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Exclusive Comments On Sportradar’s New Partnership With The AFC

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portradar Oceania director of sports media and partnerships, David Edwards, spoke to Ministry of Sport about what Sportradar becoming the official video and data distribution partner for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) means for the wider sport sponsorship market.

As part of the eight-year deal, Sportradar will distribute video and data for major AFC national team and club competitions including the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and the AFC Champions League, as well as managing all worldwide data and associated media rights for major AFC competitions.

Speaking to Ministry of Sport, Edwards said the AFC partnership will see Sportradar leverage the growing popularity of football in Asia.

“The AFC partnership provides Sportradar with a strategic opportunity that will give us key leverage in the region and will help us grow our market share in tandem with growing the game in Asia,” Edwards told Ministry of Sport.

“Football is a sport that is growing exponentially in participation and viewership in this region, with more than 1.6 billion football fans in the region, and fan engagement fuelled by the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China,” he said.

As part of the deal, Sportradar will provide a range of digital services such as the launch of a new AFC website, OTT platform provision, media asset management, data collection for media outlets, content production, digital analytics, and a tournament management system.

“The brand-new AFC Website will allow fans to interact with the site through data and information collected when they visit, providing streaming of AFC matches and highlights as well as in depth information of their favourite players and clubs,” Edwards said.

“Through the new OTT platform, the AFC will gain behavioural insights into individual sports fans in Asia – for example, the matches they view, the teams they follow, the stats they engage with, and so on – which will help them segment and target fans in different regions, and also pursue new sponsorship opportunities within those segments,” he said.

Discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped intensify the ‘digital revolution’ in sport, Edwards said: “The onset of the pandemic has changed consumption habits, with live sport effectively being shut down in a space of three weeks in the first quarter of 2020.”

“COVID-19’s impact on the industry has been massive, forcing rights-holders almost everywhere into rebates and renegotiations.

“As a result, the global value of sports media rights – $44.6 billion in 2020 – has fallen by just over 12% from 2019.

“That drove everyone from fans to broadcasters alike to look at difference ways of feeding demand in that void, and when live sport did come back, being responsive to a new way of how live matches were carried out.

“No or limited fans at games across sport is a global norm now, and that has made interaction more dependent on access.

“However, the sports industry, especially in Asia, had adapted quickly.

“Asia is a region with the biggest population of sports fans, and one of the most enthusiastic in the world.

“That means that there is huge business potential in the sporting markets, with analyst expecting a 7% CAGR in 11 Asia- Pacific markets over 2019-24 to reach USD$7.2 billion, and the various sports business players are adapting quickly.

“Asia was a region that led a lot of the industry changes during the pandemic, in terms of processes and the restart of leagues.

“This is all the more important as the pandemic no longer allows for fans to be engaged through the physical medium of matches with a social element; instead, the challenge is to engage these fans who are sitting in their couches at home in front of their laptops.

“This is especially important with a sporting industry that has seen a real financial impact from the pandemic, and where the days of billion-dollar broadcast deals are behind us, especially with analysts expecting sports TV revenues to remain flat, but with OTT players looking to grow substantially, especially as they pivot to holding sports rights.

“Accessibility through OTT is not limited to the top tier professional football leagues.

“Our digital partnership with Football NSW and Football Queensland kicked off right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Launched in April 2020, the NPL.tv (National Premier Leagues) streaming platform had over 30,000 subscribers globally by the end of its first season.

“At this scale, it starts to become quite commercially attractive to advertisers and platform sponsors, which is a major benefit to owning your own streaming platform.

“We hope to see more states come on board in 2021 to make this a truly national platform for Australian grassroots football,” he said.

When asked how the value for brands in sporting partnerships will change over 2021 and beyond, Edwards said rights holders must be flexible, agile, and able to create a range of data-driven solutions to meet their audience’s specific needs.

“2020 not only accelerated the rise of digital, but it also forced brands in sport to pivot quickly find and deploy new and alternative ways to engage with fans,” Edwards told Ministry of Sport.

“This data and digital engagement approach will be key to driving value in sports brands.

“Accessibility, connectivity, and instant feedback will continue to be key components of this digital revolution.

“Increasingly more so will be the demand for personalised “curated” content that comes almost in an instant; with 5G being a reality, the possibilities are really exciting, especially when we are working with a regional organisation that is progressive in expanding its global footprint like the AFC and similar partnerships that we have.

“Rights holders need to understand fans and their consumption habits in order to serve them with the right content on the right platform at the right time.

“Therefore, it’s vital to define the correct digital strategy in order to ensure all content is optimised for the medium in question.

“Fostering a direct-to-fan relationship will be even more crucial for both user experience and rights holder monetisation opportunities in a post pandemic environment.

“It allows organisations to continuously test, adapt and improve their content, as well as their overall product and commercial strategy, with personalised, engaging experiences.

“A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach simply doesn’t work in what is a hugely varied, nuanced sector and content owners must be flexible, agile and able to create a range of data-driven solutions, product offers and revenue streams to meet their own specific needs.

“At Sportradar, we believe that a data driven approach will be one that leads stakeholders through an environment and industry that is very different from just 11 months ago,” he said.