The tech set to connect Kiwi fans with Olympians

Kiwi tech 18 months in the making is set to connect local fans with Olympians in Japan later this year.

The wearable device allows fans at home to send support directly to athletes in Tokyo through the New Zealand team mobile app, which when tapped will send a vibration of support to the athlete’s wrist.

The device, dubbed the ANZ Support Band, was conceptualised as part of the bank’s sponsorship of the Olympics originally scheduled to run last year.

The continued impact of the pandemic and the global restrictions on international travel means fans who were planning to travel in support of the team will likely have to watch the proceedings from their home countries.

The hope is that the wristband can play a small role in filling the physical supporter gap on the ground in Tokyo.

“Wherever they are from, athletes have worked incredibly hard to get to Tokyo and to be expected to perform without the physical presence of loved ones and fans will be tough, so we’re grateful to be able to provide a way for them to still feel the support they deserve,” said Kereyn Smith, the chief executive and secretary-general of the NZ Olympic Team.

Further to this objective, the New Zealand Olympic team and ANZ made the decision to open-source the technology to allow nations from around the world to pick it up and develop devices and apps of their own.

Despite the investment in the development of the app, ANZ chief executive Antonia Watson said that national teams from all over the world face the same challenge in terms of being disconnected from their fans.

“We know the difference the support from fans and loved ones can make,” Watson said.

“This is why we wanted to make sure athletes, wherever they are from, could still receive that support and fans could show their teams they are right behind them even though they may not be there physically.

“While we are very excited about what the ANZ Support Band can do for the NZ Paralympic team, the NZ Olympic team, and Kiwi fans, we’re also very aware of this wider need to connect fans and athletes around the world. As New Zealanders, we’d be proud to share this technology to help.”

The device is the brainchild ANZ’s long-time creative agency TBWA, which worked with tech specialists to develop the band.

The bigger question, however, is whether the athletes will be eager to wear something that pulses when fans send their support from New Zealand – particularly at a time when digital overload has become a growing concern. So will it be an annoyance rather than a boost?

TBWA chief executive Catherine Harris points out the device wasn’t developed to be worn during an actual event or at any point when an athlete doesn’t want to be distracted.

Harris says the agency worked with the New Zealand Olympic committee, NZ Paralympics and the athletes to ensure the device gives athletes the option of feeling the support as it comes in or catching up on a tally of support at a later stage. This might be in the evenings when they’re walking around the Olympic village or when they’re in their rooms at night.

Several athletes, including Paralympian Jesse Reynolds and Rio Silver medallist Sam Webster, have expressed enthusiasm for something that connects them to home.

So what will success look like in this campaign?

“Success at this stage looks like other nations or sports teams building their own way to help athletes feel support and picking up the band themselves,” says Harris.

“ANZ want everyone to have access to what they have spent time helping deliver. At launch later in the year, it will be about helping NZ show up like never before to support athletes. This should mean millions of taps of support are sent from Kiwis, at a time when athletes have never needed it more.”

This campaign shows the continued evolution of the sports sponsorship space, with many corporates looking for different ways to reach consumers.

Sports sponsorship has become notoriously cluttered and getting cut-through necessitates a level of innovation that can at least attract the attention of fans and consumers who have grown somewhat numb to the idea of a logo sitting on a jersey.

But does sports sponsorship even work? And is it worth the expense that businesses put toward it?

Scott Gillham, the head of Sports Pacific at researcher Nielsen, says that global benchmarks suggest that nearly half of sponsorships drive 3 per cent or more of total sales for brands, with a further 16 per cent of sponsorships generating 5 per cent or more in total sales.

Gillham says there has been a significant shift in what businesses expect of their sponsorship deals.

“What has changed the most is the expectations around successful sponsorship outcomes,” he told the Herald.

“Sponsorship measurement has historically been focused on brand outcomes, but now the expectation is that sponsorship activity drives a revenue return for brands.”

A recent Nielsen report on sports sponsorship found major advertisers usually attribute around 15 per cent of their overall marketing budget to sponsorship – but this is spread across various teams, events and media channels.

This fragmentation in media makes it difficult to measure the impact of a sponsorship campaign across all the available channels.

The report also pointed out that social media is starting to rival television in terms of its importance to the sponsorship media mix.

Looking at the NBA data, the average social media value for the top eight NBA could overtake TV media value by the 2023/2024 season.

In the English Premier League, the average share of social value versus TV is 24 per cent, increasing from below 5 per cent in 2015.

This might be evidence of consumers using these channels, but it’s also indicative of growing competition for eyeballs. And ultimately, as has always been the case, only the smartest and most interesting ideas will get noticed.

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