By Sandeep Juneja
Show me the money! “Cried Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 1996 hit movie Jerry Maguire. It was a classic scene where Gooding, a baseball player, coaxes his rather clever agent into getting him back on track. If you want a great example of sports marketing, that would be a great place to start. Sport already has enough unscripted emotion, drama, and fun. A good sports marketer knows how to capitalize on that. large audience for brands and athletes.
There are a few events that can create that joy that’s as shared and unfiltered as being part of a good game. Whether it’s on the pitch or live as a member of the audience, it’s an amazing bonding experience. . In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you are watching your favorite team in the stadium, on your cell phone or on an OTT platform – the joy of a true sports fan is intact.
So why sports marketing?
Sport has an audience like no other. It crosses a representative sample of people; rather hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Sports marketing – while providing moments of joy to the public – also benefits from the large fan base (read: captive audience). It allows marketers to promote their products, services, and brand reputation, along with incredible shots on goal, assists, and even the thrill of a penalty shootout.
Today, a variety of opportunities exist as a sports marketer. Fans watch the games – in the stadium (in pre-Covid times), on their televisions, and now more on demand on their cellphones. Each new format has widened the advertiser’s basket. Each medium allowed us to adapt the message to the audience.
Sport is a popular and recurring choice for brands. Ask yourself why?
Statista reports that in 2019, approx. 154.4 million people in the United States watched at least one live sporting event each month. Closer to home, we hope to grab the attention of nearly 200 million viewers of the premier football tournament, the Indian Super League. If we turn to cricket now, BARC India TV audience data shows an astonishing 24% increase over 2019 despite zero viewership in stadiums.
The good thing is that ad revenue has brought popularity even to niche sports. The EY Media & Entertainment report shows that there has been significant growth in new sports segments. These include badminton, boxing, field hockey and even kabbadi for that matter. In 2018, data shows wrestling interestingly captured 20% of the time spent playing sports on TV!
You can see the marketing potential even during the bidding wars over sports streaming rights. You can see this in the OTT subscription numbers which more than doubled in 2019 thanks to sporty and good quality content. The sports audience market is clearly hot!
So how do we do it?
Previously, sports marketing was limited to brand promotions or product placements. However, with new formats – especially social media – sporting events offer much more authenticity to conversations. Good marketers will know how to leverage sports to boost both eyes and engagement.
Let me give you an example of DHL itself. The brand is global and over the years has supported many of the world’s most important sporting events, such as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, ESL One and the German Football Association (DFB). We also sponsor leading football clubs such as Manchester United and FC Bayern Munich. We come together to leverage the brand values that sport and we as a logistics company stand for, such as the need for speed, teamwork and passion.
In India, ISL has enabled us to reach audiences in both small and large cities. This gives us the opportunity to support loyal fans and potentially a loyal set of customers. The average football spectator is young and we believe they are potentially an emerging entrepreneur. Our goal is to allow the public to see us within their reach and to help them reach their potential. We want them to see us as the team behind the team.
Will the situation change in the post-Covid world?
Well, the sports marketing game is constantly evolving. A good brand manager does not disrupt but engages in the conversation. So, Covid changed the place of the conversation, it didn’t change the reason.
In fact, let me say that Covid has made the playing field pretty level-playing as conversations are now almost exclusively virtual. It is possible to create open, immediate and involved conversations with the audience. Instead of running ads, we have the ability to speak directly with the sports fan and engage with them in a meaningful way. Plus, with athletes who are fairly active on social media, the interaction for the fan is so much more authentic.
I truly believe social media and OTT are here to stay and will bring the action closer to home. It will also increase the sports marketing pie. Take a look at GroupM’s Indian Sports playbook – it says the sports sponsorship industry topped Rs 9,000 crore in 2019! The growth trajectory over the past decade is in double digits.
* (CAGR of 12.8% over 10 years; in 2019 at 17%).
One trend that few people have clung to is esports which in the post-Covid era will be huge. We have sponsored ESL One with great success – and we see the potential. With better broadband speed and the acceleration of digital adoption due to Covid, we should expect a boom next year. In 2019 alone, the number of online gamers increased by 31%, according to the EY Media & Entertainment report. So it will be an ideal place.
For me, sports and marketing are actually about opportunity. So stay tuned for the next big change.
The author is Vice President, Sales and Marketing, DHL Express India
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