How marketers can gear up for a sports-filled summer

How marketers can gear up for a sports-filled summer

With summer just around the corner, the world eagerly anticipates a season brimming with high-energy sports events, from The Euros and Wimbledon to the buzzing excitement of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics. 2023 set a precedent for the UK, with major sporting events injecting £373 million into the economy, according to UK Sport. Can 2024 surpass this benchmark?

This period presents a golden opportunity for marketers, who have a chance to jump on the sports fever bandwagon, revolutionise how fans experience and engage with sports, and connect with audiences that are more captivated than ever. But how can they make the most of it? Industry leaders share their tips for leveraging the heightened enthusiasm over the coming months.

Connect more deeply with your audience

Many brands will seize the moment this summer, capitalising on the prime opportunity to create deep connections with their audiences, says Ori Bauer, CEO of Dynamic Yield by Mastercard: "This summer, with its exciting lineup of sports events, is the perfect time for brands to connect more deeply with their audiences and create memorable, impactful interactions. Imagine real-time content adjustments that capture the energy of live events, personalised offers that align with those unforgettable sports moments, and interactive campaigns that build a sense of community. Most sports fans have a strong emotional connection with their team, and marketers using the right strategies can further strengthen this bond."

Bauer also emphasises the importance of maintaining these connections beyond the events:

"Brands that focus on personalisation and dynamic engagement at every stage of the conversion funnel will see the greatest impact - creating seamless shopping experiences across devices to strengthen both loyalty and increased sales. The key is to create memorable experiences that demonstrate a deep understanding of the customer's emotional journey, ensuring engagement long after the final whistle."

Say hello to tenniscore

For retailers, now is the perfect time to tap into current trends. Styles like tenniscore, reminiscent of preppy courtside attire, are expected to gain more popularity this year. Immy Ewbank, Senior Digital Strategist at Visualsoft, explains: "This summer's packed sports calendar is a retailer's chance to shine! Smart brands will tap into trends like 'tenniscore' with preppy outfits, 90s, and retro footwear (think Adidas' Samba sellouts) to resonate with their audience."

Bringing together online and offline experiences will also be crucial, as is aligning messaging with positive sports values, explains Ewbank:

"Retailers can turn sports fans into brand loyalists by using cohesive creatives across channels and boosting engagement with user-generated content (UGC), incentivising UGC with competitions. It's crucial to leverage essential first-party data for targeted ads on Meta, Pinterest, and TikTok. TikTok Live, in particular, is great for sparking impulse buys, especially for fashion and beauty brands, with 60% of users buying while viewing. Bringing together online and offline is essential, and brands can retarget mobile users near event spaces to drive them in-store. And make sure you align messaging with sports' positive values and, where possible, partner with local athletes to build brand loyalty."

Support the underrepresented

As the world of sports continues to evolve, brands are increasingly looking beyond mainstream events to forge deeper connections with diverse and younger audiences, as Lottie Hill, Behavioural Analyst at Canvas8, explains: "One approach is taking inspiration from Adidas and getting involved in less established sports. Adidas is sponsoring sports such as BMX, skateboarding, breaking, and climbing as part of its Paris Olympics strategy. By boosting the visibility of niche sports, the brand hopes to reach new, younger audiences while platforming under-represented athletes. Much like the Paris Olympic Committee itself, Adidas is making bets on less mainstream sports to connect with younger audiences.

Although the strict guidelines around referencing the Olympics may put this level of association out of reach for many businesses, the diversification of sporting tastes opens up numerous other partnership opportunities: "As sporting tastes diversify, there's an opportunity for brands to explore partnership opportunities outside of the sporting mainstream, lending visibility to lesser-known athletes and contributing positively to the growth of less-established sports. For example, Lululemon's partnership with ultramarathon runner and author Mirna Valerio has sought to champion inclusion within running, challenging outdated notions of a runner's physiques," says Hill.

