What are the new trends in sports marketing? We’ve selected 10 of the most interesting ones: from changing audiences, to sustainability, to personalization, and the frontiers of virtual reality.
The sports industry is a huge sector that borders on fitness, health, pure entertainment, as well as the areas that are on the frontier of digital in all its forms. It has a vast and very diversified audience, in terms of age, geography, and society. And – above all – it is a hyper-dynamic sector, one that is in constant change.
All of this can only be reflected in the marketing of this sector: a playing field where you need to know how to operate in a way that is current and up to date, but also well in advance of other players.
In this post on our blog, we tracked all the major changes in marketing and communication in the sports and fitness industry. Changes that, for the most part, have to do with digital, and therefore with the advent of Digital Transformation, which has revolutionized all industries, and continues to do so: it is a constant and continuous transformation.
Above all, “digital” means having a huge amount of information about one’s business processes and one’s customers at your disposal: this is the so-called Big Data. We dedicated another post to this theme and its decisive importance in sports marketing.
Now, instead, we want to turn to the future. Learning how to see what’s on the horizon is the most effective way to obtain a competitive advantage. It’s something that companies of every size must know how to do.
Here, then, are 10 new sports marketing trends. These are the trends that will change the dynamics of this industry. In many cases, they have already begun to do so.
1. Space for women!
Sports, after all, is a huge mirror of society. So it’s no surprise that women are becoming increasingly important in this field as well. Even sports like soccer are drawing a more female audience. Just think of the attention captured by the latest European women’s soccer championships, also in Italy.
As a result, the female target audience of marketing in the sports sector has expanded. The margin is still wide, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
The brands are well aware of all of this, and there are many campaigns in this direction. Among these, for their incisiveness, we point to campaigns such as “She moves mountain” by North Face, “This Girl Can” commissioned by the British government, and”Dream with us” by Nike.
2. …and also for seniors
The population, especially in the Western world, is increasingly older…but, at the same time, increasingly active and dynamic.
That’s why “seniors” are (and will be) increasingly a decisive target for sports marketing, also because of their purchasing power (an aspect not to be overlooked).
In this sense, a very interesting and bold example is the Adidas “Break Free” commercial.
3. Young people and esports
If the previous sports marketing trends concerned the older segments of the population, this one is mainly about the younger population…which are also among the most complex for brands to intercept. Learning to do so, however, is fundamental: it’s also important to realize the directions in which the market is moving.
A trend that is constantly growing among young people is that of the so-called esports, which straddles the line between the gaming sector and the more general sports sector. According to the latest estimates, in 2021, fans of “electronic sports”will reach 250 million. And by 2022, the turnover of this sector will be between €1 billion and €650 million (according to the most conservative estimate) and €2 billion (esports.gazzetta.it).
4. Responsibility and sustainability
There is another aspect that increasingly interests younger generations: that of social responsibility and attention to environmental sustainability on the part of brands.
The greater sensitivity towards these issues is evident. It’s enough to look around: from Fridays for Future to keywords on social networks, but also to the “old” TV commercials. But here are some numbers: According to a study by Nielsen, 66% of consumers are even ready to pay more to reward the brands that are committed to having a positive social and environmental impact (nielsen.com).
5. Intercepting communities (including “private” ones)
Around sports there are very close communities of fans, enthusiasts, but also technicians and professionals.
Intercepting these communities is fundamental. And it can be done in many ways: with the analysis of Big Data, for example; by exploiting influencers and micro-influencers (and we will return to this in the next two points); or, better yet, by combining the two strategies.
There is, however, a side that is taking on an increasingly decisive role. And it is a side”in the shadows”, so to speak, so much so that it is often defined as “dark social.” Nothing esoteric, it is simply the “private” part of the internet: WhatsApp groups, chats, closed groups on social networks. It’s an ever-growing part of the internet, one where people are more candidly exchanging ideas and opinions.
This is one of the sports marketing trends that brands should monitor more carefully. It’s a matter of knowing how to insert oneself “naturally” and effectively in these communities. Or – even better – to learn how to build them around your brand.
6. Super Influencers…
We often read that influencer marketing, in recent times, has undergone a certain contraction. And it’s true: top influencers, due to their rise in popularity, are no longer perceived as “authentic” (and this was their strength). But, beware: there are two ways to remedy the problem.
The first is nothing new: turn to the stars, to the “Super Influencers.” An “ancient” mechanism, but one that continues to work beautifully, even in the digital world.
An example? Cristiano Ronaldo has over 200 million followers on Instagram; Juventus, the team where he plays, has “only” 42 million; Nike, one of the brands for which the footballer is a spokesperson has “only” 120 million).
The second way is to take the opposite route. Which we see in the following point.
7. …and Micro Influencers
Let’s pick up from the previous point: the opposite – but equally effective – way is to turn to “Micro Influencers” or “Nano Influencers.”
These are people who have a much more direct and authentic relationship with their audience, and all this translates into greater engagement and loyalty.
In addition, for brands, investing in Micro Influencers also means spreading the budget on more “fronts” and minimizing the risk.
8. Intercepting individuals
We started with the big numbers, and – finally – we’re coming full circle in an increasingly “surgical” way, to get to individuals.
The real trend in sports marketing, the one that is the most powerful and effective, is now personalization. Learning how to get to “know” individuals and addressing them with communications that are perfectly tailored to their characteristics, behaviors, customer journeys, and potential desires.
There are already many examples of personalized marketing in the sports industry (from Nike with this example, to many NFL teams from the NBA, soccer, to Gatorade–see here).
And there are companies that specialize in this kind of one-to-one approach, such as Doxee, whose goal is to turn data into relationships– increasingly close relationships– between brand and customer.
9. Personalization is wearable
A very interesting example of the collection of personal data, which is fundamental for personalized marketing, is the increasingly widespread diffusion of wearable devices, known as wearables (in this segment, again, Nike takes the lion’s share; for more details see here).
According to a recent survey, sales of wearables will reach $95 million by 2021 (statista.com).
Needless to say, the many opportunities lurking in this specific sector are on the rise.
10. AR, VR, MR: what are we talking about?
Let’s start by dissolving the acronyms: AR indicates Augmented Reality, VR indicates Virtual Reality. Less known to the general public is instead the MR (Mixed Reality), which indicates the so-called Hybrid Reality, an environment where “digital objects” and physical objects coexist and interact with each other.
All of this is no longer science fiction, and has been for some years now. The first applications of these technologies in the field of marketing (but also of Customer Care) are already among us. Even in the sports sector.
The Red Bull Formula 1 team, for example, has created videos that exploit Virtual Reality, specifically aimed at their fans.
In short, the panorama on the horizon of the sports industry is very interesting, and in constant movement. The challenge, for those involved in marketing, is always the same: to stay open-minded, and to know how to “see things” in advance.