With 2017 coming to a close, we asked our experts across sports, data and insights, our behavioural science unit SMARTER and H+K’s creative studio Bisqit to give their predictions for the year to come.

The only certainty for 2018 is continued uncertainty: Andy Sutherden, Global Sports Practice Director, Sports Marketing

Brexit has exacerbated the ‘new normal’ of planning in days and weeks rather than months and years. This is particularly true in the world of sports. Clients will require new levels of speed, creativity and economy so they remain relevant, distinctive and prudent in the eyes of their discerning public.

However, the case for partnership marketing is still powerful: in this purpose obsessed age, is there a more compelling way of bringing a brand purpose to life?  In 2018, the public will care even more about what a company does rather than what a company says.

Three specific things to watch:

  1. A Winter Olympics in South Korea. A FIFA World Cup in Russia… ‎any company investing in sponsorship without also investing in issues and crisis management is placing its brand reputation under unprecedented risk.
  2. The eSports industry will start to better embrace commercial opportunities by professionalising its approach to brands.
  3. The ability to acquire data marketing permissions to make powerful connections with fans around common passion points has long been the backbone of any ROI argument in sponsorship. How ready is the industry for GDPR next May? The balance of power will continue to shift to the data smart media and ecomm brands such as Amazon and Alibaba who are already using partnerships with the likes of Manchester City and the IOC, providing exclusive content and offers across multiple platforms, to engage (and monetise) loyal fans groups.

Behavioural science isn’t a new approach: Dan Berry, Behavioural Insights Strategist, H+K SMARTER

But my prediction is that the Nobel Prize in Economics for Richard Thaler, who’s done more than anyone to transfer behavioural economics from academia into the real world, will increase its profile even more.

Firstly, it will be much more common for comms agencies and in-house teams to draw on behavioural science expertise in how we develop and execute campaigns. H+K Smarter, H+K’s behavioural science team, enters its third year in 2018 – so we’re ahead of the game. But I predict other PR firms will increasingly follow our lead.

Secondly, they’ll be much more use of a test and learn approach. The key insight from behavioural science is that human decision-making is more complex, context-specific and irrational than we might have expected. To know what works, we’ll need to do a lot more robust testing with customers or in simulations. We’ll see a lot more of this through 2018.

Ultimately this will lead to smarter and more effective campaigns as we apply the science of human behaviour to the art of communications.

PR will forge new relationships that support better integration of measurement with other verticals: Allison Spray, Director of Data and Insights

The past few years have seen tremendous growth in the appreciation and adoption of measurement within public relations – led by industry bodies such as AMEC. Looking forward to 2018, the next stage in this evolution will see greater integration with the evaluation of other marketing disciplines: media buying, advertising, e-marketing and digital writ large.

To do this, we will have to work closely with our colleagues who work in these areas and of course change how we think about and structure data. 2018 will also see us working with new partners and technologies that modernise our approach to data collection, from intelligent listening to more advanced AI solutions.

Ultimately, this better collaboration around measurement will open up new ways to tell integrated stories with the insights we find. That’s the opportunity that has me most excited for the new year!

It’s not about the money – stand for something: Matt Cridland, Creative Director, Bisqit

We see an increasing amount of clients building their entire creative output around brand purpose; it’s for the long-term not a one-off stunt. Turbulent times mean 2018 will only see a continued trend in brands taking a stand.

IRL (In Real Life)
With multiple screens dominating our lives there’s an increasing shift to real-life experiences as ways to truly engage with brands (and then of course post the snaps on Instagram).