4 Challenges of Sports Marketing & How to Solve Them.
Marketing pros for sports teams face different challenges than most. It’s inevitable that teams and athletes will have highs and lows, and that’s something completely out of your control. Between trades, performance and injuries, you can’t guarantee which players will be around after training camp or by the end of the season. Below are four of those challenges of sports marketing and how to solve them.
CHALLENGE #1: HOT OR NOT?
For fans, emotion can really dictate their actions. When attempting to elevate your sports brand, it’s easy when the team is hot, but in challenging times how can you go beyond brand recognition to ensure fans are still engaged? You need to show them that their team has what it takes to be champions again; to do that why not treat your fans like shareholders and show them the strategic plan? Every great leader needs a strategy, both on and off the field. Share some of your plans with the fans and let them see how you plan to build up to that epic championship team once again. So many teams out there have bandwagon fans and the challenge is to keep them engaged throughout the ups and downs. Show them the ‘bandwagon’ begins its journey here – be the first to jump on it!
CHALLENGE #2: INSTABILITY
Few teams can guarantee which players will still be around by the end of the season, or even who will be on the team for the start of the next season when you start developing creative. There are several ways this challenge can be handled in your sports marketing. One is to not use any players in the creative, which can work using a well designed creative campaign, but if we’re talking about a team with some high profile players, it’s a shame not to use their imagery if that’s who the fans are coming to see. If you have one superstar player you can bank on being there for the season, use him as your poster boy. We did this with Brendan Gallagher while he played on WHL Team Vancouver Giants, who has now been drafted to the Montreal Canadiens. He was on most pieces of design collateral, apart from the newspaper games promoting individual games. For short term pieces, like upcoming game posters we would use some of the current top scorers as well to help keep creative fresh. Of course, every team and every situation is different and requires it’s own strategy tailored to your fan base.
CHALLENGE #3: LIMITED ACCESS TO PLAYERS FOR CREATIVE PHOTOS
If you don’t have access to the players for a photo shoot, you can get creative with in-game photos, or you can even do some stylized illustrations for a campaign (like we did for the Vancouver Canucks Fan Club a few years back), which has the bonus potential of lending itself to merchandise. When using in-game photos, close-cropping players out of their background and either treating the original background or replacing it gives you the opportunity to incorporate your brand into the photos, and to remove or mask any distracting elements in the background.
CHALLENGE #4: A VARIED AUDIENCE
It’s a given to say that when marketing to sports fans, you should always know your audience that you are marketing and developing a brand for. There are a lot of variables to consider, such as how fans will consume your product and the many and varied different types of sports fans. Is it live tickets only? Is it available pay-per-view or free on the sports channel or online? Is yours a sport that runs in seasonal cycles? These, along with considerations on how hot your team is and how big an arena you need to fill, will help you determine how heavily you will need to market your creative and, more importantly, when and where to market your creative. It also determines which design pieces you’ll need to create for the season and how much messaging you’ll need to have in front of your fans well before the season starts.
Every team is unique, whether it’s the sport, the location, the age, or a thousand other combinations of factors. The strategy for design and creative for each one should be looked at independently, and assessed for what can allow them to rise above the noise and get noticed. In many cases, the challenges you face can turn out to be the very thing that inspires a new campaign or design.