A dramatic make-or-break moment that you can’t tear yourself away from with all your passion wrapped up in the outcome is a common experience for sports fans and a reason many people tune in on a daily basis to keep up with their favorite teams. The excitement offered by sports presents brands with the perfect opportunity to connect with consumers who have their full attention directed towards the game. Few other marketing opportunities can compete with such a scenario.
Sports marketing also allows for target marketing since every team or athlete comes with their own base of die-hard fans and casual followers of the sport. This allows sports marketing to use this advantage to pursue a specific demographic with their product. The question this poses to marketers is if a particular sport, team, or athlete can prove the best return on investment for their product.
The Power of Quality Sponsorship
Being a sponsor is about more than just slapping your logo on a sideboard or team strip. It involves creating a positive association with the team and its followers, which will then be transferred to the brand. The sponsor has to understand how to channel the power of the team’s positive image to their own brand and help convert sporting loyalty into brand loyalty.
This is the foundation of the power of sports marketing, and it gives marketers an opportunity to leverage the fierce passion of sports fans to underwrite their brand power. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the biggest multinational companies in the world like Sony, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Emirates Airline, and more are all bidding huge amounts of money for the opportunity to use sports marketing to engage with their target demographic. In a similar move, Evian’s sponsorship of the Wimbledon tennis tournament has yielded great results for the company since 2008, as the world gets to watch the best tennis players on the planet refresh themselves with Evian bottled water between sets.
Red Bull: A Case Study in Sports Marketing
One of the biggest success stories in sports marketing history belongs to Red Bull. Through their innovative campaigns, they have changed the way that teams and sponsors think about the possibilities of sports marketing. The energy drink manufacturer was one of the first companies to bypass normal sponsorship and instead seek to own sports teams and sporting events outright.
This makes sense in the context of the product they are ultimately trying to sell. Red Bull is advertised as a beverage that can boost concentration, endurance, and reaction times. In other words, some of the core attributes that produce professional athletic performances. In this way, Red Bull’s brand values cohere elegantly with their sports marketing strategy.
The company has acquired a long roll call of sporting events in a diverse set of markets. They are well represented in extreme sports with their World Series events and the eccentric spectacle of the Red Bull Air Race. But the company has not limited itself to any particular field. Some of its other acquisitions include:
- Red Bull Brasil: a Brazilian soccer team.
- Red Bull Salzburg: a team in the Austrian Hockey League.
- Team Red Bull: a team in NASCAR racing.
- New York Red Bulls: a team playing in the United States’ Major Soccer League.
Where Red Bull’s sporting presence is most felt is undoubtedly in F1 racing, however. Red Bull Racing has several victories to their name and competes with legacy all-stars at the top of the sport like McLaren and Ferrari.
Another significant sports marketing success worth discussing is Star Sports’ #MaukePeChauka campaign. This viral marketing exercise took the audience on a journey through India’s history in the cricket world cup with every country they played against. The campaign was infused with plenty of humor yet also tapped into the deep passion that millions across the country held for the sport. Instead of a regular advertising slot, this campaign helped tell a story that entwined the brand completely with the narrative of the event itself. Their campaign proved hugely popular in capturing the imagination of the whole country, with more than 12m views on their account for YouTube accompanied by thousands of reposts on social media.
Points of Strategy for Sports Marketing
A moment of sporting glory can be decided in the space of a second on the field. However, sports involve a huge amount of organizational interaction between different parties, including media organizations, promoters, athletes, agents, and clubs. To leverage all these different elements in a successful marketing campaign, due diligence must be carried out to ensure that all factors have been taken into consideration. A marketing campaign begins in the mind of a creative marketer, but its potential can only be fulfilled through careful planning and precise execution. Therefore, consider the following when putting together a sports marketing campaign:
- Does it make sense? Ensure there is a sufficient potential for alignment between your brand’s values and those of the sporting market your wish to sponsor. If you sell athletic wear or gym equipment, is there any point in your sponsoring a darts or fishing competition? The answer is probably no.
- Where does the value lie? Take a long look at the market for the sport you want to engage with. Where would you find a partner you can trust to help elevate your brand in return for sponsorship? Will they be willing to engage with the finer points of your marketing proposals? The best sports sponsorships are those built on shared values with a desire to form long-term cooperation together, not a quick and transactional payoff.
- Are you being heard? Ensure your marketing communication is reaching the right audiences. You’ll be missing out on opportunities to engage with fans and leverage the strength of their brand.
- Are you reinforcing the message? Sport is a continuous and ever-changing marketplace that never stands still. Consuming sports requires real-time engagement, and so you need to ensure that your PR campaign is sustained to respond to developments within the sport itself. This will make your marketing feel more relevant and hold your audience’s attention.
- Is your brand in good hands? You’re entrusting a team or athlete with your brand, but you don’t have total control over what they do on or off the field. It’s every sports marketer’s nightmare to close a sponsorship deal with a team only for one of the players to be accused of sexual assault or racially motivated battery. Only recently, football icon Cristiano Ronaldo removed bottles of Coca-Cola from the table during a press conference, telling viewers to drink water instead and knocking millions off the company’s share price. Be aware of who you’re getting into bed with and whether they can be relied on to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects well on your brand.
The biggest companies in the world have long known the power of sports marketing. There’s no reason that the rest of us can’t leverage the incredible opportunities in this field to boost brand value and improve visibility. For a vibrant and exciting campaign that gets results, choose sports marketing.