In Sports Marketing

A key crossroads for sports marketing consists in the one marked by the different sports marketing types. This discipline is very often addressed without considering the dual meaning of its name, which bears substantial differences in it. It is primarily a linguistic confusion. What English-speakers transversally define “Sports Marketing” (and they are the undisputed masters of this matter, although it is not true that sports marketing was born in the US) is a reality with two distinguished sides, which are clearly reflected in the twofold essence of its name: marketing of sport and marketing with (or through) sport.

Definition of Sports Marketing

We would like to start our stream of considerations on sports marketing types from two definitions, which are key to this subject matter in our opinion.

The first definition of sports marketing is found in Mullin, Hurdy & Sutton in their famous book titled Sport Marketing (2014). The three authors define sports marketing as a rational, coherent system that helps link sport consumers with sport products. The second definition is a bit more outdated, but nonetheless efficient and important. It is taken from Advertising Age, one of the best known advertising and communication magazines in the world, founded in 1930 by G.D. Crain Jr. in Chicago. Sports marketing is here defined as the activities of consumers, industrial products and communication people who increasingly use sport as a communication tool.

Sports marketing types: primary types

The two definitions above help understand that two completely different aspects are referenced, right from the basics. On the one hand, we have the “marketing of sport”, i.e. the set of activities and competences intended for the promotion and improvement of sports enjoyment and consumption (we will present some figures later on). On the other, we have “marketing with sport” or “marketing in sport“, the use of sport as an efficient communication tool for businesses. This is what we define as primary sports marketing types, which form the first large category of sports marketing.

Anyone involved in initiatives aimed at bringing a sport product closer to end consumers has to do with the “marketing of sport”. This includes marketing operators of sports businesses and organisers of events, leagues, championships, and so on. For instance. When you find a promotion entitling you to go to the stadium with a friend free of charge, you are exposed to “marketing of sport”. Other marketing of sports examples include the huge ADV campaigns football clubs launch at the beginning of the season for season tickets, or charity events to raise money for a good cause and therefore casting good light on the team.

Marketing through sport”, on the other hand, involves players who use sport as a booster to grow a business that is not directly connected to sports. Players who use marketing through sport include sports marketing agencies, brands resorting to testimonials, and so on. An example of marketing through sport is the Opel brand using Valentino Rossi to promote their car model Opel Adam.

Evidently enough, the differences between these two sport marketing categories, and the resulting professional profiles especially, are substantial and they represent a very important crossroads for new comers in this sector. The two types of professionals linked to these categories are different, but often they must be complimentary in order to get the greatest value from sports sponsorship and sports communication deals.

The “sport” product

The two types of sports marketing above and any deriving differences are primarily due to the intrinsic complexity of the “sport” product. From the standpoint of marketing, defining sport according to common criteria is quite complex – namely as the set of peculiar characteristics manifesting themselves in the form of a service, physical product or intellectual product that meets the needs of a specific market and generates economic and other profits which justify its renewed existence.

What is a sport product then? Is it season tickets? Is it a hospitality ticket to watch the MotoGP? Is it a basketball sneaker? Is it a live broadcast of a Formula 1 Grand Prix race? Is it practising a sport discipline? Is it a ski pass for the skiing week? Is it a motorbike running on track under the eyes of million TV viewers? Is it a famous athlete appearing on a billboard?

Although it may sound impossible, all the examples mentioned above (and many more) are sport products with a well defined and clear sports marketing path to support them. The great specialisation and the vertical approach required by the various areas of sports marketing is under everybody’s eyes: it is hard – extremely hard, indeed – to simultaneously take care of ticketing, organisation of a sport event, sponsorship activation, athlete management, and so on.

Each sports marketing sector has its own competences and professional profiles and they are becoming increasingly more specialised and deeply-rooted as time goes by.

Sports marketing types: secondary types

As explained above, the multi-faceted sport product is matched with as many diversified sports marketing types. Our analysis started off with the examination of “macro types”, i.e. marketing of sport and marketing through sport. The time has now come to get a deeper insight into the issue and address secondary (or micro) sports marketing types, i.e. those more closely connected to sport products.

These types include:

  • marketing of sporting events;
  • marketing of sports businesses;
  • marketing of individual athletes;
  • marketing of places, stadiums and facilities where sporting activities take place;
  • marketing of Public Bodies, Federations, Leagues and Series, with the purpose of promoting, growing and developing individual disciplines and championships;
  • marketing of equipment for practising sports disciplines;
  • marketing of media and means of communication which broadcast and disseminate news, live shows, sport talk shows and sport programmes;
  • sport licensing;
  • sports sponsorships.

The list above may actually continue. Its sole purpose is to emphasise one very clear peculiarity: each different aspect of a sport product corresponds to a different type of sports marketing.

What is the position of RTR, agencies and motor sport?

At macro type level, RTR Sports is a sports marketing agency, therefore an agency of marketing through sport. Our stated mission in the past twenty years has been the provision of consultancy services to businesses that are willing to use sport as a communication tool. At micro type level, our focus (i.e. the sport product that is our core business) has been equally clear: motor sports sponsorships, more specifically sponsorships in MotoGPFormula 1Formula E and MotoE. In parallel, we have developed other components of the sport product which are closely connected to the sponsorship product: activations. Hospitality, Licensing and on-field Events are part of our DNA too. If you wish to have a look at our case history of past sports sponsorships, visit our dedicated website area here and the relevant website sections dealing with hospitalities, licensing and events.

If you are curious to know more about this topic or are willing to find out how sports marketing can help your company grow, or you’d like to discuss some sport marketing examples and showcases, do not hesitate to contact us at our email address:

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Emanuele Venturoli
Emanuele Venturoli
Communication Manager for RTR Sports Marketing. A degree in Communication at the University of Bologna and a passion for sport brought me where I'm today.
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