Why is sport becoming commercial these days

German television history in East and West

The web of relationships between media, advertising and sport

The commercialization of sport is closely related to the media interest in sport. It was only through the growing public awareness that sport became attractive for commercial interests. This in turn offered sports programs as a suitable platform for placing advertising. The development of numerous sports into mass phenomena also led to a professionalization of sport (paid sports professionals), which also had an impact on commercialization. This results in a network of relationships between media, advertising and sport.

Consequences of commercialization

Commercialization means that sporting competitions are marketed on the one hand for non-sporting purposes (advertising, sponsoring, merchandising), e.g. B. on television, and on the other hand, investors who are not involved in sports create the conditions for athletic performance. So have z. For example, the sports rights agencies made an event like the Champions League possible through the international sale of football television rights. In addition, the various forms of advertising offer the industry the opportunity to polish up its image with sport. Sporting goods manufacturers play an essential role in this business. They use associations, clubs and individual athletes as advertising media, equip them with sports and competition clothing and bind them to themselves with exclusive contracts.

Athletes as an advertising medium

Former national coach Sepp Herberger in an Adidas tracksuit (& copy picture-alliance / dpa, report)
One of the first famous advertising media for a sporting goods manufacturer was Sepp Herberger, the national coach of the German soccer world championship team from 1954, who liked to be depicted in his Adidas tracksuit and Adidas sports shoes. The commercial liaison between the German Football Association (DFB) and Adidas continues to this day. The equipment contract, which was extended until 2022, will bring the DFB cash and non-cash benefits of over 50 million euros per year from 2018. Even a lavish offer from rival Nike couldn't do anything.

While professionalization has developed slowly over the decades and at different speeds in different sports (so-called trend sports such as snowboard or skating professionalize very quickly because they aimed at a youth market and were therefore able to recruit enough sponsors), commercialization has been going on since the 1990s gained considerable momentum. Nevertheless, their origins go back a long way.

Early commercial sporting events

A major commercial sporting event was held as early as 1903. At that time, the French sports newspaper "L'Équipe" organized the world's most important cycle race, the Tour de France, for the first time. This example shows that commercialization initially prevailed in professional sports such as cycling and boxing. The amateur sport was initially unaffected.

Initially, the Olympic Games were not taken over by the economy, but by politics, as was impressively evident in the 1936 Games in Berlin. The 1984 Games in Los Angeles are considered to be the trailblazers for the commercialization of the Olympics. In the USA, the professionalization of sport was already well advanced. Commercial marketing of the Olympic Games was therefore an obvious choice for the organizers. The GDR also opened up to commercial marketing, even if it had criticized it heavily in the West for years, and made it possible for athletes such as B. the figure skater Katharina Witt participation in professional events.

The "Sports Media Complex"

The commercialization of sport is mainly promoted by the so-called 'sports-media complex', the increasingly closer interdependence of the media, sports associations and advertising. Because numerous sports can only survive on a national and international level if they can receive financial support from the media sector. For example, the German Ski Association had to hand over a competition (Tour de Ski) to the Czech Association as an organizer in the winter of 2007/08 because the legal situation was unclear and no television money was received. The sporting events themselves, however, only reach relatively few spectators directly. Much more viewers sit in front of the television or read about it in the newspaper, so that the media audience is more interesting for the advertising medium than the real competition viewers.

The professionalization and commercialization of sport with all its consequences such as skyrocketing player salaries and prize money, rising costs for licensing rights, doping, increasing staging, etc. has covered almost all sports - some more, others less - and has also led to the development of new sports that use the term 'Trend sports' are called, led.

Development of prices for broadcasting rights

The more popular the sport, the more expensive the broadcasting rights (& copy Stefan Atamann / fotolia.com)
Broadcasting rights to the individual sports must be acquired by the television broadcasters, i. H. broadcasters have to pay to broadcast sports. The rights are sold by the sports associations, usually not directly to television, but to a marketing agency, which then negotiates the amount with the broadcasters. In the sports that have become highly professional, separate marketing companies have been founded. The television rights to the Bundesliga are no longer sold by the German Football Association (DFB), but by the German Football League (DFL), a marketing company to which all professional clubs belong.

Example football

Taking football as an example, it can also be shown how much the prices for this coveted program item have risen since private broadcasters as well as public broadcasters vied for broadcast rights. In the 1950s, z. B. the Northwest German Broadcasting (NWDR) between 1000 and 2500 DM per game that was broadcast live. It was not until the Bundesliga was founded in 1963 that it began to be marketed on a regular basis. While ARD paid just 0.33 million euros per season in the 1965/66 Bundesliga season, it was 3.22 million euros in 1980/81.

