Can brand owners get closer to the fans by processing personal data in the way they used to?


by Ardi Kolah


One of the most valuable assets for any brand owner/sponsor is personal data. Rights holders, such as sports celebrities,  clubs and leagues, hold a lot of the stuff – fans are perhaps one of the most valuable customer segments because of their high degree of loyalty, their passion and the propensity to spend money on something  that they really care about. Commercial brand owners such as those that sponsor the FIFA World Cup, such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser,  Visa, McDonald’s and Adidas understand how to connect with the attitudes, values, perceptions, beliefs and behaviours of these fans in a way that can drive not just awareness but incremental sales. But the days when rights holders could tempt lucrative sponsorship deals simply by promising to hand over their global database of fans has evaporated in the wake of much higher standards in data protection, privacy and security created by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In this new landscape, clubs and their sponsors are expected to comply with three important principles: transparency, accountability and ensuring that control over personal data remains in the hands of the fans and not the brands. It’s about respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals not to have their personal data exploited for commercial gain without their knowledge or consent or indeed where such activities override their own rights and freedoms. 

Many brand owners are struggling to come to terms that they don’t “own” personal data but either are controlling the flow or processing it – and  sports celebrities, clubs and leagues are also having to come to terms with ensuring that they too don’t fall foul of these higher standards of data protection, privacy and security.

The key is to join the dots on business continuity, risk and technology when considering how to do more – not less – with the personal data of fans. This requires a re-boot in our thinking about personal data, how best to use this for the benefit of the rights holders and what safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that brand owners/sponsors can continue to leverage the powerful benefits of sponsorship without breaking the Data Protection Act 2018/GDPR.

“It’s now essential that anyone working in sponsorship – whether brand owners or rights holders – know how to manage the most valuable resource available in a way that will underpin commercial sponsorship activities well into the future,” observes Ardi Kolah, Author of Improving the Performance of Sponsorship and Conference Chair.

Gordon Ritchie