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The marketplace innovation driving new value in sports and recreation partnerships

The relationship between sporting clubs and partners has never been more important. With so many disruptions to the sporting calendar, clubs need to retain or even increase their partnership income. Meanwhile partner businesses have also been affected, so they have even more of a focus on measuring the value from those partnerships to justify their investment.

Both sides understand the symbiotic nature of these relationships, but they are in need of some innovative thinking. How can sporting clubs offer more value to their partners beyond signage and player access? How can partners generate more revenue through those partnerships beyond more outbound marketing to club membership lists? How can you measurably improve the ROI?

The answer lies in the marketplace model.

The marketplace model in sport

Recent years has seen an explosion in online marketplaces. While they have traditionally appealed to B2C companies as another channel to support their existing online or brick-and-mortar stores, for sporting organisations, the marketplace model has the potential to trigger new revenue streams, bolster partnership and fan relations, and offer new synergies to reduce costs.

  • Strengthening partnership relations – Every sports association, federation, club or group sells to its members and supporters – whether it be merchandise or tickets. A marketplace platform takes it many steps forward, also allowing any number of partners to make their products and services available for fans to purchase on the club’s site, 365 days a year. Whether it’s an insurance package, or appointment bookings for a car dealership, providing fans and the community with access to partner-specific products (all within the domain of the sporting club), allows the partner to closely connect with fans to improve brand affinity and revenue opportunities.
  • For clubs, this also presents an opportunity to offer new types of partnerships where either a percentage of any sales through the marketplace, or a price per click/referral fee that goes back to the club. This could provide the opportunity for smaller partners to come on board on a “fee for performance basis” instead of a larger upfront commitment. All of which lends itself to very clear, measurable ROIs.
  • Access to better data – Data has already been put to good use by sporting organisations, gleaning insights on player metrics and team performance. But when applied to the marketplace model, organisations can use data to tie partnership directly to revenue. Clubs can share data insights based on clicks, purchases and/or sign ups, further cementing their value to the partner, building deeper relationships with the wider sporting community, and using that value-driven edge to attract new partners.

Digital assets a pivotal move

We are starting to see sporting organisations drive new sports revenue streams by expanding their business models with digital assets. This move is reflected in a recent survey of a select group of US sporting industry leaders which found that one of the largest industry-wide opportunities comes from creating and monetising digital assets*. Offering affordability and unlimited scalability, the digital marketplace is providing an alternative new model for sporting organisations looking to de-risk dependency on traditional revenue streams while unlocking a broad space for future growth.

In this regard, the marketplace platform can also be considered another media asset that can be used to support partner marketing efforts by running banner ads, original content pieces or other promotions across the platform. When compared to traditional commercial arrangements where partners may be limited to just 12 member communications per year, the marketplace can showcase partners 365 days a year, 7 days a week.

The Challenge

While this all sounds good in theory, there is one challenge that gets constantly raised and that’s the availability of expertise and resources to build the marketplace for the sporting club. Despite some internal IT resources, building an online ecommerce system and marketplace is typically outside the club’s normal experience.

And it’s not just setting it up. There is a level of admin overhead to keep it all running which is a concern where your main business is sport, not technology.

The Marketplacer advantage

This challenge is where Marketplacer can make a major difference.

Recognised as one of the world’s leading providers of online marketplace software, Marketplacer has different implementation models that cater to any environment. So, it doesn’t matter if you have an existing ecommerce site or nothing at all, a full plug and play turnkey solution can be implemented that can cover the sale of products, services, events and bookings.

Marketplacer is also working on innovative implementation models based around an “as-a-service” model that requires no internal expertise at the club and can be funded by the operation of the marketplace itself so as not to add further burden on the club’s finances.

The marketplace model is underpinning a new wave of business model innovation for sporting and recreation club partnerships and Marketplacer is playing a leading role. For more information visit

* PwC (2020), Sports industry: system rebooting. Available online.

Growth Story: Western Bulldogs


“We’re proud to be the first sporting club to pioneer this technology. We’re not only doing something that is genuinely a first for the sports sector, but we’re giving our key stakeholders a competitive financial edge. We’re helping our family grow and be as strong as they can. Providing that kind of value is very rewarding to the club.”

Simon McNamara, Head of Innovation and Commercial Projects

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