10 ways to make sports marketing work harder

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Following last year’s Olympics, sport in Britain has never had such a high profile. This has resulted in an increased desire for TV and online content, ring-fencing of government sport funding, more grassroots initiatives to deal with our successful Olympic legacy, a wider choice of modern sports, not to mention medal winners appearing in numerous advertising campaigns. All of this activity increase the challenges than sport face over the longer term.

Sports of all sizes are now in fierce competition to own a piece their target audience’s precious leisure time, whether that be playing, watching or volunteering. The more messages and coverage, the harder to focus audiences to your specific need. And sports are not just competing against themselves; they are challenging other entertainment sectors (festivals, holidays, weekends away etc) for budget, time and future national success.

So what does this mean for marketing sport? As governing bodies, clubs, venues, grassroots programmes, sponsors and media look to drive home their messages, it means campaigns need to do more to stand out across an ever increasing number of channels. Bearing in mind a fan may receive numerous forms of communications from different sport stakeholders, it could mean it gets very messy, very quickly. So what the best ways forward?

As the new financial year looms, here is Earnest’s short guide to making your life easier:

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10 ways to make sports marketing work harder

  1. 1. EARNEST’S CUNNING... 10 WAYS TO MAKESPORTS MARKETING WORK HARDER
  2. 2. 1. LESS IS MOREWhen it comes to your marketing programmes itis better to focus on a smaller number of criticalcampaigns, rather than trying to do everything atonce. It also makes a difference if you can put specifictimings and objectives to these projects, so you havea benchmark for the success of specific budgetsand messages. It often allows your customers tounderstand you require one single ‘desired action’ –eg: buying tickets by a specific deadline to qualify fora discount.
  3. 3. 2. DO YOUR RESEARCHIt seems obvious, but we’ve seen some fantasticmarketing planning coming from good research. Wefeel that it’s more important than ever to really get toknow your audiences. If you know them, then you talkto them as a fan, a lapsed fitness fanatic, a parent, adie-hard advocate, a disgruntled season ticket holder,a volunteer. This changes your relationship with themand takes it from being about you and them, to justabout ‘us’.
  4. 4. 3. MAKE IT FUNWe’ve seen some marketing campaigns that sell‘entertainment’ as if it was life insurance. Fans expectyou to show the same level of passion that they feel. Ifyou look at the information you’re sending throughthe eyes of a punter, then it will often give you theconfidence to simplify what you say. Better still, showit to some happy (and not some not so happy) fans andask them for feedback – we did this recently and wonthe pitch off the back of it. Footnote – this is equallyimportant for b2b.
  5. 5. 4. MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS YOUR MARKETING DEPARTMENTOnce you have fans advocating, you’re onto a winner.You lose the corporate jargon and see your salesmessages embedded into third party content. A greatexample is where sports re-purpose fan video (withpermission), promote fan articles and provide contentvia social media channels to the ringleaders. It’s a twoway street – ask for opinions rather than rants and getthem on-side.
  6. 6. 5. CHOOSE YOUR CHANNELS CAREFULLYIt’s inevitable that your existing and potentialcustomers will receive a lot of marketing messages.So it’s important to be seen in places where you can getpositive standout. Follow the lead from BirminghamCity FC who were one of the first football clubs tobecome an early adopter of Twitter’s new 6 secondvideo sharing app – Vine. It’s new and different,so audiences will want to share to show they’re inthe know.
  7. 7. 6. KEEP CREATIVE CONSISTENCY, EVEN WHEN IT GETS DIFFICULTThis can be a tough one when time is short and multiplestakeholders are high. The key is to make sure everymarketing touch point reinforces your brand valuesin an effective way, without hindering the creativeexecution. If you can follow a practical brand guideit’ll help your awareness and credibility in the longrun, meaning your budgets work harder and yourmessages ring true.
  8. 8. 7. GET YOUR SPONSORS INVOLVEDThis is an area where there are varying degrees ofsuccess in utilising sponsors as an extension of yourmarketing, in addition to their own objectives. Thereare quick wins that can work for both – the key is tohave sight of each other’s plans early and ensuringthey are aligned. An example of when this reallyworked was when a sponsor marketed their eventso well that non-customers felt that theirs was asecondary experience. You want this level of passionto truly bring unique experiences to the customer andthe brand.
  9. 9. 8. BRING YOUR HEROES CLOSER TO THE FANSWhen speaking to clients, this is the one thing wehear about more than anything else. Whether it is atgames or through content, fans want to feel part of thestory. A good example of this was the story of TyroneMings, who offered a fan two free tickets after theysaid they couldn’t afford to go to the Ipswich game.Aside from the positive coverage it generates, it showsthat actually amongst all the money and fame stories,the fan is central to the sport.
  10. 10. 9. KEEP INNOVATINGYour fans will expect you to move with the times, yourboss will ensure you demonstrate ROI. It’s fairly easyto do both – offering fans more than just historicalcontent is one way. Take Manchester City who offermultiple ‘behind the scenes’ social media content andcontinually innovate with channels like Tunnel Camand Man City TV. At times, they have over 30,000simultaneous live video streams.
  11. 11. 10. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PARTNERS…Always a tough one for the client to find an agencythat will push back at the right time and know whento just get on with it. A bit of advice we got from aclient recently was to ‘challenge why the brief waswritten’ – ie: going back to the starting point to findother factors that influence the solution. Nice to getthat sort of advice from the client, especially when itmeans potentially more time and money involved.
  12. 12. So there you have it, a starter for ten. At the very leastit will help keep budgets more effective, channelsdynamic and relevant whilst putting fans front ofmind. Let’s hope sport continues to be as competitiveon and off the field, as it’ll mean the work gets betterand way we approach the marketing challenges willbe more interesting.

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