In a world of increasing automation, sports and entertainment partnerships have in many ways remained an example of the way things used to be.
While sponsors and properties have turned to new tech tools to perform many functions related to sponsorship—from valuation and measurement to fulfillment reporting, ticket management and others—deal-making continues to require actual humans sitting down with each other to discuss, brainstorm and negotiate rights and benefits, contract terms, activation plans, etc.
When programmatic advertising, the use of automated technology to purchase and place media, came of age over a decade ago, the question arose whether carefully configured algorithms and software also could be used to identify, select and buy sponsorship.
The answer was no, for a reason that is often discussed among practitioners. Good sponsorships are not transactional. They are much more than the accumulation of assets and inventory. They are not, in a word, advertising.
That distinction appears to be missing from a new effort launched by Electronic Arts. As recently reported by Game Rant, the video game giant just filed for a patent for something it calls an Automated Player Sponsorship System. According to the article, “if implemented, this system will automatically pair promising live streamers with sponsors, making it easier for companies to advertise during their streams.”
If APSS lives up to its promise—including its proposed ability to vet content creators and diminish risk for brands—it could be a critical solution for both marketers seeking to reach the gaming audience and gamers with large followings on Twitch, YouTube and other channels. It is programmatic advertising for livestreaming of video games.
But it is incorrectly labeled as sponsorship. Brands that want to go beyond merely embedding their ad spots and branding into streams should recognize the limitation, while popular gamers who want to forge true partnerships with brands must do the same.
Going back to the question of whether actual sponsorships could be developed through the use of technology, it is entirely possible that the rise of artificial intelligence will change the answer from no to yes. Imbued with the right “ingredients” a machine could not only figure out the best partner for meeting a brand’s objectives, but also select the optimal mix of benefits, ideate activation programs, establish the fair market value of the opportunity and establish KPIs and how to measure them.
So while EA has not broken the mold, AI definitely has the potential to.