In Digital Marketing, Marketing, Sports Marketing

What is sports marketing? Sports marketing definitions from A to Z

From sponsorship activation to the potential impact of Generation Z, there are lots of different aspects to sports marketing. It’s a multiverse operation, with lots of varied and exciting aspects, after all.

So, what are the hottest themes in the sports marketing and sponsorship industry at the moment?

Here, we’ll go from A to Z to try and decode the sports marketing alphabet.

But before we do that, a quick definition of sports marketing from the experts at Wikipedia:

Sports marketing is a subdivision of marketing which focuses both on the promotion of sports events and teams as well as the promotion of other products and services through sporting events and sports teams”

Got it – so here’s your A-Z of this highly lucrative industry…

A – Activation

In sports marketing a practical approach is essential – because of course, sports marketing strategy or  sports sponsorship is nothing without activation. Clear objectives are essential too.

When it comes down to making it work,sports marketers are focused on PR opportunities, online content, contests among fans, and use of show-bikes and show-cars – without this level of activation, your campaign is unlikely to have the desired ROI.

B – B2B

Sports marketing puts your brand on the map and opens all kind of doors for new deals with other companies, both nationally and internationally. Investing in sports sponsorship is like being part of a very exclusive club, where members can share opportunities and make business. Just think of the corporate hospitality opportunities…

C – Club

To make real impact in the sport industry, we have to begin from its very foundation: clubs. Sports Clubs with a solid financial structure, stadiums of their own and a strong fanbase and youth sectors are the future of any sport – so why not invest money in sponsorship and be part of their growth?

D – Data 

Market research is the first step towards a great and successful sports marketing plan, whilst measuring and monitoring of results is key to proving a successful operation. As all marketers know, you need data to perform and succeed in the field. From demographics to on-screen-visibility to audience monitoring to sales, the truth is often in the cold, hard figures.

E – Engagement

What makes sports marketing work? Like activation, engagement is one of the main things that makes sponsorship and sports marketing campaigns so successful. Sports Brands need to stand by their customers just as teams need to be close to their fans, and luckily enough we have the technology just to do so. Social media and apps ensure a strong relationship, but marketeers need to be clever and truly passionate to break through the noise (of course, RTR Sports Marketing call help you do this.)

F – Facebook

At 1.5 billion daily active users Facebook is the largest social media platform on earth, and its size and reach clearly make it the perfect communication tool for companies, teams, athletes and agencies worldwide – although the risk of getting lost in the noise is always there. Experienced marketers need to find new, more exciting ways to engage with fans and communities, or they will be surpassed by an ever-growing, highly skilled generation of young page administrators and influencers. Facebook marketing, as with anything, is not 100% guaranteed.

G – Growth

Overall expenditure in sports marketing is growing steadily. In 2016, according to Forbes, almost $50 billion was spent by sports marketers in the sport industry. Europe is leading the pack, with an expenditure of $14.5 billion, while North America follows swiftly at $13.8 billion. Clearly, this is an industry that’s growing – and one that has a world of potential for those who want to invest.

H – Hospitality

Corporate hospitality programmes at sports events are among the most loved benefits of sports sponsorship. They allow you to take your best guests and/or clients to the most prestigious sporting events, to experience VIP services, exclusive behind the scenes tours, and explore privileged venues and views. In VIP villages, this is all part of the menu.

I – Internationality

Maybe the top reason why sports marketing works? Sport is a huge, global show, capable of crossing geographical, linguistic and cultural borders. Think of major events, such as MotoGP, the World Cup or the Olympic games, which attract millions of fans around the planet. Sports marketing campaigns are a highly effective tool of communication, especially for business that operate all over the world.

J – Jordan

The best basketball player of all times retired at the end of the 2002-2003 season, which means we’ve had over 15 years without Mike. Still, the six-time NBA champion remains one of the highest paid athletes in the world, active or retired. Forbes estimates $110 million as the annual income of His Airness, mostly thanks to the Jordan Brand. Cool.

K – Key Performance Indicators

Sports marketing strategies and sponsorship programmes can and must be measured if we want the industry to be credible. The right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) must be clear at the start of all projects and must be achievable and impartial – this guarantees ROI for your clients and will hopefully lead to successful long-term partnerships for you.

L – Licensing

Too often set aside as a weak back-up plan for cheap apparel manufacturers, brand licensing is actually a user-powerful marketing tool, providing your business with an opportunity to reach a wide and target audience by exploring new markets and distribution channels.

