#7 Trends that Are Ruling the World of Sports Marketing
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Sports bring together millions of people at one time. For marketers, sports is something which gives access to a large customer base at one time. With the advent of newer technology, sports has become a huge business today, especially in India, where apart from cricket many other sports like Hockey, Kabaddi and Football are gaining popularity day by day. Sports marketers are constantly adopting the ever-changing technology and coming out with innovative ways to tap into the diverse audience base to create compelling experiences for the fans.
According to me below are the #7 trends in sports marketing that are catching up and will be beneficial for sports marketers:
How do the fans show support for their favourite team? By donning the team jersey and collecting souvenirs. Merchandising is one of the best ways to make a fan feel connected to the team and gaining popularity. It helps in reaching out to the hardcore fans who are passionate about the game and franchise. Selling merchandise online and through sports outlets also helps in gaining brand visibility and persuades fans to buy the merchandise since it provides easy access to their favourite team's merchandise. To take it global, one can partner with international brands and make the team's merchandise available within stores. Launching exclusive co-branded collections enables fans to access the lifestyle/athleisure collection of the team. Enabling fans the access to customised jerseys with fan's name and favourite number on the back is another way to develop a strong connection with fans through merchandise.
Developing games and fantasy leagues is very popular today. It gives a platform to engage with young fans beyond the traditional ways. In India, the population consists mostly of young adults and popular games around sports like football are people's favourites. Fantasy leagues where fans get to choose their own players and compete against each other is also a great way to promote a league or franchise. Such games also become a mode of staying connected with the fans 24*7 and getting to know what they want. Fantasy leagues, around the globe, are very popular and India is gradually adopting the concept, however, it needs to be done clinically to provide a seamless experience to the fans.
Internet and digital platforms increase the visibility of the team. Sports franchise, brands & leagues can engage with fans via social media contests, posts, polls and lives. Marketers can use catchy hashtags to be on the trending list. Providing access to game analysis by way of infographics or videos helps to engage with the right fans. One can have series of videos prior to every match wherein the fans speak their minds about the upcoming match, sneak peek into the dressing room or training sessions, highlighting the journey of the players etc. to engage fans and give them first-hand access to the insides of a team. Sports marketers are leveraging the power of their social media followings to give enhanced mileage to their sponsors which helps the sponsors to gain higher brand visibility vis-a-vis traditional modes of marketing. Streaming a match online with a chat/comments section where fans can engage on real-time basis with each other discussing the match's strategy/view about the game can enable a fan to have personalised experience on the go. A good presence in online media helps in building good brand equity.
Sport is one of the places to experiment with Virtual Reality and create one of a kind experience for fans right in their living rooms. International broadcasters and leagues have already tried and tested this technology. In India, this emerging technology has a lot of scope as many other games apart from cricket are becoming popular day by day. Virtual reality will change the way sports enthusiasts experience the game.
Associating with a social cause
Nowadays, sports business is not just about money and entertainment but also about giving back to the society. Many leagues and matches conducted for charity purposes receive good response from the audience as people too want to associate themselves with a good cause. Sponsoring charity events, organizing donation drive and supporting NGOs will also help in building a good reputation and goodwill. Giving back to the society is what matters in today's new age marketing world and develops an affinity with the fans.
Reaching out to all
Gone are the days when sports were only viewed by men. Today a major chunk of fans and spectators come from women and kids. This is an important data that should be leveraged to design your communication objectives. It is imperative to customize the message and communicate to all by using this data. Data plays an important role in reaching out to the right set of fans and hence a strong data mining and collection mechanism is a necessity.
For a fan, a sport is all about the experience one gets by watching the match live in the stadium. Marketers are cracking new and experiential ways of in-stadium experience for fans. To start with the basics, providing basic facilities of food stalls serving good and appropriately priced food items, clean seating area and washrooms helps in enhancing the fan's experience. Setting up a fan zone where fans can enjoy interesting activities or games is another way to make the fan experience better. Creative setups like selfie points, life-size installations and on ground goodies distribution is quite popular these days. Many stadiums today have e-ticket scanner and automatic security check which makes fans' experience hassle-free. Having smart arenas with Wi-Fi facility, instant mobile access to match statistics, replays, interactive quizzes and trivia, audience's votes about crucial moments of the match is a way to engage and connect with the fans at deeper levels. Simple things such as players meet and greet with a few fans pre or post-match, setting up special zones inside the arena for fans, getting a signed jersey from the best player of the match himself is what matters the most, to provide a unique experience to the right fans.