What to do when everything stops?

Wat kunnen merken doen in tijden van corona en daarna. Jasper Hunter, Managing Partner bij M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment in Amsterdam, onderscheidt drie fases in de coronavirus pandemie en de rol van sponsors. (In English)

In the middle of January I was telling anyone who would listen that this was going to be one of the greatest years for sports fans in the Netherlands for decades. A triumphant return to Zandvoort was to set the scene before Amsterdam became the destination every Euro 2020 fan wanted to visit. Some predictions don’t age well…

Covid-19 had different ideas and with the sporting and entertainment calendars in tatters the question we at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment have been asking ourselves is, much like everyone else in the industry: what now?

The first thing to say is that sport and entertainment have rightly been put on the back burner as the necessary and immediate steps are taken to safeguard our health’s and health services’. And whilst the bans on mass gatherings and safeguarding measures will continue as long as they must, business too must go on. The fundamental importance of this cannot be overstated. Our clients still need us to help them trade and do business whilst audiences still need entertainment and escapism, arguably more than ever. The wheels must continue to turn.

In our minds there will be three distinct phases to the coronavirus pandemic and the role of brands (and the agencies advising them) will vary accordingly. Naturally the time it will take to move between each phase will differ country to country but broadly the pattern remains.

Phase 1: The moment of impact. (Where we are)

The period of panic and postponement as events are cancelled, the immediate future looks bleak and our lives are turned upside down as what we take for granted is taken away from us.

The role of a sponsor brand
: Be a proper patron

This is when brands will prove the legitimacy (or not) of their connection with an audience and passion area – in their hour of need what will they do? Whilst not advocating rash marketing frippery the role as a patron should be to behave like a good citizen and safeguard – where possible – to ensure everyone is still around when this is over.

Phase 2: Business as unusual. (Where we will be soon)

The speed with which we adapt and normalise will be incredible. Socialising, exercising, working in entirely new ways will begin to feel normal. As our behaviours and lives change new opportunities will emerge for brands even as their sponsorship properties haven’t kicked back into gear yet.

The role of a sponsor brand:
Reinterpret and relieve

New behaviours and lifestyles will take root, but it’s critically important to remember, peoples passions won’t die, they will just lie unsatisfied. The role of the sponsor brand becomes one of adaption here, how can rights and or relationships be reinterpreted, reinvented and re-imagined to generate the kind of connection with audiences appropriate to this new normality?

We will remember the brands who remember us

Jasper Hunter, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

Phase 3: The Re-Start. (Where we hope to be)

This too shall pass and we will begin our recovery, emotionally, financially and personally. We will be making up for lost time and our passions will be high on the agenda.

The role of a sponsor brand
: Lift us up

Nothing will symbolise the return to ‘normality’ like the resumption of our passions. The first trip to a gym, a stadium, a pub…. These will be emotionally charged like never before and sponsors need to tap into this emotional fervour but not get in the way of it. This isn’t about them, but they can be a part of it. It will be a waiting game but the brands who plan from now to celebrate and reward the fanbases for their perseverance and endeavour will succeed.

We will remember the brands who remember us, and just because events are on hold or cancelled doesn’t mean our passion for them has waned. In fact quite the opposite, it’s proven beyond doubt the importance of sport and entertainment in our lives and the power of bringing people together. It will be a huge honour to be part of this industry in the year to come.

I’m already telling people that 2021 is going to be the greatest year of sport on record, you can quote me on that.

Jasper Hunter

Jasper Hunter is Managing Partner bij M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment in Amsterdam