M – MotoGP

The pinnacle of sports marketing and of two-wheel racing is growing bigger and bigger, thanks to a lineup of superstars and an excellent production and distribution plan. With 19 races in four continents, the MotoGP Championship in one of the most powerful marketing platforms in the sports arena. If you want to get involved, contact RTR Sports Marketing.

N – Nike

With brand value alone sitting at around $20 billion, Nike is the most valuable brand in the sports business. Thanks to huge sponsorship deals with professional sports leagues such as the NFL and the NBA and agreements with the world’s top athletes and teams, the brand is once again one of the main players in the global sports scene.

O – Online

The future is digital. It’s not enough to think only of reaching sports fans and stakeholders via their apps and through their phones – it’s essential that marketers know that more and more often digital devices are used as for “second-screen” viewing. Of course, utilising this can maximise the opportunities all round.

P – 4 Ps of marketing, and the fifth

Philip Kotler gave us one of marketing’s most important theories: the 4 Ps. A good marketing mix is the successful combination of four main pillars: price, product, placement and promotion. However, as Mullin and Hardy discuss in their book “Sports Marketing”, another key P has to be added to the mix when it comes to sport: Public Relations. For the social and cultural impact sporting events and news have in our daily life, PR is as essential to sports marketing as a good price strategy.

Q – Qatar

Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. It is the first time the quadrennial international men’s football challenge will take place in a Middle East, in an Arab and Muslim country. Also, for the first time, the World Cup will take place in mid-November. Accusations have been made about how Qatar won the hosting of the event, but this does not change the main point here: The Middle East will soon be a pivotal area for the future of sports sponsorship and the sports marketing industry.

R – Rights Acquisition

We must not forget that sports sponsorship is, put simply, the acquisition of several communication and marketing rights for business purposes. Visibility is the tip of the iceberg here, and the amount and size of rights gained has to be carefully weighed up and taken into consideration by the sponsors. Much of the deal value lies in leveraging these different assets

 S – Sampling

One of the oldest marketing tools in the kit, and sampling is once again popular – rising above competitors has become the main challenge. When the target market is carefully selected and the sample distribution is lead in a smart, elegant way, it can be a super-effective sports marketing tool.

T – Twitter or Title Sponsor

Twitter benefits hugely from its fast-paced, concise nature. According to stats, 83% of the world’s leaders and main influencers are active on the site, and the platform has quickly become the go-to-guy for breaking news, announcements and fast updates. A great tool to share your sports marketing campaigns with an engaged community? Definitely.

U – User Experience

Users, fans and clients will, above everything else, remember how we make them feel. That’s why games have to become events, and stadiums and arenas must become entertainment parks. And yes, this applies on the ground as well as digitally.This principle guides the marketing strategy of successful professional sports teams.

V – VIP Village

The best corporate hospitality programme in two-wheel racing, the MotoGP Village is the poster child of the MotoGP World Championship. Excellent venues, a superb programme of entertainment and a top-notch gourmet experience are the essence of the VIP Village weekend. Without a doubt, the place to be for sports marketers and their guests.

W – Wimbledon, the Championships

The oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world never skips a beat – global audience is estimated at over 1 billion, in 200 territories all over the world. In terms of sports sponsorship, the audience possibilities here are truly immense.

X – Super bowl dropping, then reinstating, all the Xs

In 2016, the world’s most watched game dropped its tradition of naming each game with roman numbers. The 50th edition of the NFL Championship final was simply named Super Bowl 50, instead of Super Bowl L. However, the league re-entered the roman numbers for the 2017 and 2018 editions, and there are no plans to drop them again – clearly, there’s meaning in the numerals.

Y – Youniverse

Marketing – and thus sports marketing – actions have progressively moved in the “you” direction, with services and communications becoming more and more personal and different versions being serviced to single users, for a more individual and personal experience. Providing fans and customers with personalised and relevant content is the future not only of marketing, but of all entertainment. Take note.

Z – Generation Z

Generation Z – people born from 1995 onwards – should be taken very seriously by sports marketers around the world. Contrary to its predecessors (hi there, millennials) Gen Z has totally different media consumption habits and cultural paradigms. For instance, Gen Z does not like Facebook, prefers cool products over cool experiences, and is less creative and yet more business-oriented. Needless to say, lots of marketing frameworks will have to change in order to get these new customers, fans and followers onboard. So, are you ready for Gen Z…?

Can we help you sign your best sponsorship deal?

Emanuele Venturoli
Emanuele Venturoli
A graduate in Public, Social and Political Communication from the University of Bologna, he has always been passionate about marketing, design and sport.
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