A New Legacy
On April 3rd, Warner Bros released the trailer for what could be the blockbuster of the summer. The few images that we have seen of Space Jam: A new legacy caused an explosion of comments on social networks, which not only celebrated seeing Lebron James finally on screen, but also analyzed the appearance of the entire WarnerMedia ecosystem in the trailer; Not only do you see King James and the endearing protagonists of Looney Tunes, but we are presented with a universe that integrates many others in itself: Game of Thrones, DC Entertainment, King Kong, The Wizard of Oz…
Sports, cinema, television, videogames… all this coexists in the second installment of the saga; a clear reflection of current times in entertainment, an arena (competitive arena) occupied by countless competitors in search of consumers’ time, attention, emotion and money.
The focus of youth culture has changed radically since 1996, when it was Michael Jordan who made his debut as an actor; the management of sports brands and their relationship with consumers have evolved marked by the development of technology, new business models, young millennials and centennials … and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.
If, to understand this revolution in the industry, we were looking for a brand that has come down the road in the last 20 years, we could point to Real Madrid, the first football club that opted for professional business management and for players with strong personal brands, a strategy that, by the way, Asian and American clubs repeat since David Beckham signed for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, and that has led players like Demba Ba, Xavi Hernández or Andrés Iniesta to play their last years of professional careers in countries such as China, Qatar or Japan. Returning to Real Madrid, the club with the most followers on social networks (more than 250 million), it also defined a pioneering strategy of global sponsorships that have expanded its markets and its international character. Today, the club, like so many others in multiple sports, seeks ways to continue expanding its fan base by expanding its ecosystem: e-sports, Twitch, women’s soccer, network of local sponsorships in various regions of the world, investment in technology and innovation… all with the goal of creating and strengthening emotional ties with their followers and fans.
This need to amplify the audience, common among all sports entities, responds in part to a general decline in sports fans that has directly affected an important source of income: the television audience for the 2018-2019 LaLiga season (nine consecutive times named the best league in the world by the IFFHS) fell by 13%, while the Korean League of Legends reached 136 million hours watched and Fortnite gathered 15.3 million users in its Galactus Event. The desire to play, to explore and to express themselves, inherent in the human being, is satisfied today in infinite ways, freeing consumers and offering numerous opportunities for brands seeking new audiences.
The change in consumer behavior, added to the disappearance of dependence on proximity thanks to the virtual universe, makes up an interesting cocktail to analyze for the next Olympic Games, which will be held this year in Tokyo. Traditionally, hosting the great global sports competition entailed a strong association between sport and city that boosted the country brand and generated unique opportunities for brands and businesses. The association between sports brand and city/country has fostered strong emotional connections in the past and continues to do so: let us note the growth of Paris Saint-Germain after repositioning its brand and anchoring it to the values and identity of the French capital. However, the absence of an international audience in the next Games and the rise of virtual audiences will allow us to see if the impact of this cultural revolution is driving the beginning of a new stage in the relationship between brand-place and sport.
Finally, a more diverse, inclusive and equitable revolution. Women’s sport has opened a wide path on its own merits and has attracted the attention of the media, brands and fans. And it is that entertainment appeals to the human instinct to have fun, express oneself freely, get excited and liberate oneself, an instinct that does not judge sex or race. The great arena of play will build a new multicultural and diverse legacy, enriched by inclusion and representation.
Like the basketball game that we will enjoy in Space Jam: A new legacy.