networks such as amazon, YouTube and Facebook to replace the traditional broadcast networks as they will eventually put more money into rights fee. Look to see new 2-3 sports that no one is expecting to be popular make its way on the radar based on social and digital media.

Ben Sturner, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Leverage Agency 

Predictions: In 2018, we will continue to see the pendulum swing back toward increased investment in experiential marketing because of the value that it brings brands and fans alike. As we’ve seen with our brand clients, experiential marketing allows brands to connect with fans at the grassroots level, provide an intimate experience and gather valuable data, all while building stronger brand awareness, engagement and affinity.

— Matt Boyer, Senior Vice President of Client Services, rEvolution

Trends/predictions: As a response to everything that’s been going on in the world this year, we think 2018 is going to see more purpose-driven, consumer and brand experiences that authentically bring people together, inspire participants to pay it forward, and create organic opportunities for fans to share with each other on social. Just as One World Observatory is reimagining their already-compelling experience with storytelling, design and live participation through their magical Winter ONEderland holiday celebration, we think other groups will start adding in new unexpected elements — such as tech innovations like AI and AR — to build meaningful relationships with fans.

— Dan Mannix, President/Chief Executive Officer, LeadDog Marketing Group

Predictions: In 2018, we see brands working together to co-create events and experiences that deliver efficiencies in investment, leverage one another’s audiences, and allow for fresh and innovative thinking. Sponsorship within sports, entertainment, lifestyle and cause will help create that tie that binds multiple brands together, allowing them to tell meaningful stories and produce engaging event experiences together.

— Jaime Cabrera, Senior Vice President, Advantage

Trends/predictions: Sponsorship, the bedrock of engagement between brands and audiences, is heading towards a reset. Shrinking TV audiences and lower ratings due to saturation, streaming and cord-cutting is one of the big storylines. The other, immense concerns (publicly) shared by sponsors investing in properties such as FIFA, IOC, NFL and USA Gymnastics. The leagues, teams and properties are up for the challenge. These are normal occurrences in the transforming world of technology where fans/brands have a voice and consumption habits are evolving. Sponsorship still controls the live, emotional aspect of fandom and that’s something it won’t ever cede to advertising.

Michael Neuman, Executive Vice President/Managing Partner, Scout Sports and Entertainment

Predictions: Virtual reality will finally gain mainstream footing in 2018 and consumers will use it consistently to enhance their at-home experiences, especially within sports and music. We’ve been using VR for years at live events, but I think we are close to the tipping point where using a VR headset at home on a regular basis is the norm. For brands, it provides an entirely new opportunity for engagement, but one that requires a dramatically different approach from any other medium. Brands have to be comfortable with being part of the experience versus being the experience.

— Cameron Wagner, Executive Vice President of Client Consulting and Services, GMR Marketing

Predictions: Experiential will follow in the footsteps of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing — it’s a term we’re sick of hearing, but far from being just the marketing discipline de rigueur, it’s having a strategic impact on other marketing disciplines — experiential included. Once obsessed with potential audiences and footfall, brands are now seeing the importance of engagement over reach. While it’s nice to see thousands of likes on your influencer post or have thousands of people attend your event — it means nothing without a high level of emotional engagement. This dialogue is allowing experiential agencies to discuss quality over quantity; engagement over footfall.

— Fred Porro, Executive Vice President of Experience, Wasserman 

Predictions: 2018 will be a fascinating year for the world of sports, events and experiential marketing. The acquisition of Fox by Disney will drive both sports on-site and viewing experiences to new heights, particularly as it relates to ESPN and their ability to cover more sports and events; the merger of the two college football 3rd-tier rights-holder behemoths Learfield and IMG College will drive the sophistication of the college football fan experience and tailgating to a new level and the rise of esports, on both the pro and college levels, within less than a decade will be bigger than the NFL and NBA, so watch out for that too.

Vince Thompson, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, MELT 

Three trends to watch in 2018: 1) Continued evolution of Esports: Non-endemic brands will enter the space by creating unique content and storylines around teams and players to capture the highly engaged and diverse fan base. 2) Broadcasts of live sports on digital and social platforms: Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc. will continue to establish their own niche in sports broadcasting as viewers continue to cut the cord. 3) Effect of data on fan engagement: Analytical breakthroughs in measuring player behavior and emotions will allow fans to predict game play both in and out of the venue.

— Tony Schiller, Executive Vice President, Paragon Marketing Group

About Mark J. Burns

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