By: Avery Phillips
Today, the sports industry is valued between $500 and $600 billion worldwide. It’s no surprise then that sports marketing is one of the best ways to reach large target audiences while maximizing ROI. In simple words, sports marketing is “the use of sports and the environments, fans, participants, and affinities they produce as a means of profiling and targeting consumers”. While using sports in marketing campaigns is not a new practice, the advent of the digital age has resulted in a structural shift in regards to sports marketing techniques. Here, we outline some of the most recent trends in sports marketing that continue to gain traction in today’s dynamic landscape:
Social media is now one of the most important aspects of a marketing campaign, and the field of sports marketing is no exception. Professional athletes with TV contracts and news coverage are no longer top prospects for marketers. Social media allows for increased and personalized interaction between fans and athletes/teams. So, even athletes with small but loyal followings tend to have a larger positive impact in terms of sales and conversions. Fans today care more about building relationships (or at least the illusion of a relationship) with athletes they idolize. Social media platforms are perfect for enabling these relationships, and so athletes with a far-reaching social media presence are the perfect way to target fans.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are changing the way sports enthusiasts experience a game. Allowing for 360 degrees of immersion, VR/AR can create a one of a kind sports experience for fans, right from the comfort of their homes. Many younger fans crave a more engaging and holistic sports experience — VR/AR is the perfect way to give them just that. Marketers who leverage this increasingly popular method of sport consumption will gain an edge in terms of reaching remote audiences.
Women in Sports
Gone are the days when sports were just a male passion. The sports marketing world has finally realized that a major chunk of sports fans are women. Thus, women are a very viable demographic for sports marketing, especially considering they have significant purchasing power. In fact, as we’ve mentioned in a previous post, for the past couple of years, AdWeek has been creating an annual list of Powerful Women in Sports, “selecting leaders from the burgeoning world of esports, the ascendant women’s soccer arena and a brand-new basketball league—plus the mar-tech and artificial-intelligence innovators serving the sports marketing ecosystem.” Female-targeted campaigns present a relatively new and very rewarding opportunity for sports marketers — overlooking this niche would be a major faux pas.
The stadium or arena atmosphere is what contributes to the majority of the sports viewing experience. The prevalent digital landscape allows for marketers to introduce many new ways to elevate the in-stadium experience for fans. Venue owners and franchisees tapping into these opportunities are experimenting with everything from near-field technology to mobile apps that simplify parking assistance, relay real time bathroom lines, and allow for cashless payments and coupon redemption. Apps to order food at the arena are very popular, making sure fans don’t miss a moment of the game due to having to get up and physically purchase food. Additional activities such as having smart arenas with free WiFi, instant access to sports statistics, quizzes and trivia with instant redeemable mobile rewards and more are ways to keep fans engaged while easily leveraging a device that every person would carry to the stadium — a mobile phone.
The business of sports is exceedingly competitive, and marketers must stay ahead of the curve to succeed. Technological integration is no longer a luxury, but a necessity most fields — and as the above trends show, sports marketing is no different. As aptly stated by Adelphi University, “Sports marketing is riding the wave of the future for the enormously profitable business of sports.” For sports marketers today, this means that it is absolutely integral to keep up with the new frontiers in sports marketing.