Written by Bernardo Fernandes from Colure Sports.

Sport has a challenge ahead. To stay relevant in an ever-shifting world.

Contemporary sports have to compete in terms of relevance with many other areas, particularly social media and entertainment.

Today’s digital world has brought an increased level of stimuli, information and ‘noise’. This has however, helped today’s younger generations achieve an undoubtable higher level of consciousness and awareness. More than ever these generations are socially and environmentally aware and selective about which communities to belong to or which products to purchase. Modern audiences seek meaningful connections and the sports industry has changed. Fan engagement shifted from unquestionable loyalty to alignment with the values of a given organisation.

How to stay relevant in the changing world of sports marketing

 

Modern fans might have different consumption habits, and even though there is a growing volume of news and entertainment content, sport still dominates a significant part of public attention. Surprisingly or not, according to the American website variety.com, the 10 most watched TV events of last year were all sports related. With the NFL Super Bowl topping the list.

Conventional, terrestrial TV is decreasing as the media of choice for the younger audience. Their go-to source for news and entertainment is the internet and social media. Here’s an interesting stat: some 53% of ‘Gen Zers’ believe that becoming a (social media) influencer is a reputable career choice, and a similar share would quit their current jobs if they could become an influencer if it was enough to pay for their lifestyle. Three out of 10 young people would even pay to become an influencer.

 

Looking in to the future with automation and AI, sport needs to rely on one of its unique characteristics: authenticity. Viewers still find themselves drawn to the raw and spontaneous human condition, the emotion of competition, the unscripted and the ‘real consequences’. In a world of superficial marketing, attention hacking and reality shows, many still desire genuine content and want to be thrilled by the unpredictable.

Some organizations have been quick to understand this paradigm. They realized that although competitive performances and results are still a nuclear axis, there are more dimensions within a sports ‘product’. There are other layers to explore in order to create an appealing sports brand. Some of those probably unusual or unconventional. The challenge is to find a balance between what is the embodiment of a sport and how to communicate in a contemporary style.

What needs to be considered when developing a modern communication strategy:

‘Daily Dose

Younger generations live with a perception of full access. They are used to watching what they want, when they want, where they want. This creates the necessity to generate content on a permanent, daily basis. More than ever sports organisations now need to open their doors to areas previously unaccessible or at least, unseen.

How to stay relevant in the changing world of sports marketing

 

Soapization’

In entertainment terms, ‘Soap’ typically means a long running show characterised by melodrama. Usually reflected by a sentimental bond established between audience and cast. Marketeers realized the potential of bringing such connection within a sports context.

Sports become the ultimate ‘reality show’, the ‘actors’ (athletes) actions have real life repercussions. A great example of this model is reflected on the impact the documentary ‘Drive to Survive’ had on Formula 1. Lost audiences reengaged and the sport really reached out and was able to connect with younger and female demographics. Fans engaged with their ‘favourites’ and saw real life races matching the episodes. Episode by episode, Race by race.

Another example is the recent buzz around the Football transfer market windows and how that segment became as popular as teams results. In some cases a real ‘Mexican Soap’.

 

‘Neotribalism

Competitions, Teams and Athletes.

In this global village, you can virtually follow any sport, anywhere in the world. This changed the paradigm of supporting the ‘club next door’ or the traditional ‘one club love’. This has transformed the so called ‘tribalism’. Modern fans are now following far away teams/clubs rather than just the local club. Therefore, there is a much higher value placed on an identity and communication that appeals to a broader international audience. Another sign of the times is the consolidation of the fact that individual athletes, but also competitions have their own fan ‘tribe’.

With a digital and streaming opportunity and an adequate marketing strategy, there is nothing preventing your organisation achieving a global appeal.

‘The person behind the Athlete’

Not everyone possesses natural charisma or the ‘X factor’. Some athletes are naturally more empathetic than others. Nevertheless, for the most part, the authentic triumphs over the artificial.

There are countless videos and photos of shooting, dribbling situations or goals/points celebrations. To portray the human, the unexpected and the intimate will differentiate athletes, it will help create a more genuine identification with the fanbase.

‘Art above Marketing’

The renowned music producer Rick Rubin has some daring thoughts about how to indulge yourself on a creative process. He actually states that to serve an audience’s best interests, it is fundamental to remain unbiased on your preconception of what they ‘want’ or ‘seek’.

Rick affirms: ’The audience comes last. The costumer doesn’t know what they want. They only know (or want) what came before’. I find this an enlightening perspective about a creative process, on how to detach yourself from the supposed pressure of creating something required by the end receiver.

Often the lasting impact of an artistic creation might be more relevant (from a cultural point of view) than a ‘viral’ yet temporary marketing stunt. I often share the idea that on given content, the recognition from industry peers or other ‘tastemakers’ might be as valuable, if not more, in terms of brand identity, then millions of impressions from the ‘general public’.

How to stay relevant in the changing world of sports marketing
Rick Rubin

 

Kitsch is hype’

Kitsch, a style of art and design perceived as banal, possibly eccentric, traditional or folkloric. It represents aesthetic nostalgia – often around elements that weren’t considered very aesthetic…

Well, there is a strong Kitsch trend within sports fashion. The retro jersey kits resurgence attests to that. A certain reconnection through reminiscence with values rooted in childhood, family and local imagery are powerful ingredients. If we are looking to create authentic and sentimental messages, it often helps to reconnect with a positive past and some vivid collective memories.

The exquisite appreciation of old (and odd) fashion tendencies also adds to the mix.

 

Collaborations and Crossovers’

There are different ways to conceptualise a collaboration. Some ‘obvious’ synergies where both counterparts merge on a harmonious exchange of direct and measurable benefits. Yet, some of the most remarkable collaborations, probably come from the brands that although standing on ‘opposite extremes’ found an intersection and generate something unexpectedly original.

From ‘Nike’ collaborating with the ice cream brand ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ to ‘FC Barcelona’ announcing major collaborative sponsoring deal with audio streaming service ‘Spotify’. Disrupt, experiment and walk the unconventional pathway.

 

In the past, brands looked for sports platforms to remain present on the cultural scene. Nowadays, sports needs to innovate by associating with brands that are culturally significant.

 

Thanks to Bernardo for taking the time to write for us, make sure you go and drop Colure Sports a follow over on their Instagram.

 

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