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Sports Marketing Guide – How To Effectively Market Teams and Athletes

The North American sports market has a value that far surpasses 100 billion dollars in sports event marketing alone. If you’re thinking of utilizing sports marketing to grow your business, our sports marketing guide below will help you identify the challenges, trends, and strategies within the sports marketing space.

What is Sports Marketing?

Sports marketing is the use of sporting and sports-related events to promote a brand or a product. This form of marketing allows marketers to leverage the popularity and the attention of sports in order to promote a brand or product. Sports and entertainment marketing also covers the marketing and promotion of live sporting events.

Super bowl ads, ads in the stadium, and endorsements by athletes are some of the most common examples of marketing that we see on a daily basis when watching sporting events. Marketing through sports also helps create a brand image for a healthy, successful lifestyle that many people want to live. This type of image adds credibility to your brand and makes you more appealing in the eye of the consumer.

Sports Event Marketing Challenges

Just because sports marketing is growing rapidly, that does not mean there aren’t advertising challenges in this area.There are many hurdles brands need to overcome to take advantage of trends in sports marketing:

  1. Millennials are not watching traditional media.
  2. Outmoded inflexible contracts prevent innovation and growth.
  3. Rights holders and brands aren’t where fans go for the insider gossip.
  4. Incentivizing people to actually attend sports events in person is difficult.
  5. Sports stars aren’t actors and can’t always effectively market.

Trends in Sports Event Marketing

These sports and entertainment marketing tactics and strategies are designed to take advantage of many of the new trends which have become very popular as a result of social media. These trends include the following:

  1. More women are becoming fans.
  2. There is an increasing drive for gamification.
  3. Sports marketing is shifting to new and different marketing platforms.
  4. Sports fans are demanding a more engaging and immersive experiences.
  5. Sports marketing is shifting to be more lifestyle and entertainment orientated.
  6. Sports marketing culture is becoming more inclusive.

Sports Marketing Strategies and Services

1. Create Engaging Content

One trick that sports marketers can use to attract more customers is creating engaging content with the help of celebrity sports figures. Sports fans share content with their friends all the time, meaning that you are able to tap into the networks of people that your target audience knows. More than half of fans follow their favorite teams on social media, so you can digitally engage your customer base if they also happen to be sports fans.

Recommended service: Content Creation Services

2. Time Your Message Correctly

Most sports fans prefer to have engaging content right before the game starts as 72% of fans are excited by pre-game content during and after the event. When marketing to fans before the game, your brand is part of the excitement leading up to it.

Recommended service: Messaging Strategies

3. Develop a Target Audience

A target audience is the group of people you will be directly be marketing to. Make sure you think about audience traits such as location, age, interests, and income. Thinking about your target market first allows you to determine how to reach them and what consumers to target. It would be a foolish idea to target race fans for a programming course when your research is telling you that they care about auto parts.

4. Sports Contests

One example of a successful promotion is using contests. A contest can tap into the excitement that fans already have for the game as they are motivated to feel like winners although they might not be athletic. Contests get people excited about what you have to offer your customers, making these great tools for customer outreach and motivating your customer base. Taco Bell spent $750,000 on a contest which generated 224 Million views in a single day.

5. Brand Partnerships

Brands often rely on partnerships in order to drive results. Sports teams and brands are looking to align with one another as businesses are focused on becoming more data-oriented. Brands are looking for new opportunities to invest in partnerships, so they are always looking for new avenues to make that happen. As an example, many are shocked to hear that McDonald’s is the official restaurant sponsor of the NFL.

6. Sharing Content and Photos

Most modern-day sports fans enjoy sharing content. The reason they enjoy sharing content so much is that it enables them to connect with other like-minded sports enthusiasts who have similar interests as they do. Thus, in order for your content to be effective, it should be easily shareable and should also be compelling enough to share. About 60% of 18-29 year olds are interested in watching a hockey game through social media. If 83% of sports fans are checking social media while watching a game, is this not a great opportunity for you to time your social media content effectively?

7. Sponsorships

Sponsorships are highly effective ways of being able to generate brand awareness. These tactics are highly visible; think of the times that you’ve seen brand logos on race cars, soccer jerseys, and more. This type of sponsorship adds credibility to the brand and turns a smaller brand into a nationwide or even worldwide player. Soccer has become a global game, and companies from around the world have a presence on soccer uniforms and sports stadiums. Citi Bank paid a huge price for the naming rights to the New York Mets’ home stadium. For Citi Bank, this type of exposure means that sportscasters will be constantly mentioning the name of their brand.

The sponsorship sector, which includes revenues generated by payments from companies to have their products associated with an event, a team or a league, has also been expanding in the past years. In 2016, an estimated 16.3 billion U.S. dollars of revenues were generated through this channel, with projections as high as 19.88 billion by 2021.

8. Using the Right Tools

Sports marketing requires that you use a combination of different tools to reach the consumer. People watch sporting events on television, check scores on their mobile devices, attend live sporting events, listen to sports on the radio, and read about sports in the newspaper and online. This combination of different outlets means that you have many different ways to target your market.

Remember that Google drives about 96% of search traffic for mobile devices, and about 47% of sports fans are using mobile devices to check Facebook during a game.

9. Consider a Sports Marketing Firm

Some people choose to work with sports marketing firms for all of their sports and entertainment marketing needs. People are craving more authenticity; they want to be closer to the action and closer to their favorite athletes. That is the reason why many brands choose a sports marketing firm. The Boston Red Sox have their own marketing arm, Fenway Sports Management. Sports marketing companies can help bridge the gap between your brand and your desire to be more exposed to the world of sports. Firms and agencies in the sports business have the industry contacts that you need as well as the know-how to ensure your success.

10. Don’t forget the eSports Market

You may have noticed ESPN’s frequent coverage of popular eSports leagues. Or perhaps you viewed a viral live stream on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch. The total revenue for eSports in 2017 was $696 million, and it is estimated to reach the $1.5 billion mark by 2020.

  • Celebrities, athletes, and brands are starting to get involved in partnerships with eSports teams, players, tournaments, and leagues.
  • Overwatch League signed 12 teams for the first ever global city-based eSports league featuring investments made by some of the most successful owners in the world of sports.
  • Riot introduced a franchising model for teams powered by  investments from NBA team owners and the endemic gaming space.
  • Intel Extreme Masters held its tournament in Poland with attendance of 173,000 fans, making it the biggest live event in eSports history.
  • Blizzard opened a dedicated eSports stadium called Blizzard Arena.
  • The League of Legends World Championship reached 60 million unique viewers online.

11. Monetize Your Video-on-Demand Content

Video-on-demand content is a huge opportunity for businesses who want to take advantage of sports marketing to grow their business. Live video has became a standard for big platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, Twitch, or Livestream.

This fast growing market should reach 70 billion dollars worldwide within 2021. Live videos are way more powerful than scripted videos: viewers watch them almost 3 times more with an average engagement rate 12 times higher.

As the cost of producing greater amounts of footage falls to near zero, there are more opportunities to take sports viewers where they really want to be: on the training field, in the locker room, and in the moment when the game is won or lost.