Opportunities for smaller firms

The digital age has revolutionised how brands engage with major sporting events, making it more accessible for smaller firms to participate in the excitement. Will Williamson, Director at JDR Group, elaborates: "Big sports events, especially football tournaments like Euro 24, are such feelgood events that big-name advertisers want to be associated with them, but historically smaller firms didn't have the kind of budget you needed to get involved because of the lack of advertising opportunities. That's changed now because of the internet, and this year, we will see a huge growth in Euro 24 channels on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, as well as football-based podcasts, which will experience a surge in listenership and, as a result, create big advertising opportunities.

"I listen to a lot of football podcasts, and the content and expertise is as good as you get on mainstream media. There are also podcasts aimed at different football subgroups, which means it's possible for brands you wouldn't traditionally associate with men's international football to find their ideal niche."

Leverage real-time event updates

Laia Quintana, Head of Marketing and Sales at TeamUp, suggests that brands leverage real-time event updates this summer to remain top-of-mind:

"Businesses can benefit greatly from sponsoring real-time event updates on social media. By aligning your brand with live sports updates, you tap into the excitement and engagement of sports fans. This approach ensures that your brand remains top-of-mind as fans eagerly follow the latest scores and highlights. Apart from that, engaging with fans in real-time through comments and shares further amplifies your brand's presence. This method provides a dynamic way to connect with a highly engaged audience and drive traffic to your services."

She also highlights the value of virtual watch parties in creating a sense of community:

"Hosting virtual watch parties offers an innovative way to bring sports fans together under your brand's banner. By creating a branded experience, you provide fans with a unique and interactive way to enjoy the game. This can include exclusive content, live commentary, and branded virtual backgrounds that enhance the viewing experience. Virtual watch parties foster a sense of community among participants, encouraging interaction and engagement with your brand. This approach not only enhances brand visibility but also builds lasting relationships with sports enthusiasts."

Embrace cultural relevance

Sports events provide a dynamic platform for brand visibility and engagement, offering unparalleled opportunities to connect with a passionate audience. Cameron Trevena, PR Senior Account Executive at Hatch, explains: "For food and beverage brands, this presents a golden opportunity to engage with a broad audience and drive sales. Recommended strategies include embracing cultural relevance by using humour and memes, leveraging key moments during tournaments, promoting community experiences through watch parties and themed events, and collaborating with sports celebrities to add star power and credibility.

“Deliveroo's 'England Til We Dine' campaign exemplifies these strategies perfectly. Featuring key personalities like Harry Maguire and Jack Grealish, Deliveroo cleverly played on the cultural reference to the 'England Til I Die' song by humorously highlighting how English fans switch their allegiance to various international cuisines. Pushing ads during the halftime break of England games, a key snacking moment, ensured maximum engagement and timely reminders for viewers to order food. This campaign's success lay in its cultural relevance, humour, and strategic timing, driving both engagement and orders effectively."

Don't be the next industry case study

Steven Underwood, Founder and Managing Director at Bonded, stresses the importance of aligning brand relevance with sporting events to avoid marketing missteps: "The key thing to watch out for here is to ensure your brand is relevant and has a shared audience with the sporting event. Don't shoehorn if your offering isn't appropriate,” he says.

“One recent example that springs to mind is in the PR space, where we've seen gambling companies providing information on hay fever topics. As marketers, it's up to us to produce quality campaigns, so don't be the next industry case study. Ensure you always measure relevancy against your planned campaign," adds Underwood.

Final thoughts

Sports, from global events to the rise of less mainstream sports, will be a big focus for brands and audiences alike over the coming months. Those who don't get involved in some way are at risk of missing out.

By embracing trends, focusing on the fan experience, supporting the underrepresented and, most importantly, thinking about what you can add to the positive momentum, brands can score big. So, get out there, connect with audiences, and may your campaigns shine as brightly as an Olympic gold medal.

Interested in learning more about how events can boost your brand? CIM's Event Marketing course could be exactly what your looking for. It covers a range of proven strategies, tactics, tips, case histories and practical guidance on how to plan live, virtual and hybrid events. 

Sign up for CIM's Event Marketing course here


Laura Bracher News analyst CIM
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