Don’t just be present, be active.
Sports marketing like all forms of other marketing has to be re-imagined. When brands of any size are making investment dollars in sports marketing they can’t rely on simply being present anymore, they need to be as active as the audience is. We have all seen it, the title sponsor of an event just places a logo in the major spaces for TV viewers to see, an endorsement of a marquee athlete only to be seen on their jersey or thousands of proud marathon finishers have a logo on their shirt.
At Dispatch we have the great pleasure of working with some of the largest brands in outdoors sports and every one of them are exploring ways to make the most of these dollars and going so far as to question whether the conventional methods make sense. We have rounded up five ways to make the most of your sports marketing budgets.
1. Data At The Center Of The Fan Experience.
We recently analyzed over 1mm conversations during the Tour De France which is largest global cycling event regarding media coverage and sponsorship dollars. Our analysis was in part to see how engaged fans were with our clients and who had pro tour teams but also to see how well top tier noncycling brand sponsors leveraged their investments beyond VIP seating on the Champs Elysses.
Out of the 8 top tier corporate partners only Dimension Data showed up with a plan to deliver timely and relevant content which was a missed opportunity for Tissot who was the official timing sponsor did nothing to take advantage of their role as the timekeeper. Dimension Data owning the data of the Tour is a great example of how a brand which is not known within a category but can become part of a cultural moment by adding unique content that is valued by the fans while also conveying what they stand for without “selling."
2. Let Fans Connect With Athletes
Most of the sports marketing programs we are part of including some level of athlete involvement, whether it is a marquee athlete or an entire roster of athletes from various sports or disciplines within a sport. At Dispatch we ground all of our decision making with data. We recently ran two parallel Instagram photo contest, one was was with three sponsored athletes during a major event and the second was on our clients owned social media properties. The mechanics of the competition and the prize were the same, the only difference was the channel it was promoted on. Our goal was to test which tactic would drive the highest level of participation, impressions, and overall engagement. The results were staggering, the combination of all three athletes results turned a 10x greater than the brand's owned channels. We wanted to see if we could replicate this success using a different tactic, with a different set of athletes. At a large industry tradeshow, we hosted a Facebook live fireside chat and when we benchmarked it against other live events it too performed better. The insight here is to explore ways to bring your athletes in, give them some creative liberty to engage with their fans in a way that feels authentic and to take it one step further you should host social media boot camps with them to ensure they are pros at creating content and building their audience.
3. Give Fans Something To Share
With 72% of American adults on Facebook, a good way to maximize your investment in a sports marketing activation that has an onsite or experiential element is to give people some interesting to share online and some incentive for doing do. Our client Honda has a factory racing team for supercross. This sport like many other niche sports has some of the most passionate fans who are willing to stand in line for hours to shake the hand of their favorite rider and get a poster signed. We walked the pits and saw all these fans snapping selfies in front of the trailers, so we thought why not give them a unique selfie experience. So we mounted up a team bike with a branded backdrop for Honda fans to up their selfie game. Over the years we have found one simple principle to boost sharing, just remind people to do it and give them something unique.
4. First person integration
We sign up for fantasy football leagues to see if can be a better coach, show up at the motocross track the day after a big event to hit the same jump as our favorite riders. Most fans are weekend warriors at best, but our enthusiasm experience what we can only dream of is unwavering. With new technologies such as wearables, sensors, VR and first person cameras it is not possible to bring fans even closer to the sport than if they were sitting in the pits. These new technologies provide new ways to integrate into the sports experience. With the NFL outfitting two sensors on each player they will indeed create new assets for sponsors enabling to you to become the official speed tracker or how Gatorade lets you face a big-league pitcher in a real MLB stadium with the game on the line. It’s important to understand emerging technologies so that you can begin to conceive new ways to engage with fans.
5. Listening for Fan insights
Major events whether it be once a year like the Tour De France or a weekly race in a series tend to create a swell of conversations from fans. These conversations are gold mines for attitudes, behavior trends, and preferences. These insights allow you to develop content, partnerships, and experiences that are uniquely tailored to your audience. IBM is taking fan data and engagement to the next level by allowing you to leverage their Watson API to understand personality, monitor fans reactions in real time and personalize the experience based on location.
James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research, sums it nicely. "Sports is a massive business that is only barely beginning to experience digital transformation. The years ahead will be full of many opportunities to change the way sports are 'delivered' as an experience in the stadium, near the stadium, or at home, not to mention outside of actual game time. All of those innovations are digital."