Some time ago, sponsorship deals with big names used to satisfy sports marketers. Amid the current saturation and proliferation of advertising, marketing, and new channels, fresh opportunities are on the rise for brands, clubs, and athletes in an effort to cultivate a deeper relationship with fans.
From women’s leagues to AR and E-sports, the book of sports marketing is developing into a number of areas here. Here are some of the biggest trends in sports marketing for 2019 that brands should be aware of when entering or developing their work, in the sports marketing space.
Women in sports
Out of the general sports fans, 84% find women’s sport more progressive and inspiring as per a Nielsen sports report, than the male versions which people find more driven by and for money. The figures reveal the reception people have for women’s sports and the opportunities they offer for sports marketers to utilize.
The head of global football at Octagon, Phil Carling spoke about the importance of women’s football in this changing scenario for the advertisers, talking about how consumers want their preferred brands to stand for things among which diversity, equality, and inclusion would be among the highest and most impactful of causes. He also added to point out that women’s football can add a highly emotive cause offering many advantages over its male version.
Brands like Nike are taking heed. They have put women’s sport at the center of its campaign like ‘Dream Crazier’. Serena Williams, the tennis legend is starred and narrated in this ad created as an open call for women in sports to fight back against unfair stereotyping and gender bias. The message reverberated after the controversies she faced throughout 2018, which included criticism of her Nike catsuit worn at the French Open and the hot contest she lost at the US Open Final. The ad went viral and helped in driving conversation around the need for leveling the playing field for sportswomen.
It makes true commercial sense for the brands to capitalize on the female consumer market, irrespective of the moral reasons to support women in sports. The women own half of the personal wealth, as per current figures in the UK, and the stats are ever-growing in favor of the women is estimated to influence 80% of purchasing decisions. This offers a huge opportunity to widen their marketing appeal in sports to women and reap the rewards.
This popularity surge is best visible in women’s football where earlier this year we saw sponsorship deals between Barclays, Budweiser, Boot cosmetics, etc. with UK women’s football teams and leagues. Boots entered the sponsorship game first time and supported England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Wales. Helen Normoyle, their Marketing Director said, they are excited to give the inspirational women in these teams to tell their stories and encourage other women to experience the confidence sports can bring.
This is developing into a global phenomenon as the advertiser’s and sponsor’s interests are on a growing trend in the Australian women's football league. More than half of the Australian population is regularly tuning in to women’s sport and that is a huge 48% increase from the last year.
VR and AR
Currently, we are in the early days of augmented and virtual reality teams and brands are already making use of platforms like Instagram or Snapchat to create immersive content and mind-grasping experiences for audiences inside and outside of stadiums.
In 2017 FC Bayern Munich created an entertaining interface where fans could insert themselves in selfie photographs with club stars like Manuel Neuer or Arjen Robben. The fans could use this feature with its app and this play considerably increased the franchise’s revenue.
Major league baseball introduced an AR to its app called “At Bat” which shows the data of all players including fielding percentage, errors, and home run statistics whenever fans pointed their phones at the field during the ongoing game. A trail will be displayed tracing its velocity, trajectory, launch angle, apex, and probable distance. This was created to enhance the in-game experience of the fans.
There are also benefits to advertisers and broadcasters. In 2018 ITV and FA ran a test where dynamic perimeter ads around the play area were streamed to audiences based on location using Virtual Replacement letting different viewers see different ads. The ad offerings were split into sections like Americas, Asia, Europe, and Australasia.
Sports teams and athletes need to recognize the importance of social channels in building a fan base and capitalizing on opportunities. Channels like Instagram and Twitter offer space where fan communities can be maintained and cultivated. This space can be used to present a humanized version of athletes and 24 by 7 access to the sport. Instagram stories and live streams let teams and athletes provide exclusive content and behind-the-scenes insights of training sessions and also host impromptu Q&As bringing fans and their idols closer.
The North Face is a clothing brand and an example of how social sponsorship deals with athletes and helps promote their products. Prior to the release of the documentary” Free Solo”, North face featured stories and content to promote the film and rock climber Alex Honnold. The viewers got exclusive insights on the movie and insider information about the athlete. Most of their content is produced aiming at outdoor athletes with social content aimed at sharing the experiences of the experts.
Cause marketing related to celebrities and famous personalities using their authority to raise important issues. It’s important for brands to create narratives that resonate with and involve their target audiences. A strong example of brand storytelling comes from Nike’s ‘We Won It n France’ for the French National team after they won the 2018 World Cup.
Launching the team’s latest strip, Nike celebrated the French team and its player’s hard work by drawing on their impoverished backgrounds in the arid pitches of Marseille and the banlieues of Paris. This ad came across as a letter of love not only to the players but to the country and the supporters, interweaving their and their club’s stories.
The popularity of E-sports has seen a lot of growth and a proven popular format with football teams that millions of their fans are playing FIFA videogames. Spanish football team Real Madrid recently released plans for their high-tech new home stadium which will include an E-sports arena for fans. Similarly, Tottenham Hotspur is to host E-sports tournaments once their new stadium is completed. These significant investments suggest E-sports will continue to be one of the dominant trends in real sports for years to come.
Sports marketing is growing up to be one of the best and most effective marketing ways with the trends of the new age. Being up-to-date will make you more efficient and productive in this arena.