Price development since the introduction of private television

When the dual broadcasting system was introduced in 1984, 5.11 million euros per season was enough, and in the 1987/88 season, the last exclusively public service, it was 9.2 million euros. For the first season in private television (1988/89) 20.45 million euros had to be paid. The Kirch Group then drove prices up, from 74 million euros for the 1992/93 season to 355 million euros for the 2000/01 season. But then it went downhill for the time being. In the year of Kirch's bankruptcy, the negotiated price was not paid in full, so that "only" 328 million euros flowed into the league's coffers in the 2001/02 season. Until the 2005/06 season she had to make do with 290 or 300 million euros. The recent increase brought the league at least 420 million euros for three years from 2006/07. For the seasons from 2013/14 to 2016/17, annual proceeds of 628 million euros were negotiated. From the 2017/18 season, as much as 1.16 billion euros will flow into the DFL's coffers every year. The clubs in the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga have more economic leeway than ever before.
In an international comparison, however, the Bundesliga lags behind in terms of TV revenue. The clubs of the English Premier League will receive 2.3 billion euros annually from the 2016/17 season and thus have far more financial resources than the Bundesliga clubs. Even the last-placed club in the Premier League receives more money from TV revenues than the front-runner in the 1st Bundesliga.

The more popular, the more expensive

However, a similar trend can only be seen in popular sports or sporting events such as the Olympic Games, as the prices that can be achieved depend heavily on the popularity of the particular sport on television. The cost of broadcasting the Olympic Games in Europe increased from $ 1.74 million for the 1972 Games in Munich to $ 75 million for the 1992 Games in Barcelona to $ 442 million for the Beijing Games in 2008 (for comparison : the American broadcaster NBC paid $ 894 million for the broadcasts from Beijing). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) raised a record sum of more than four billion dollars for the sale of worldwide TV rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

At 1.3 billion dollars, the revenue for the Olympic Games from 2018 to 2024 was lower. The granting of sub-licenses to the new rights holder Discovery / Eurosport and the establishment of its own Olympic TV channel by the IOC are expected to increase TV revenues even further.

For a sport that is popular at least in winter, such as skiing (alpine and Nordic), which is marketed by the German Ski Association (DSV), ten million euros per season were still due. For the athletics world finals in Stuttgart in 2008, the organizer collected only 170,000 euros for the television rights.

Advertising and sponsorship

The presence on television also increases the attractiveness of the sport for sponsors and other types of marketing of advertising. So there is so-called perimeter advertising in the halls and stadiums, i.e. H. Advertising banners are brought to the fore in such a way that they cannot be overlooked when broadcasting on television. There is also competition sponsorship for events. So was z. B. the table tennis team world championship 2012 sponsored by the electronics company Liebherr. The German Open in Golf are sponsored by BMW. Numerous sports associations have secured so-called main sponsors independently of specific events, who are presented with their logos at all sports events. A popular method of sponsoring is shirt sponsorship for individual clubs.

Shirt sponsorship as an advertising method

In a sense, 1973 was the big bang for this advertising method. After the Eintracht Braunschweig football team competed against Kickers Offenbach with the Jägermeister logo on their chest on January 27 of that year, the German Football Association (DFB) initially banned this form of advertising. After a legal dispute, shirt sponsorship was allowed in football since the end of February 1973. Braunschweig received 100,000 DM per season from the liqueur manufacturer. Since then, the income from sponsorship has risen sharply. In the 2015/16 season, Borussia Dortmund collected up to 20 million euros from sponsor Evonik. The front runners in terms of jersey advertising revenues in 2015/16 were FC Bayern Munich (sponsor Deutsche Telekom) and VfL Wolfsburg (sponsor Volkswagen) with up to 30 million euros annually.

However, there is also a gap here, because the more often a club is present on television and other media (e.g. by participating in international competitions such as the Champions League), the higher the income from shirt sponsorship. FSV Mainz 05 received just 4.5 million euros in the 2015/16 season from the plastic profile manufacturer Kömmerling. The sums are even lower in the Second Bundesliga, where z. B. Union Berlin received around 500,000 euros from the auto parts dealer kfzteile24 in the 2015/16 season. In the national and district leagues, local sponsors are usually present on the jerseys for much less money. The other sports associations have also allowed this form of advertising after football, so that shirt sponsorship is common in all sports.

