What is whitespace analysis in sponsorship and why does it matter?

Growing a global sports property isn’t easy. On-field success, star players, and major partnerships alone aren’t enough anymore; innovation is critical and even the biggest teams can fall behind if they rest on their laurels. 

By its nature, innovation requires a leap of faith. It’s about thinking outside the box and considering things in a different way in order to discover the previously-unexplored opportunities that may be available. 

The advertising industry has been doing this for decades and has developed a name for the process: ‘whitespace analysis’. Over recent years, the term has been picked up by those in sports sponsorship as well, but what is it and why should rights owners and brands be taking notice?

What is whitespace?

Put simply, whitespace is untapped potential, an area within a business or industry that has significant potential to grow but nobody has found a way in yet or even considered that the area may exist.

By analysing their products, services, industry, competitors and audience, companies can discover this whitespace, innovate within it, and acquire new customers.

The internet can be seen as the biggest whitespace generator since the year 2000 and Netflix one of its biggest beneficiaries. Blockbuster had dominated movie rentals for years, but Netflix was quicker to identify a new whitespace: customers’ desire for online convenience.

By setting up a service that allowed customers to rent a movie online and have it delivered as a DVD to their home, Netflix took advantage of this opportunity and started quickly biting into Blockbuster’s audience. As technology developed, streaming eliminated the need for a physical product and, of course, Netflix was at the heart of the revolution again. 

Both the initial DVD offering and the current streaming incarnation are good examples of whitespace. Netflix saw the untapped potential for greater customer convenience and took full advantage.

What is whitespace in sports sponsorship?

Whitespace in sports sponsorship is similar, but focused more intently on the untapped potential of sponsorship assets. Whitespace is any bare area in a venue, on a kit, on social media posts, or in any other area that’s not currently monetised by sponsorship assets but could be. 

For example, training kit sponsorship has been a part of soccer’s commercial ecosystem for many years, but it’s only with the increased exposure social media has given training sessions that clubs have created individual deals specifically for this purpose. Meanwhile, in American sport, both the NBA and NHL have explored whitespace with the addition of jersey patches to their uniforms. 

With the absence of crowds during the pandemic drawing attention to previously unexplored in-venue areas, interest in whitespace has grown in recent years, and its value to both rights owners and brands has been demonstrated. The NBA’s jersey patch program, for example, was estimated to be worth around $225m in the 2020/21 season alone. 

What is whitespace analysis?

So tapping into whitespace can be hugely advantageous, but how is it done? This is where whitespace analysis comes into the equation. 

Using AI technology, it’s possible to track the visibility an untapped area is receiving and understand whether it’s viable as a sponsorship area. If it is, whitespace analysis could also inform possible returns and ballpark costs. 

Depending on needs, analysis could also be used to inform fine details such as shape, size and exact locations of the patches, whilst also helping brands with their creative. 

So whitespace analysis isn’t just about monetising possible assets, but also maximising existing ones. 

Why should sports properties use whitespace analysis?

The pandemic helped popularise whitespace analysis in sports sponsorship circles and also underlined why it’s so vitally important. 

COVID forced the industry to tighten its belt and squeeze every inch of value out of sponsorship. With the global economy so uncertain at the moment and showing no decisive signs of picking up, that need hasn’t gone away. 

By making effective use of whitespace analysis, anyone working in sports sponsorship can take advantage of a data-based safety net that allows them to speculate safely and base decision-making on clear, objective numbers. 

Find out more about whitespace analysis and how DataPOWA can help you make more informed sponsorship decisions by getting in touch with us at [email protected]