Gone are the days of reading box scores out of the newspaper to find out how your team performed in the game last night. The sheer amount of technology available today allows people to follow nearly any team across the world in seconds. Fans don’t just want to watch their team, they want to be a part of their team. Sports marketing has sufficiently adapted to embrace new platforms and ways of interacting with the audience.
Social media gives teams and players the opportunity to interact with their fans on a more personal level and further allows them to embrace their brand. MLB teams are replying to fans with memes. Many of the best athletes in the world are partnering with notable (and not so notable) brands to showcase products. The personal relationship between teams and athletes and their fans are growing. Social conversation → social growth → increase in revenue. Social media also allows teams to connect with a younger fanbase, which is especially important when it comes to baseball – where viewership is lowest across all sports when it comes to Gen Z.
Sports marketing excels by giving athletes and brands the opportunity to storytell. Take Nike for example. You’ve likely never seen an ad where Nike’s stance was “our shoes are better than Adidas/Reebok/etc.” When you see a Nike commercial, it evokes pure emotion and an inside the grit, determination and drive behind the people who wear their shoes. Do you want to be the best? Do you want to be motivated like this person or that person? Just strap on some Nikes and you’re on your way. Sure they could talk about their new ZoomX foam responsive cushioning. Or maybe about the specific arch setup, but those aren’t the kinds of things that allow you to become the most popular apparel brand in the world.
Sports marketing provides an opportunity to “humanize” some of the athletes and teams we look up to, literally and figuratively. It can be easy to forget that the people we see on the court and on TV are people just like you and me. They have families. They have struggles. Sharing intimate details creates more of an attachment between fans and players. I feel closer to Patrick Mahomes knowing he puts ketchup on his mac ‘n cheese (gross, but can’t knock it until you try it). I want to see his involvement in the community and a day in the life. Now he’s not only the savior of the Chiefs but also the friendly neighbor with a weird diet.
The main pieces to be taken from sports marketing brands are to always be present and genuine. Be there for your customers and fans. They will recognize and reward the effort you put out. You’re marketing to real people, so why not make your products – or people – real as well.