Commercialization and stylization of sport

Security guards guard the national stadium while fireworks can be seen in the background (& copy AP)

The commercialization of sport has led to sporting events being staged as TV-compatible events. The opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games now follow a downright Hollywood dramaturgy. The sporting aspects still play a role, but the show elements, such as B. the invasion of nations, the lighting of the Olympic flame, ballet appearances etc. play an increasingly important role in addition to the comments, interviews and interspersed short sports reports.

The opening celebrations of the Olympic Games in Beijing with their oversized lights and mass choreographies were a highlight. Football international matches are artificially drawn out in the studio by preliminary reports, follow-up reports, interviews and comments from moderators and experts and turned into a television event. Some sports like table tennis and volleyball have even changed their rules to make the sport more attractive to television - and thus also to sponsors.

Sporting success and the quota

The presence on television depends above all on sporting success and the athletes. In the days of Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Michael Stich, i.e. in the 1980s and 1990s, sports such as tennis were a guarantee for high ratings. Years later, when Tommy Haas was the only German tennis player to play in the world elite, the sport eked a niche existence on the special interest channels for a long time. Even Angelique Kerber's successes in 2016 did not result in a new tennis boom on television. For example, the transmission rates from the WTA finals in Singapore in October 2016 fell short of the expectations of ARD and ZDF.

In contrast, the triumphs of the German handball players at the 2007 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship resulted in strong TV ratings. The 2016 European Championship final in the first was watched by 13 million viewers, which meant an overwhelming market share of 42%.

The broadcasts from Formula 1, which achieved high ratings during Michael Schumacher's successful career as multiple world champion, have proven to be similarly dependent on success. After Schumacher was no longer active on the race track, the quotas fell. After his return to the Formula 1 circus and thanks to other German drivers in particular from Sebastian Vettel (mainly by winning the Formula 1 World Championship from 2010 to 2013), the TV ratings rose again.

Scandals in sports

Sports broadcasts are not only dependent on success, but also on scandal. If there are irregularities in the sports, this affects the reporting and the popularity of the audience. The Bundesliga scandal of 1970/71, in which there were agreements between the players and the outcome of individual games was manipulated, led to critical reporting, but only temporarily impaired the image of football. This also applies to the uncovered betting scandals of 2005 and 2009. In 2005, the referee Robert Hoyzer was convicted of postponing games in the 2nd Bundesliga, the DFB Cup and the regional league. In the betting scandal that was uncovered in 2009, over 200 football games were manipulated in nine European countries.

The corruption scandal in FIFA, which led to the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter in 2015, and the affair surrounding the 2006 World Cup, which weighed heavily on the DFB and Franz Beckenbauer, continued to damage the reputation of professional football. However, the scandals could not destroy the popularity of the sport, as the high TV ratings for soccer broadcasts or the number of visitors to the soccer stadiums make clear.

Source text

Fifa and television money

"Fifa is rich. The world football association has reserves of 1.5 billion dollars alone on its balance sheet. The money comes from profits that the controversial club, led by its even more controversial boss Joseph Blatter, can put back every year.

But where does the wealth come from? The television stations bring the highest income to Fifa. The prices for the broadcast rights of the world championships have multiplied in the new millennium. At the 1998 World Cup, they didn't even bring Fifa a hundred million dollars, at the 2014 tournament in Brazil it was a good 2.4 billion dollars - a record that could be exceeded again at the upcoming World Cups.

Ever since the latest corruption scandal became known, the question arises as to what extent the Blatter system will be kept alive by the money of German television viewers. "

Stefan Kaiser / Anna van Hove: Television money: How we all finance the Blatter system. Spiegel Online, June 1st, 2015. Online at: http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/fifa-und-blatter-fernsehrechte-haben-verband-millionen-a-1036619.html
After the fall of the Wall, there was a public discussion of doping practices in the GDR in athletics. However, this did not lead to a general condemnation of performance-enhancing agents, but instead put individual athletes such as Kathrin Krabbe or Grit Breuer and their misconduct at the center of the reporting.

In 2007, due to a new doping scandal at the Tour de France, a hitherto unique situation arose: the public broadcasters ARD and ZDF stopped reporting on the cycling race after a doping case became public. Before that, ARD had even acted as a sponsor and had only marginally touched on the topic of doping in its reporting.In the past there would have been enough opportunity to discuss this, because since the 1960s there has been more or less open discussion about performance-enhancing agents in cycling - the German racing driver Rudi Altig was nicknamed "the rolling pharmacy" at that time.

