Good Sports Marketing When Your Team is Bad

Developing a winning marketing strategy that can outperform a losing team can seem like a 4th and 20 situation, but remembering these 5 plays could get you the score you need to win!

Recently, our beloved St. Louis Rams conceded a 21-0 lead to fall 34-31 to the Dallas Cowboys. For the Rams, who are coming off the heels of losing the star quarterback to an injury that ripped him out of what may have been his breakthrough season, this loss keeps a sour taste in the mouth of fans who seem to be perpetually balancing disappointment with hope.

Yes, being a fan of a losing team is tough, but imagine how much more difficult it is to sell for that franchise.

Sports Marketing is a different animal completely because, unlike any other medium, the product that you are marketing or selling for is typically unknown. And as a marketer for sports teams, you’re dealing with a very unsettling reality: Your product follows your team and the players wherever they go, on and off the field. Wins, losses, poor play, on and off the field conduct – it’s all out of your hands.

Case in point: The Rams current record is hardly the talk of the NFL at the moment. Much more serious is, of course, the recent scandals and disciplinary standards that are being brought to light and fiercely examined by the public, by the commission and even, it would seem, by former FBI Directors.

Obviously, this negative press does not scream opportunity for too many advertisers. Quite conversely, it will typically have a crippling effect on sponsorships and can leave a lasting impact on the brand and the athlete.

So, how do you market or sell for a team that is performing poorly?

One constant that remains with any sport is passion. The performance and progression of sports teams and the players that represent them have a rippling emotional affect that can power the pulse of a city, or in international bouts, a nation.

While that emotion can be good or bad, there are five ways that sports marketing can take advantage of the situation when their team isn’t bringing home the win.

Five Marketing Tips for Selling a Losing Team

1. Focus on the Positive

It may seem like advice from your mother, but it’s actually a handy tip to keep in mind when it seems like another season is in the dumps. Like most marketing strategies, you’re looking for a new angle. If the score sheet is nothing to write home about, find what is.

Maybe you have a new marquee player with a captivating story to be told. Maybe the focus should shift to the community and their involvement with the team. Do you have a fan base that sticks it out through thick and thin? Focus on them! If it’s not a banner year, but the past few years show signs of a positive upswing, broadcast the year-to-year progress that promises a brighter tomorrow. Even getting the fans excited about stadium improvements can be beneficial.

2. Develop Strong Client Relationships

You’re good at this anyway, right? At the end of the day, marketing walks hand in hand with selling, and people want to have a strong relationship with whoever they are spending money with.

Use this time to get to know each other better and ultimately you’ll be able to refine your marketing strategy to focus on programs that reflect the values of everyone involved. Essentially, people buy people. Take advantage of this opportunity to dial into the specific needs of your client.

3. Get Creative

That’s what the job is all about. Find your flavor and put a spin on your product that will reinvent the wheel or get consumers to look at it in a whole new way. Take the Kiss Cam for example. People love it; people hate it. The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, have put a new spin on it by introducing the Simba Cam.

Unique ideas are worth their weight in gold, and as the Braves showed, it doesn’t matter what the score is if people are having fun lifting their children a la The Lion King. Similarly to focusing on the positive, being creative lets you shift the focus on things that the fans can get excited about. Tell a story, take a chance, make ‘em laugh. At the end of the day, sponsors are looking for ways to stand out.

4. Play to your Strengths

Regardless of on-field play, every team, every franchise, every city has a strong point. This one can play closely with focusing on the positive as well, but it dials more into a solid, irrefutable truth about your team that consumers can identify with. The die-hard allegiance and love/hate relationship that fans have with their teams can seep into other areas that you can take advantage of:

Is the team heavily involved in the community? With specific charities? Do you have a new stadium that could use a good story? Maybe the pre-game experience at your park is worth exploring since the entire city can likely identify with it. If you have a strong media reach that produces fans outside of the immediate geographic region, then take advantage of that.

Sports invoke strong passions from their die-hard fans, and that passion can essentially be bottled up and sold along with the team.

5. Hospitality

Finally, we close with another vital part of any marketing or selling experience. Selling the white glove experience. More than just wining and dining your clients, sports marketing opens the doors to so many unique experiences to delight the consumer.

Where else can you meet the sports star of your dreams, throw out the first pitch of the game, run onto the field with the players as they’re announced, etc.? These are exclusive opportunities that don’t typically carry a price tag. Develop a program that puts your fan into the belly of the beast. Find a promotion that provides a once in a lifetime opportunity. People will come, Ray…

In the end, the insufferable old adage isn’t wrong – it’s not about winning and losing. At its core, sports marketing is the creative process by which we use the image, history and passion that a team carries on its back to promote our product by crafting a unique experience that delights the consumer.

Here at Cliffedge Marketing, we’ll stay Rams fans to the end, but it looks like we have another season of thinking outside-of-the-box with our sports marketing strategies to channel the passion of the players, the team, the city and you.


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