We all know that modern professional sports are as much businesses as they are athletic competitions. Every aspect of the sporting experience has taken on this commercial form, from the selling of tickets for games to the sponsorship deals that individual players sign with major brands.
There are other elements too, such as the comparison services like oddschecker which allow fans to find the best promotional offers and claim free bets for upcoming matches.
Just like any other business, those involved in the sports industry have to engage in marketing to help their organizations succeed. This can help to improve ticket sales, boost the number of people subscribing to a streaming service, or alter the public’s perception of a team or competition.
But how does this sports marketing work and is it different to others forms of marketing?
There are many similarities in the marketing of sports-related products and services. One easy-to-see parallel is with concerts and other entertainment events.
In this instance, the marketing of a sporting event, like a boxing match or a football game, is very similar – at least in terms of the mechanics. As a sports marketer tasked with selling tickets, your aim is to work your way through the AIDA model.
- Build Awareness of the event
- Boost Interest in attending
- Create the Desire to buy a ticket
- Encourage Action to follow through on that desire
Many of the same tools will work to achieve this too. For one-off or annual events like a boxing match, a marketer may choose to build up hype through social media, guest appearances on TV shows, and retention methods like newsletters.
For regular fixtures that take place once a week or every few days, building and sustaining hype for each one may be more difficult.
Of course, the AIDA model still applies and many of the same tools will work, but you are not going to be able to sustain hype about something that happens every week. The public’s attention span is much shorter than an entire sports season, so different techniques are required.
Many American sports do this by organising special game days. Examples of this include:
- All-star games where the best athletes in the league compete together on the same field
- Bobblehead Day where souvenir bobbleheads are handed out to spectators
- Playoff tournaments that create jeopardy and attract focus by adding a focal point to the end of a season
- One-off or annual games in other countries to promote to an overseas audience
A Lifelong Relationship
While brand loyalty exists in almost every area of marketing, few industries can boast the relationship lengths commonly enjoyed in sport.
A fan will often develop a lifelong attachment to their team, supporting them through good times and bad. The reason for this permanent affiliation is that it can often form part of a person’s identity.
Being part of a group like this can help to create a sense of belonging and good sports marketers will find ways to enhance this emotional attachment.
Brand loyalty in sport works differently. While a poor product might force a consumer to switch to a rival, a bad season will evoke both emotions of anger and frustration at a team while also creating hope for a better future.
Formula 1 teams do a good job of this on their social media channels. They will often report both positive and negative outcomes to races, celebrating wins and other successes while owning up to mistakes and poor form before offering motivating words to inspire hope among fans.
We saw similar actions by the Phoenix Suns when they had a poor run of form that saw them break their own record for their worst season in franchise history three times.
During this time, they would focus on celebrating the successes of individual players and promoting the overall fan experience at games rather than the outcome of the matches themselves.
This is a very unique form of marketing as it’s entirely about nurturing the relationship, regardless of the actual results.