Sports people as idols and icons for advertising and lifestyle

One of the first advertising icons in German sport was Sepp Herberger, who had been outfitted by the sporting goods company Adidas since the early 1950s and who could be seen in tracksuits and sports shoes from this brand. With the commercialization of sport in the 1980s and 1990s, successful athletes were increasingly marketed as stars who also became advertising icons. In 1984 the then unknown and insignificant American sporting goods manufacturer Nike signed the still young basketball star Michael Jordan. Since then, a new sports shoe from his clothing line has been launched every year on his birthday. Between 1986 and 1998, Nike had Michael Jordan products in sales of $ 2.3 billion.

German footballers as an advertising medium

In Germany, football stars in particular became advertising media, above all Franz Beckenbauer, who has been present in advertising since the 1970s. Above all, the national players are also obliged by the contracts with the sponsors of the national team to advertise them. In addition, numerous companies advertise with young players such as Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller or Mats Hummels.

Michael Ballack was one of the most successful German advertising media at the beginning of the 21st century. In addition to other advertising contracts, he had a contract with Adidas until 2012, which alone brought him 12 million euros. The effects this had beyond the individual player became apparent when Ballack moved to Chelsea in the English Premier League in 2006. Adidas also signed a kit deal with the English club, which was valid until 2014 and by then had poured 150 million euros into the club's coffers. Adidas created an "all-round feel-good package" for Ballack and his new club. The former German international also had advertising contracts with Coca Cola, McDonalds, Sony and T-Com.

The media figure Boris Becker

Boris Becker (& copy AP)

Using the example of Boris Becker, it can be shown how a career as a public media figure is still possible with the celebrities established by sporting successes.

Becker's success as a tennis star was initially based on his success in playing tennis. After an unprecedented career in youth tournaments, he became the first unsettled player to win Wimbledon in 1985, making him the first German and the youngest player of all time to win the most important tennis tournament in the world. In doing so, he made tennis the most popular sport after football in Germany. He was then voted Sportsman of the Year several times, celebrated numerous other victories and finally won the Davis Cup in 1987. From 1989 he also lost several games, which did not detract from his popularity. In 1997 he was elected team boss of the German Davis Cup team. He was characterized by a particularly robust style of play, especially through emotional appearances that made him popular worldwide. Willpower, strong nerves and the 'Becker fist' that reached out after victory became his hallmarks.

Career after sport

It was also marketed as an advertising medium at an early stage. The ambiguous advertising slogan for the Internet provider AOL, "Am I already in?", Became famous, although it was produced after the end of his sporting career. He then also worked as a tennis expert and commentator for TV stations (BBC) and for newspapers (Handelsblatt et al.) And was remembered by viewers as a "tennis crack". The audience quickly became interested in his private life: starting a family, the divorce and the affairs made and continue to make him a media figure that is repeatedly discussed in the tabloid media. He has published several biographies and a guide to parenting. A lawsuit for tax evasion - Becker lived temporarily in Monaco - did not lead to the end of his popularity. Boris Becker has been the coach of the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic since the end of 2013.

David Beckham - pop star and lifestyle icon

However, the star development was taken to extremes by an English footballer who is marketed as a pop star and lifestyle icon: David Beckham. Beckham's image expanded and changed considerably through his marriage to the pop singer Victoria Adams, known as "Posh-Spice" from the girls' band "Spice Girls". Beckham's stardom reached dimensions that footballers previously only dared to dream of. His number 7 shirt from Manchester United sold millions of copies. In 2003 he moved to Spain for Real Madrid. His Real jersey with the number 23 was sold out within a day and brought the club around 600,000 euros in revenue. In the months that followed, the jersey went over the counter more than a million times worldwide. This alone enabled the club to bring in the transfer fee of 36 million euros.

In addition, Beckham signed a five-year contract with the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas in 2004, which brought him a total of 40 million euros. In 2007, the footballer joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer (MLS) for five years for a guaranteed salary of £ 25.8 million, where he ended his career in 2013. Even after the end of his footballing career, he has lucrative advertising contracts. B. with the fashion brand H&M and always causes a stir with his hairstyles and tattoos. He now heads an investment group and plans to set up his own soccer team (Miami Beckham United) in the MLS. It is also noteworthy that he makes more money after retiring than when he was active. In the Forbes 2015 list of the richest ex-athletes, David Beckham ranks second with an annual income of 57 million euros, behind Michael Jordan (96.5 million euros). For comparison: in 2011 his annual income was "only" 31.5 million euros.

This makes it clear that David Beckham is the advertising, style and lifestyle icon among athletes at the beginning of the 21st century. He's a pop star. His example shows that commercialized professional sport has become a part of the global entertainment industry and consumer world.