Beyond a Sign in the Outfield: The Sports Marketing Evolution

While the sports world is changing, marketers and organizations are adapting to the change and finding innovative ways to be a part of the fan experience. Are you in on the Sports Marketing bandwagon?

Since the 40’s and 50’s when Bill Veeck began adding some flare to baseball games with entertainment and promotion upgrades that included special days at the ballpark and scoreboard enhancements among others, your favorite teams have continued to outdo themselves year after year as they balance the game with equal parts on-field and off-field entertainment. And while the sports themselves have changed relatively little over time, the world around sports has changed considerably.

As the parks, fields and domes began to draw a crowd, from out of the mist came the advertisers who knew a great opportunity when they saw it. The proliferation of mass media and the subsequent digital and social media empires that rose in its wake have increased exposure and led to larger fan bases.

And as the fan base grows, so do the marketing practices around it. The world of Sports Marketing is all about borrowed brand equity (team support transferred to the sponsor). Sports Marketing gives organizations the ability to tap into a world where fans can make emotional connections to the teams they support with their purchases.

While day-of-game experiences have advanced to capture the attention of every type of fan (from superfan to “I’m just here to make my date happy and eat nachos” fans), Sports Marketing has evolved and extended its reach from enticing sports fans to engaging entire cities. From social media to off-season events, there are more opportunities to connect with your favorite players and teams, and city pride continues to play a major factor (even if your team isn’t good).

Sports organizations are always looking for a way to better engage and understand their customers (the sports fans). They seek balance between the development of profitable corporate partnerships and creating meaningful fan entertainment. At this crossroads we find sports marketing, leveraging unique assets into profitable marketing campaigns.

These campaigns are no longer limited to a season; they have transitioned to a yearlong integrated platform that is actively engaging their consumers. As an example, let’s look at the NFL who features one of the shortest seasons of any sport, yet there is no shortage in promotions. Thanks to the rise in popularity of off-season events like the combine, draft and training camps, fans can keep track of their favorite sport all year long.

And if you find yourself wondering what your favorite player or team is up to – all you have to do is check Twitter. As with any business or product, social media has opened up a new world of uninhibited access to every aspect of the game (even coaches and mascots).

Bottom line: This is a very exciting time for Sports Marketing.

There is so much creativity out there to help dance around budget restrictions that shrink your marketing dollars and find new ways to maximize your advertising impact and increase your ROI. Social media and the access your smart phone provides has led to a dramatic increase in consumer touch points, and because these engagement levels have changed (for the better), sponsors are constantly looking for and finding new ways to get in front of the fans and create more sellable assets.

With so much advertising messaging flying around, content marketing has become king, and what better kingdom than the sports arena. Sports offer amazing content marketing opportunities to captivate and engage followers.

Sponsors are now looking past just purchasing in-game signage and have begun to focus more on sponsoring experiences or creating platforms around their consumers. Examples of this include kids clubs that create exciting experiences for young fans, as well as contests that feature an exclusive prize that can’t be bought like Breakfast in the Bullpen. The fans have responded with record participation in these campaigns and programs, which has created an incentive for marketers to continue to innovate and impress their consumers with each offering.

As the promotional value of sports properties has increased over the years, teams and associations have taken charge of their own brands and developed even more sellable assets. Stadiums have gotten bigger and more sponsor opportunities are literally being built into the new designs.

This way of thinking has even led to the creation of new departments over the years including group sales and marketing teams that can develop content of their own to share with the fans. The team’s front office has ballooned in size and budget and now brings in their own subject matter experts (like data analysts) to take ownership of the brand.

Yes, the age of Sports Marketing has evolved into a powerful, engaging opportunity for organizations to get creative with their fan base. It has even led to cottage industries that center around sports. Here we find secondary ticket markets (like Stubhub or Ticketmaster), team licensed retail apparel, and even team licensed vendor products (like sports team logos on the bottled water you purchase).

As for the future of sports marketing, teams will continue to take ownership of their brand and work with sponsors and marketers to create unforgettable fan experiences and must-have promotional items. Like most industries, Sports Marketing will remain a provocative way for organizations to capture and utilize big data. By capturing feedback from fans (via new technologies like RFID tags), businesses can personalize the messaging and create more targeted partnership opportunities.

Whether you want to maximize your fan exposure in-stadium, at home or online, Cliffedge Marketing has the knowledge to create a unique sports experience that will be a big winner. Contact us today to see how we can get you in front of the biggest fans of the game.

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