The past, the present and the predictions – what will 2016 hold?

As always with the sporting world, we’ve hit the ground running in 2016 (excuse the pun!) Before we get too caught up in the year ahead, I have taken some time out to look back at 2015 and what we predict will be the hot topics in 2016.

Sport continues to evolve at an ever increasing pace. We live it and we breathe it and for something so engrained into everyday life, the expectation is high. The audience is passionate, powerful and committed, demanding top class entertainment both on and off the field of play.

2015 delivered in many respects. A year that saw the Rugby World Cup arrive on home soil which went on to be described worldwide as the biggest and best ever. A tournament where Japan’s rugby team captured the hearts of fans globally as they stormed to a historic victory over South Africa and the Scots defied all expectation as they came agonisingly close to a semi-final spot. The mighty All Blacks were crowned victorious, a moment of elation for them in a year of tragic loss, not only for Kiwi’s but for the sporting world as a whole. Jonah Lomu and Jerry Collins, two incredible athletes whose passing came too early.

Andy Murray led his Davis Cup team to their first victory for 79 years, Joe Root emerged as a new sporting star and in the midst of a sport rocked by doping allegations, Chris Froome rode his way to Tour de France glory. The girls did us proud in 2015. Serena Williams continued to dominate on the tennis court as she won her sixth Wimbledon title and the England Women’s Football Team earned themselves a well-deserved third place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with players such as Steph Houghton and Fara Williams becoming household names, a huge step for the Women in Sport landscape.

However, as in all competitive sport, with every winner there has to be a loser and unfortunately for football and athletics, their scandal ridden governing bodies dominated the tabloids and media. The corruption allegations that engulfed FIFA saw Sepp Blatter fall from grace, just one of the top officials banned from the sport following a long-standing investigation into bribery and money laundering dating back many years. As for the IAAF, it is faced with the mammoth task of keeping to its word and ridding the athletics population of cheats, doping and corrupt officials. All eyes will be on Seb Coe as he undergoes a year of scrutiny rebuilding a sport full of contamination. That, alongside the small matter of organising an Olympics in the summer.

And so, all of a sudden we find ourselves in 2016, a new year that not only brings a new sporting calendar but another opportunity for us to shape the sports business industry over the next 12 months. The power that brands have is huge, but the landscape remains competitive. To succeed in standing out from the crowd, there is a fundamental need to be versatile, reactive and consistently striving towards the creation of innovative ideas. It’s a cluttered and daunting space but oh boy is it exciting!

With all this in mind, here are my predictions for the top talking points in 2016 that you won’t want to miss.

The FIFA President Election

Picture this, Prince Ali, Sheikh Salman, Jérôme Champagne, Gianni Infantino and Tokyo Sexwale sat at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on the 26th of February, all awaiting the verdict announcing who will succeed the disgraced Sepp Blatter as top dog in the footballing world. What’s running through their mind? One thing we can be sure of is that the successful candidate faces a momentous uphill battle to implement the reform and practices the sport and all those involved crave. Some may say that the issues are so deeply engrained in the nature of the environment, that the task at hand needs an intervention far greater than a change in leadership. However there are some strong contenders in that line up, all with the ambition of breathing a fresh lease of life into the beautiful game. 2016 is going to be a huge year for football and an even bigger year for the successful candidate.

Battle of the Brands – Rio 2016

The opening ceremony for London 2012 drew a global TV audience of over 900 million, the FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was the most Facebooked sporting event in the websites history and the hashtag #RWC2015 was used twice a second on Twitter during the Rugby World Cup 2015. Exposure levels are huge and a strategic activation plan during a high profile sporting event can be pivotal in the growth of a brand and with Rio 2016 rapidly approaching, the brand battle is hotting up. In this ever changing digital age making engaging content isn’t enough. To become a front runner with the audience, brands need to effectively execute bravery, boldness and insight led interaction to create a campaign that speaks to the heart of their target market. My prediction for Rio 2016 - those without an official sponsorship will lead the way. The time has passed to rely on your official association, brands mean business and a complacent approach just won’t cut it.

Girl Power

No one could have predicted the success of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign in 2015. This ground-breaking activation spoke directly to real women, promoting getting hot and sweaty, opposing expectation and jiggling until your heart’s content! Brands are waking up to the fact that there is a relatively untouched market out there just waiting to be unlocked. For those brave enough to take the opportunity, 2016 has the potential to be the year of the girls with Women in Sport opportunities only set to grow and grow. We girls aren’t to be underestimated however and the task shouldn’t be looked upon lightly. We want attention and we want understanding, talk to us in the right way and we have a lot of love to give.

Data is key

Building a campaign around real life insight is something I have previously mentioned and clients still have a huge thirst to hear about ideas that are better validated with powerful data to deliver bottom line impact. In 2014, 40% of marketing professionals increased spending on data-driven marketing and 74% of marketers now agree that capturing and applying data to inform and drive marketing activities is the new reality. The foundations have been laid and those that aren’t willing to fully immerse themselves in the world of data led insight will be left behind.



Sophie Arundale

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search