The concept of creating a shared value between sports teams, local communities and fan communities is stronger than ever. Image: Shutterstock
Whether you’re an athlete or a fan of sports, follow an individual team or a player, or casually watch from time to time, sports will bring out your team spirit and provide inspiration and hope in untold ways.
Sports brands have a very powerful role in their fans’ lives, which means they need to think about how they operate their business, how they engage fans and what kind of messages they deliver to society. The concept of creating a shared value between sports teams, local communities and fan communities is stronger than ever. Though it’s hard to know what’s coming, keep reading to see what’s trending in the world of sports marketing as I see it.
1. Experience it:
Sports marketing is increasingly about giving customers the feeling that they are a part of something good, something that contributes to their life in a meaningful way. As we slowly crawl out of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all eager to experience life in its full glory and participate in or attend sporting events. And live events are at the top of the list. Brands will continue to drive authentic engagement through experiential marketing activities on the ground by delivering experiences that matter. At Hyperice, we take great pride in recovering athletes at the finish line.
2. Healthify it:
Having access to the latest in health tech will become a competitive advantage. It is now evident that better fitness levels, and better physical and mental health, have a positive impact on an athlete’s performance. Athletes and sports/fitness facilities will continue to invest in health tech and recovery technology.
3. Track it
Among emerging opportunities, wearables and internet services for tracking physical exercise, which incorporate social network features, will continue to thrive amid increased focus on individual activities such as running and cycling. Brands will continue to create, engage and inspire these communities. For example, the advent of Strava challenges by brands like Trek bikes is one of my favourites.
4. Invest in it
Despite the constraints of the pandemic, be it training in a limited setting or not being on the field playing in front of thousands, athletes saw this as an opportunity to focus on other things, including their businesses and investments. Most of the investments made by athletes have been driven by personal experience with the products they have used and come to love; or products that fuel their passion. Athletes will continue to turn investors in relevant startups and businesses as we go along. For example, Virat Kohli became the first Indian Hyperice athlete-investor to join the growing list of athlete-investors such as Naomi Osaka, Earling Haaland, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Riccardo, Rory McIlroy, Ja Morant, and many more.
5. Merchandise it
The majority of the products are purchased for emotional reasons and a smaller percent for functional reasons. We are all collectors at heart, and we like to pronounce our support for our choice of sport, team or player. And if you attend a sporting event in person, you want to celebrate and commemorate the experience. Licensed merchandise is the trend that will continue to foster in sports marketing. If you have a strong sports brand, it’s time to think about brand licensing, gain from additional retail visibility and promotion, plus rake in the royalties.
6. Post it
Brands leverage their athletes and the available fan base to further drive a narrative through authentic content on social media. We will see a continued rise in athlete voices on social media as they inspire their audience to stay active, be fit and start taking care of their overall wellbeing. We will see more content collaboration with athletes, especially with Instagram’s new collabs feature that allows brands to continue to leverage the athlete’s fanbase and vice versa. Brands and consumers are placing high importance on authenticity and relatability, which translates to a greater engagement even with athletes seen as influencers or brand advocates who have smaller followings but are aligned with brand values. Brands will continue to nurture innovative partnerships that deliver high engagement and authenticity through UGC content for social media.
7. Digitise it
Digital content is more important today than ever. Younger fans continue to consume differently than older generations—so short-form, unique content, and surrounding events/athletes are going to create huge emphasis. Not to mention the importance of second-screen content. Of course, there is a sizable audience for live matches, but the audience for ancillary content on the second screen is equally appreciated. We are already seeing increased original content from both professional and amateur athletes. Sports marketers will draw more emphasis to unique, platform-specific ancillary and non-live content through new and emerging content distribution channels.
8. Globalise it
Catering to international fanbases is challenging—one such challenge is that live broadcast cannot be at a convenient time for many fan bases internationally. Here digital will be huge, not only for highlights and content but also for other creative ways to enjoy the sport’s momentum apart from watching it on TV. This will boost opportunities like multi-viewing or working with local influencers or athletes to create content around the experience in a locally relevant way for a particular market.
Video games are becoming increasingly popular, especially after the pandemic. More and more gamers are finding their way into the world of e-sports. There will be more focus on both casual/amateur and professional player development as we go along. There is an emerging trend of e-sports players now taking their fitness and recovery seriously to have longevity in their careers. We will also see more brands wanting to be a part of the gameplay by being featured in the games interactively, and we will see more livestream integrations with the e-sports athletes.
10. Women in sport
For decades, the sports business was a male domain. Thanks to the changes in society, the sports industry is also strongly mixed. We will see more support from brands towards women in sports and sports for women. This is also since women are an increasing financially strong group of buyers.
Mayuri Pitale is director, business development & marketing (India), Hyperice.
Note to readers: Storyboard18’s new Month In Focus initiative spotlights themes and topics that are pushing marketers to reshape and rethink how brands interact with today’s customers. Our first theme is Just Sports, a special spotlight on sports marketing presented by Sports18. We bring to you stories of how marketers are harnessing the power of technology, innovation and creativity in sports to create powerful storytelling in campaigns that increase affinity and loyalty with audiences. From traditional sports platforms around cricket to emerging games and the rise of esports, we get leading voices from the marketing and sports worlds to give us sharp and fast insights into future-facing marketing practices. Also, tune in for analysis which will surface ideas and strategies that are helping brands to level up experiences and storytelling with authentic collaborations. So watch this space for Just Sports.
Check out our end of season subscription discounts with a Moneycontrol pro subscription absolutely free. Use code EOSO2021. Click here for details.