Sports business strategy has had to develop rapidly to bring the outside world, in.

For those of you familiar with the comedy The Thick of It – “Did you watch the zeitgeist tapes?” is one (of many) iconic lines from the wrath of fury that is, Malcolm Tucker.

Tucker is berating Hugh Abbott, the government’s Social Affairs Minister, for not being in touch with anything in relation to the general populations culture. How do you relate to an audience if you are not in touch or you do not make the effort to understand them?

I can conclude, sports has had its zeitgeist tape moment. 

Sports business strategy includes new methods to attract new audiences and it has begun to meet the demands of a new cultural climate shift. The audience in question? Gen Z.

Zeitgeist: The general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

A must to strategy is an interest and understanding of the outside world, the macro elements that influence individuals and collectives.

  • Dissect trends and take notice of repetitive patterns.
  • Decide which trend and patterns are relevant to the organisation.
  • Identify how trends fit into the weaknesses or strengths of the organisation and play to those.

 

It sounds straightforward. But when an industry has not had to think about finding an audience as there has always been one there, it is jarring.

The skyrocketing number of partnerships with fashion houses, music, podcasts, and art are all a part of the strategy to attract wider audiences. Each facet of culture feeding off of one another, creating and reaching new communities – developing subcultures even. Examples: Classic Football Shirts aficionados and sneakerheads.

The next big cultural shift is the recognition and acceptance of athletes as creators. It is a matter organisations and teams must prepare for and understand. A new generation of sports stars are arriving, those who have grown up with YouTube, vloggers, and creatives. They challenge the status quo; in turn they create a ripple effect across sport.

Sports organisations and agencies need to be ready to accept and facilitate this shift as it will implicate across numerous areas of the business. Athletes realise their platform and creator ability. Sports persons are creators, they understand what works for their audience and what their audience wants to see.

Therefore, the environment around them should not stifle or harbour them from creating or building their brand. Define the aspects of an athlete that fit into the strengths and weaknesses of a club and play to those.

However, the areas of considerations for businesses and organisations to adapt and shift to includes:

  • Legal – Contracts
  • Commercial – Associations players can develop outside of their club; can players have their own merch?
  • Broadcast and Content Access – Classic case, Watford FC’s Ben Foster.
  • Player Agents and Management – Skills and services will increase and diversify.
  • Club Social Content – Integration of player channels and support players as they take on social.
  • Governing and League Bodies – Understanding and accepting the new shift, getting players onto their side.

 

This shift isn’t completely new, athletes have built their brands for years, to be a creator is an extension of that brand building. To quote John Hegarty, “The value of a great idea hasn’t changed. But the opportunity to exploit it has.” Previously player brands were built through traditional endorsements, classic team promotion, and the press. 

Athletes careers don’t last forever, therefore they need to make their mark and stand out. Accept what is to come and make room for change. The future of sport audiences is dependent on this.

If you enjoyed this article, head on over to Thoughts + Sports to hear more of Lona’s takes on the sports industry.