Sports marketing: employing sports and the environments, fans, participants, and affinities they produce as a means of profiling and targeting consumers. The vast size and reach of the sports marketing arena shouldn’t surprise anyone. But as with every industry in today’s quickly changing technological landscape, sports marketing is experiencing foundational shifts in how it operates, the way it is structured, and the methods it employs to reach its target audiences.
As expectations and paradigms shift regarding how sports should be consumed, the sports marketing world must cater to those changes. Agencies, leagues, bureaus, media outlets, teams, and athletes alike all vie for the consumer’s attention and race to develop the next technique that will give them an edge. Here are a few of the biggest trends you can expect to see develop in the sports marketing arena.
Social Media and the “Follower Phenomenon”
Companies interested in signing athletes to sponsor and promote their products no longer limit their prospects to top tier professional athletes boasting TV contracts and significant news coverage. Because of the niche-centric nature of consumers today and the new scope of interaction that social media has made possible, marketers are quickly learning the value of the well-groomed fan base — something any athlete with strong social media presences could provide.
Athletes with small but loyal followings can, and often do, provide more value in the form of conversion and sale metrics than more well-known athletes that have not invested as much time or effort into creating a social media presence. The game is changing and fans crave meaningful and ongoing interaction with the athletes and teams they idolize. This truth will gain prevalence and shape the sports marketing industry. And as tools and services like Stout Social and Opendorse (a social media impact measurement tool and an athlete endorsement agency specializing in quick and focused results, respectively) develop that help marketers quantify their investment return from sponsorships and endorsement deals, the allure of objective results could attract much more activity from bigger companies over the coming year.
Targeting Female Audiences
As recognized in an article by Dana Communications, the sports marketing world is only beginning to recognize the female sports fan as a viable, target-able demographic. Women are not only athletes themselves, but are sports buffs that cheer on favorite teams just as loudly as males. They also represent a growing consumer share and significant purchasing power. The sports world has begun to tune in and evidence of female-targeted campaigns is becoming easier to find. However, the field is still largely untapped and presents a huge opportunity for savvy sports marketers.
Globalization of Sport Fan Bases
Technology has trampled the border-limited presuppositions of the average sports company’s marketing division. Sales that are now possible across the globe attract the attention of franchises and sports companies who are exploring strategies for making their brands more relevant to international markets. NFL exhibition games are being held in the United Kingdom to elicit increased brand presence and expose new consumer markets. The NBA’s Sacramento Kings are successfully building a presence in India. These efforts will only increase as other members of the United States sports community realize the potential located around the globe in the form of vast untouched markets.
As sports venues strive to preserve the prevalence of attending sporting events in the midst of an increasingly mobile and virtual world, the in-person sports experience is emerging as a grail for venue owners and franchises. Attendees want to be engaged and entertained and technology will prove a huge catalyst in making this possible. Experiments with near-field communication technology and mobile apps that would allow amenities like parking assistance, real-time bathroom line and concession insights, cashless commerce, coupons, seat upgrades, game highlights and footage, and more are underway across the nation. Integrating the user’s mobile phone is becoming an expected necessity.
Embedding technology in the sporting event has been brought into primary focus for venue owners and will continue to advance in leaps and bounds over the coming seasons. The changes we can anticipate in sports marketing emulate many of the changes already observable in other industries. From travel to security to the way consumers make purchases, technology is forcing quick adaptations and major shifts in almost every facet of life. The sports arena is no exception, and we can anticipate the trends listed above to continue to shape the way we consume sport. However, sports will always remain a means of competition, interaction, personal development, and connection with our fellow human beings. You can order a hot dog with your smartphone at the ball park without fear that the fundamental joy of sport may ever disappear along with the antiquated physical ticket counter.
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