Smaller Clubs, Bookmakers under Threat from Olympique Marseille-Blinkfire Link?

Fan holding the flag of France

French soccer team Olympique Marseille has announced a new link-up with Blinkfire Analytics.

The Ligue 1 club has announced the partnership as it evaluates the value of its sponsorships through social media. The modern footballer carries a lot of ads. He may not yet be in the realms of the walking billboards that drive Formula One cars but, as he runs onto the pitch, there will be a main shirt sponsor, probably a sleeve sponsor, quite possibly another sponsor on the back of the shirt, and maybe still another on the shorts, as well. Then there’ll be the distinctive branding of the shirt manufacturer, such as Adidas’s three stripes. And that is before we count all the “official partners” that have ads running around the pitch perimeter.

What OM wants to do with Blinkfire’s help is to use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and computer vision technology to measure the media value and impact of the ads. Put simply, how often do people engage with Company X because they have sponsored the shirts, or with Company Y because they have made the shirts?

Analyzing the data in real time should, in theory, allow OM to quality and optimize sponsorship and social media engagement and make more money from it.

“In modern football, social networks now have a particular position,” said Jean-Francois Richard, deputy marketing and sales director of Olympique Marseille. “Digital marketing has become the new promotional axis clubs need to develop.”

Blinkfire naturally reciprocated, saying they were “delighted” to be working with OM and this is an obvious move for the big teams. The more they can prove the value of sponsorship, the more they can sell the sponsorship for.

Is it good news for anyone else?

As we have written previously, betting companies currently sponsor half of the teams in the English Premier League. William Hill has already been approached about possible sponsorships in the US following the legalization of online sports betting there. But could the increasing use of AI pose another threat to the sponsorship of the bookmakers?

We have already seen at the World Cup that the sports betting companies are not making the impact that some other brands are making, despite almost continuous advertising during the commercial breaks. There may well be an “official betting partner” for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but AI will have advanced significantly by then.

If on-shirt advertising is proven not to be making the impact the bookmakers hoped for, they will soon drop it. For smaller teams, receiving less TV coverage and not playing in the major European competitions, proving the exact value of sponsorship may not necessarily be a good idea. The innovation from OM and Blinkfire may be great news for Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid. It may not be such good news for Derby, Deportivo, and Dortmund.