Sport has become big business in recent decades, spawning a range of marketing and media support structures. Ticketing, retailing, media rights, brand building, advertising – all of this activity is central to raising revenues for clubs and players and also providing investment for the grass roots.
If between 5 and 10% of the potential target market (depending upon the percentage of your male customers) can’t access these promotional efforts, then you or your sponsors and advertisers are missing a trick.
Factor in, too, the possible negative impact on a carefully honed reputation, and the financial hit could be even greater. Take the example of NFL and Nike in the US in 2015. Both these sports brand giants fell victim to negative publicity when two teams in the NFL Color Rush wore an all-green strip and an all-red strip against each other in a televised major league game. Following an influx of complaints from viewers with CVD (over 10 million Americans are colour blind), the NFL was forced to issue a statement:
…we did test the jerseys this summer on field and on television. The standard television test did not account for color blindness for fans at home, that became apparent last night. We will enhance our testing to include a color blindness analysis to better address this issue in future.
Listed below are some of the main areas where revenue can be negatively impacted (or improved):
- Broadcast revenue
- Sponsor Reputation
- Advertising revenue
- Branding – including legibility of information on websites
- Ticket sales
- Merchandise sales
- Corporate hospitality
Broadcast matches are the largest revenue generator for competition organisers and clubs. But don’t risk the wrath of colour blind viewers – they may simply switch off if they can’t follow the game, resulting in lower viewing figures. Organisations such as FIFA, UEFA, The Premier League, The English Football league have already taken steps to avoid this and therefore minimise the commercial risk of broadcasters reducing what they are prepared to pay for ‘kit clash’ matches.
Today fans can take to Twitter to immediately voice their frustrations and they are doing so in greater and greater numbers and across different sports.
But where a match is accessible and fans were not expecting it, they are quick to show their appreciation – this single Tweet reached almost 150,000 people, had over 23,000 engagements and was picked up by the media as far away as Brazil.
Key points to bear in mind, are:
- Certain kit colour combinations may clash with the opposing side’s kit, or the referee or goalkeeper’s kit, making it difficult or impossible for people with CVD to distinguish between the players and/or match officials
- Some kit colours – and some ball colours – are not visible against a green pitch/court. Single colour strips are particularly difficult to pick out against a green background
- Televised floodlit matches can pose a problem as colour blind viewers may find it hard to follow the path of the ball or tell kits apart
- Certain long-distance angles can render the action practically invisible to viewers with CVD, particularly in fast moving action
- A growing number of fans follow matches live on mobiles and tablets, but the smaller the screen is the more difficult it can be to tell some colours apart
- Graphics often add to the frustration for colour blind fans. Implementing simple changes can be the difference between fans being able to understand information or not. See – Solutions and Services For Sport.
Impact on sponsor reputations
Imagine sponsoring a competition only to find your organisation’s reputation is undermined by the actions of the competition organisers. This is the situation faced by Guinness, sponsors of rugby’s Six Nations competition, because the competition knowingly permits a ‘kit clash’ game every year despite this being in breach of World Rugby’s guidelines on colour blindness. No sponsor wants to be associated with negative publicity. Read more here
Advertising & branding
Is your advertising and branding accessible to people with CVD? Whether on billboards, on kit, in fanzines, or digital advertising (especially pitch-side animated advertisements), it’s important to check that the colour combinations used in your logos and adverts don’t exclude the colour blind market because they simply disappear against the background. It’s not uncommon for sponsor logos to be invisible to colour blind people, one example being the ‘red’ logo of the W88 sponsor which was placed onto Aston Villa’s ‘green’ third kit in the 2019/20 season, effectively rendering the advertiser’s logo invisible.
Organisations should check that their use of brand colours doesn’t inadvertently impact legibility of information on their websites, such as whether visitors can easily navigate their site and/or successfully make purchases. Club colours can sometimes cause specific issues. A common problem is when clubs which have a predominantly red brand use black text over red to provide information. To a significant number of colour blind people red and black can appear as the same, meaning information, such as website navigation cues, can be easily overlooked.
Ticketing portals can be a huge challenge to colour blind people due to lack of forethought at the design stage. Solutions are usually inexpensive and straight-forward but lack of awareness means many organisations miss out on potential sales simply because customers are unable to purchase tickets independently.
Make sure sales of tickets and merchandising online, either via your website or a third party portal, are accessible for colour blind users. Be careful especially of using coloured sections to denote differently priced tickets on a stadium plan, or red, orange and green to denote unavailable/available seating. See Services for Sport for more information.
Be aware that additional labelling/signage may be necessary to ensure colour blind people recognise the colour of different products. They won’t be happy, for example, to find they’ve bought branded pink training top which they thought was white! Online shop sales can be lost which could easily have been retained by taking some simple steps.
It’s important to stress again, one in 12 men has some form of colour blindness – that means up to 8% of your sales to men are potentially affected if you don’t support them when they want to buy.
There are a few common problems which can be easily rectified to help increase sales and build loyalty. For example, using confusing colour descriptions such as maroon, stone, crimson confuse a colour blind purchaser, so try to use basic colour references in addition, such as adding ‘bright red’ to a label describing a colour ‘crimson’ to help your colour blind customers to make a purchase. See – Retailing.
Sports hospitality is a popular choice in the corporate hospitality industry. Businesses increasingly turn to high-profile sporting events to build and maintain relationships with key shareholders and clients.
Specialists in corporate hospitality refer to it as ‘getting a return on experience’ – give them a good time, doing something they enjoy, and it will pay dividends somewhere along the way. But for this to work, the memorable experience has to be excellent from A to Z, or risk being memorable for the wrong reasons.
For example, champagne and an expensive gift won’t do the trick for a colour blind rugby enthusiast invited to a Wales v Ireland international where he’s unable to tell the teams apart or read the cleverly themed green-red menu. Should this person happen to be the top man at a firm the host company has prospected for several years, then the host may well choose a different form of corporate hospitality the next time.
Yes, it may be ‘only’ a 1 in 12 chance that a special guest is colour blind, but ask any bookie, statistically, that’s quite a high chance, and the fall-out of risk is lost revenues all round. On the other hand, if you plan the VIP event keeping in mind that some of the guests may have CVD, then you needn’t worry about the odds – and everyone wins.
Designers/Marketing and Advertising agencies
Finally, professionals working in the marketing and media sectors of sport can play a key role in highlighting issues surrounding colour blindness. Responsible for maximising revenues and driving forward new initiatives, your views often influence decision-makers more readily than those working in less prominent positions.
Some straightforward initial steps are highlighted on our Simple Solutions page that can help colour blind people get the most out of sport – and help your organisation to increase revenue.
Find out more about the diagnosis of colour blindness
Find out more about the causes of colour blindness
Find out more about the different types of colour blindness