Most people, unless they are in the sports marketing space, don’t realize that sports marketing and traditional marketing aren’t the same. It is definitely true in both the sports industry and in the non-sports world that there are a variety of ways for a company to sell its products. And because of that, how you go about that sale might not be the same. The most significant differences are the approach to the target audience and the need to develop a customer into an actual consumer.
With sports marketing, you are looking to use the passion of sports, and the actual use of sports, to sell and promote your products or services. And sports marketing takes place at all levels, starting even in youth sports and moving to the professional leagues. In sports, you are really looking to create partnerships with organizations that align with your target demographic.
Take the 2014 World Cup, for example. They partnered with Google! Google! Yes, we said that twice, because think about it – you partner the number on a search engine with one of the most-watched sporting events, and voila! All Google did was market themselves but leveraged their homepage to show match results, lineups, live scores, tables, and video highlights all right there on the home screen. And super sports enthusiasts could even use the StreetViewfunction to get a glimpse into the stadiums. While not officially working with FIFA, they provided relevant and fantastic service to football (soccer) fans all over the world. And that helped them get credibility.
The above example is really just there to highlight that sports marketers need to think even more creatively than traditional marketers. Sports marketers can’t rely only on one strategy or tactic to promote their brand. A. billboard on the side of a busy interstate is not bad, but it is not enough. A sign in the outfield, however, will get the attention every time a baseball fan looks at the outfield.
Unbeatable Sports Marketing Strategies
- Before you do anything, you need to understand your target audience. Your target audience is who you want to reach with your specific message. Every organization will have different target audiences that they must influence based on the niche that they specialize in. A great way to identify your target audience will start with understanding what your competition is doing, and then you can hone in from there.
- In any marketing strategy, you need to be able to position your brand so that you can build awareness. A great way to do this is to ensure that you have a unique and distinct logo that makes sense. Your logo is the face of your company and you want a logo that people will be able to recognize after repeat exposure over time. The simpler your logo is, and the more it ties to your company so that people can make the connection on why it is your logo, the better off you will be. Sports organizations generally use branding and their logo to secure a distinct spot in the mind of their fans. When you differentiate your brand from the competition, your business will become more recognizable.
- We talked about those partnerships a bit earlier, and we want to reiterate that here. Sports organizations are not going to win over fans if they don’t have reputable partnerships that make sense. All winning sports marketing approaches involve partnerships with charities, influencers, or related organizations of some kind. Sports organizations tend to highlight charity sponsorships within their community in particular, as this can positively raise the profile of both organizations and draw in new audiences.
- The need for a compelling message will exist no matter what marketing approach you are taking. But in sports marketing, your message is the basis for your company’s public communication. From social media platforms and even to the more traditional press release, a compelling and consistent message should guide each and every one of your public communications. Then, use that foundation to tailor your messages to your target audiences. And keep in mind that simplicity is important. If your message is too complicated, your customers will literally switch you off.
- Consider your distribution channels. In today’s marketing world, you need to create a channel marketing strategy. There are really no options other than a multi-channel or omnichannel strategy, and that applies in sports marketing too. Once you have your target audiences and messaging squared away, you need to think about where to take your message. Without a doubt, you need to have a significant presence on social media marketing channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, and possibly Instagram or Pinterest based on your message. And if you are doing business partnerships, LinkedIn might even be a wise choice. The great thing is that you get to decide based on what you learn and know about your target audience. And once you land on your approach, make sure you don’t just set it and forget it. Social media marketing is always evolving, so you need to keep experimenting with your content across your channels and platforms. And don’t hesitate to leverage user-generated content. This can actually be a great strategy for Instagram – ask your fans to share their favorite game side or team photos, or even better, photos of themselves enjoying and celebrating the game.
- Gameday is not enough. Your fans will expect a special event once in a while, whether it be a public tailgating party or a hosted event at a local brewery. Maybe you rent out an amusement park for a day and theme it for your team but then donate proceeds to the team’s preferred charity. Fans love unique events and opportunities. Special events such as promo days have become a mainstay in the sports marketing world. These special events draw new audiences that might not normally be interested in your sports organization, and this may mean future fans.
Measure, Analyze, and Revise
As with any marketing strategy and after deploying any campaign, marketers need to take the time to review the results and make adjustments as needed. If you aren’t seeing the results you were expecting, dig in to see what might have been missed and then work through the appropriate changes. And don’t view poor results as a failure. Instead, make a note of the learning in your marketing dashboard, and reference it in the future so that you don’t make the same mistake twice. Failures often lead to successes, so understand that marketing is both an art and a science, and experimentation is to be expected.