Whilst sporting venues had to remain empty, rights holders have been using seat banners with different approaches.
Most event organisers have tried to balance the commercial aspect, offering visibility to sponsors, whilst communicating the sense of belonging to the club and the club’s colours. Others tried to add elements of fan activation – running campaigns to include photos of fans for example – or aimed at improving the visual aspect of the stadium on TV.
The missing pattern
Excluding the occurrences in which a league sets the parameters for the use of printed banners from the outset, it is difficult to find a clear pattern for how these banners were used, and towards what goal. Was there a deliberate intention to be more fan-centred or sponsor-centred?
To the relative freedom that each club had in ‘playing’ with their stadium stands as canvases, we need to add the fact that their implementation was often done in a hurry and without a long-term objective. After all, everybody hoped these would be very short-term solutions.
Two common approaches
The banners holding a stronger commercial message are the most interesting to look at from a branding perspective.
On one side different types and commercial levels of organisations like Formula 1, Irish Rugby Football Union, Leicester Tigers, let their sponsors use their brand without imposing any restrictions. Brands could benefit from having their logos reproduced to their own brand guidelines and colours.
Other properties with a similar level of domestic and international prominence including top-tier European football leagues, the English Rugby Football Union and Bath Rugby, instead chose to incorporate sponsors under the rights holder’s branding.
What does science say on the use of branding in sport?
The implications that these different approaches could have on fans in terms of commercial effectiveness could be explained through a study conducted in 2018 by a group of researchers from the Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln.
The study found that colours and brand familiarity have a direct impact on the attention level fans have towards the signage. And, in particular, the viewers’ attention is higher towards signage with greater colour contrast.
This could indicate that those rights holders who opted to display sponsors under the club’s colours, turning all sponsors to monochrome (often white) on clubs-coloured backgrounds, might have created a branding environment less capable of getting the fans’ attention, and therefore giving sponsor logos a harder job to do to ‘cut through’.
Our work at Welford Road for Leicester Tigers above showcases that the alternation of ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ colours does help sponsors to stand out.
What we have experienced by using our 3D technology
Amongst our clients, Bath Rugby, Northampton Saints and Reading Football Club chose to brand their stands with the club’s colours. However, by using 3D logos on large format banners, the message is immediately bold and clear.
So, where the clubs’ colours prevail, with our 3D technology it is possible to minimise the monotonous effect of white sponsor logos on a coloured background, offering impressive visual effects that give sponsors superior exposure on TV.
As well as better readability of the marketing message, it’s also possible to open up to endless design possibilities that get fans’ attention first, and then engage with them through detailed graphics, slogans and images.
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Stadium Banners for fan activation
Certain sports lend more than others to using branded assets in a playful way. We have seen all sorts of creative, flamboyant, supportive and emotional use of graphics in the past few months but not so much creative use of the banners to actively engage fans at home, during a live match.
Fans have been taking part in competitions and campaigns to get their photos in the stadium, either through cardboard cutouts or printed banners, as we did for Brentford FC’s farewell to Griffin Park Stadium with seat exposure. But not many found an effective way (or had the chance) to make the branded assets engaging and actionable.
One of the few exceptions was from the Round Table Pizza – partner of the MLB franchise Oakland Athletics – giving free pizzas to all fans who purchased cardboard cutouts if a home run hit their target sign in the outfield. US sports often lead the way.