“Sport is a catalyst for change”

Marketing: how do you assess the crisis?

Magali Tezenas du Montcel: After eighteen very complicated months, in the summer of 2021, on the occasion of the Olympic Games, the European Championship, Roland Garros or even the Tour de France, we felt a recovery full of desire from all players in the sport. The crisis has not led to new underlying trends, but has accelerated the transitions already underway. It was an opportunity for rights holders to upgrade in digital terms, but also to test new distribution methods after episodes such as the Mediapro crisis at the end of 2020. Professional football remains an important part of the sport’s economy, and this crash illustrated its relative fragility. in which many players operate. The sector has suffered millions of euros in losses and despite state aid many small structures were threatened and had to go into debt† And with the return of the meters this winter, we have seen that the situation remains uncertain. The sports sector is still growing, but remains subject to the risks of a danger economy : the danger of sports performance of course, uncertainty that makes all the interest of live sports, but also more and more climatic or even political danger…

What are your expectations regarding the presidential election?

We have proposed a series of measures to develop the sports economy, such as the introduction of tax incentives that allow private players to finance sport, but also rights holders to better organize themselves to exploit new sources of income such as their image rights. Of course we always promote responsible sports and we want to make sports accessible to as many people as possible., whether it concerns broadcasting competitions, but also sports practice. There are still many obstacles to overcome to democratize sport in the workplace. Finally, we are still campaigning for a VAT reduction on sports. From 20%, we find it necessary to lower it to 5%, just like basic necessities, but also cinema or shows.

What is the trend that struck you most in 2021?

Perhaps the most shocking is: the wave of digital innovation we have seen with the development of cryptocurrencies and NFTs† We see new revenue streams for rights owners, as well as new ways to engage fans and communities and generate data for partners. But it is also a concern as this new sector is complex and risky, even though there are many reliable companies in it. More generally, As sports are increasingly consumed online, we should also mention the environmental impact of digital which is worrying. I am not only talking about the blockchain, but also, for example, the proliferation of video content. This, in my opinion, is also the second big fundamental topic of 2021, with thebreakdown of the distribution model or diversification of the content consumed, while during the crisis it was necessary to think about new content with athletes in the absence of competitions. This brings new opportunities with it.

The subject of sports broadcasting and the interest of the general public were at the center of the Mediapro business last year…

Between linear television, social networks, legal or illegal streaming or even advertising platforms, with, for example, BNP Paribas broadcasting matches on We Are Tennis… There is a transformation underway in the sports broadcasting media landscape, which also calls for diversifying content and being able to send the right content to the right people through the right channels. Distribution models are becoming more complex: live remains the showpiece, but it can be delivered in pieces… They are colossal transformations for sports institutions that are not equipped for it, except for those who already have large resources. This will reinforce a phenomenon that we have already seen: Premium rights holders such as big teams, the European Championship, the World Cup or the Olympics have the means to get more expensive and seduce their partnerswhile the others will find it harder to prioritize their investments.

Is this the explanation for the European Football Super League project that was cut short last year?

The argument of the clubs behind this initiative was the desire to create a more attractive product by bringing the “best” together. It turns out that some of these clubs are nowhere near that level this season. On the other hand, these clubs had a lot of debt. Some were close to bankruptcy during the crisis and saw a financial interest in this project, which aimed to revalue their rights.

Doesn’t the diversification of distribution methods also run the risk of losing sponsors? Especially since walled gardens like Amazon have become distributors?

It’s the same problem as with advertising or marketing in general, sectors in which the GAFAs have significant weight. Advertisers follow these trends and need to find audiences where they are. The transformation of sports consumption is pushing advertisers to push the boundaries. I already mentioned it, but We Are Tennis by BNP Paribas is an example† Created by the brand for tennis fans ten years ago, this exchange space now allows it to broadcast some matches with an unusual tone and thus have direct access to the data.

Finally, the last problem that advertisers are increasingly confronted with: their CSR obligations. 2022 begins with the Winter Olympics and ends with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar… Two controversial events. What position should be taken?

It is not an easy subject. 70% of Gen Z youth are willing to boycott events that are not environmentally friendlyIn 2012 we introduced a charter for responsible sponsorship… If you don’t follow it, you take a risk. You have to keep in mind that sport is a way to promote many social issues such as equal opportunities, inclusion, health… It is a living material that allows brands to tackle these issues in an authentic way.

However, this leads to Cristiano Ronaldo pushing back a bottle of Coca-Cola at a press conference… Can we imagine a football player boycotting the World Cup?

We’ve already seen it Antoine Griezmann breaks his contract with Huawei, invoking the subject of the Uyghurs† However, I find hypocritical those who consume Chinese products all day long and ask athletes to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics. It’s the life of athletes, let’s respect that. On the other hand, they are free to express themselves and use their media power to get the right message across.

These athletes are hostages to the decisions of FIFA or the IOC. Is it no longer the role of advertisers to get these organizations moving?

There are indeed precedents. Partners have a role in the governance of these institutions. The latter can also influence the policy of the organizing countries. The WTA is undoubtedly up for something in Peng Shuai’s return to the public space. Again, sport is a catalyst for change, a gentle force that allows you to move the lines. What is paradoxical is the lack of resources devoted to it in France† Politicians are overjoyed to be in the picture when they win, but they need to realize that if results are expected, investment must be made.