As the sports industry grows in size, scale, and financial power, the necessity for sporting properties to maximize monetization has grown with it.

Over the past two decades, the popularization of cloud-based sales platforms such as Salesforce has allowed clients, both teams and organizations alike, to improve customer relationship management (CRM) technology.

This is facilitated by the access to and proliferation of consumer data which has only become greater with the digitization of sporting operations globally and has allowed Salesforce to become a prominent figure in the sales software market both in and out of the sports business.

The growth of Salesforce has allowed numerous firms to enter the market and provide better, more specialized solutions for customers as sales needs become more advanced. One such player in the sports industry is US business Cogny.

Beginning life as a Salesforce consulting firm, Cogny has grown into a specialized sales software startup of its own, providing a wide range of automation services to sporting clients based on the Salesforce suite of products. Among other services, Cogny aids sports properties in monetizing fan engagement through data-led sales campaign provisions, ticketing service solutions, and sponsorship and partnership management, all aided by its ingrained proficiency on the Salesforce platform.

CRM automation through a solutions provider such as Cogny sees businesses looking to streamline their operations, better engage with consumers, and overall increase profitability. Through the firm’s range of cloud-based solutions, known as the Cogny Sports Cloud Ecosystem, a variety of sports clubs, including soccer’s Inter Miami, LAFC, and Palmeiras to name a few, have benefitted from a greater understanding of fan behaviors and an improved ability to act on those with sales technology.

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In 2023, Cogny agreed one of its biggest partnerships to date with the World Rugby governing body to provide it with the Cogny Sports Cloud Ecosystem. In the wake of the deal, Cogny chief strategy officer Edward Meekins explained to Sportcal (GlobalData Sport) how the business helps sports properties get the best out of their sales data, and how the global sponsorship market is growing and changing.

Why did World Rugby choose Cogny for this latest partnership? And what will both parties get out of the deal?

Closing a sponsorship deal involves many factors by season, property, event, and asset that could span across multiple contract years. World Rugby now has the capability to manage its inventory assets, multiple price books (which track the number of products and prices) with negotiation guardrails, contract management (including digital signature), and activation management, all in Salesforce CRM.

Corporate partnership representatives now have the flexibility to focus on the number of deals they close with intelligence about negotiation rounds to improve deal sizes in the future. 

Developing this solution was much different than a solution for an individual team. Cogny gained the opportunity to develop its first federation-level technical solution. Now other federations have the capability to manage their sponsorship deals with the level of complexity required to close deals with brands around the world.

Further, individual rugby organizations and leagues can share best practices developed in this solution to help them drive sponsorship revenue for their respective teams.

Can you compare and contrast what an organization like World Rugby would look for compared to a single club such as LAFC? How different is it to tailor the offerings between the different situations?

World Rugby manages multiple tournaments, leagues, teams, and events across countries whilst LAFC is the most valuable MLS team and owns BMO stadium, competes in the CONCACAF Champions League, and coordinates with Angel City FC (under separate ownership). Outside of the differences on the surface, each organization had very different needs when determining technology solutions.

LAFC needed to find a way to connect the data they had within their CRM to deliver personalized marketing campaigns at scale. To do this, Cogny helped to connect sales and marketing data within Salesforce CRM to find contextual ways to send the right message, on the preferred channel, at the right time to increase conversion rates and inherently stadium attendance.

While we have pre-built solutions available in the event our client does not have something in place, we tailor our offerings for each client that we work with to ensure that their legacy technical architecture is not completely forgotten. Often, the new technology takes time to adopt. As a result, we try our best to preserve the data that makes sense to maintain so that representatives recognize the new environment in the language that they use every day.

The distinctive commonality among both clients is data. Data is the vehicle that each sports organization leverages to organize, personalize, monetize, and retain fans to increase loyalty and enhance fan experience. Closing sponsorship deals or delivering personalized marketing campaigns require relevant data from the CRM to be successful. For sponsorship, this data comes in the form of managing sponsor assets, prices, and activations. For engaging fans, data within the CRM is critical to identify what matters to each individual fan.

How has the sponsorship space evolved in recent years and how do you expect it to continue to evolve?

The evolution of how data impacts the valuation of sponsorship deals has only increased over time. A simple example can involve a brand and a sports organization. The brand is looking for awareness, frequency of exposure, a better understanding of potential customers, and a way to engage with fans that normalizes their presence in the fans’ lives.

The sports organization is looking for a sponsor that reflects their fan base, that can enhance the lives of their fans on and off the field, and long-term partnerships that are mutually beneficial.

I expect more changes in the future with sponsor data companies aggregating sponsorship deals to empower corporate partnership departments to deliver higher return on investment for deals closed. On the other hand, I expect the “ask” from sponsors to be much higher than in years past. Sponsors require evidence (number of CRM profiles, social media presence, number of activations, etc.) to justify the millions of dollars that are included in these contracts. As I mentioned, data is still at the center of both stakeholders.

How important is Salesforce in this constant evolution in the sponsorship space?

It is imperative that Salesforce continues to evolve its ecosystem of products to include more features and functionality for sports and entertainment organizations. The technology must follow the demand for more data and more visibility. A few examples include community portals which give access for sponsors to do their own live look into activation and campaign performance, Tableau dashboards that can help visualize how fans are responding and interacting, and Einstein AI which can assist front office staff in gaining a better understanding on the data they have and how to best use it to drive more revenue. 

Most of your partnered entities are based in North and South America but World Rugby is a global brand, what are Cogny’s plans for expansion?

The two markets that have been the most influential in our business are Europe and the Middle East. The European market has many leagues (not just soccer) that are changing rapidly with new stadiums, new events, and changing fan interests.

The Middle Eastern market is experiencing a rapid change compared to 10 years ago. Multiple sports leagues now have brand awareness in the Middle Eastern region with players relocating there, more championship series, a larger diversity of sports, and a growing number of sports fans moving to the region.