EXCLUSIVE | Guide to Sports Marketing – Stay safe to stay relevant: Parminder Gill, Sportz Village

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Parminder Gill, Chief Business Officer at Sportz Village Xp, writing exclusively for MediaBrief, shares his Perfect Guide to Sports Marketing for brands using sports.

After 2020 and everything that it brought on upon the world, we have finally made considerable progress into 2021 – the year in which everyone looked on with greater hope. However, as with every other sector, there are bound to be long-term, and permanent to some extent, changes that will be experienced in the world of marketing. Especially when it comes to marketing through sports.

This is because of two major aspects:

  • Stadia around the world continue to be either unoccupied by fans or at best, partially occupied to ensure social distancing
  • Common people who wish to engage in sports as a hobby need to avoid any risky behaviour which can cause them to contract the still very much prevalent novel Coronavirus

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So how do brands go about with their sports marketing strategy in 2021? We have a few pointers for this:

Stay safe to stay relevant 

One conclusion that we could draw from the round table conference that we initiated in collaboration with INTIN back in the early days of the pandemic is this – That a large majority of people are willing to let their kids engage in sports provided they are reasonably assured that all necessary precautions would be followed.

This new-found predilection for safety when it comes to brand experience is bound to continue to linger on for quite some time in the consumer psyche. Thus, when it comes to ideating marketing campaigns around sports, it is essential to accommodate safety and its promotion.

Go Big on Social Marketing

Sports have always been a very effective channel for addressing various social, educational, and lifestyle issues. And in the post-pandemic era, consumers are bound to identify much more strongly with brands that associate themselves with social issues.

As such, it would be a wise decision for marketers to explore a plethora of options for social marketing through sports. There is a wide range of truly worthy and imminent concerns that can be very effectively addressed uniquely through sports, such as:

  • Health, Fitness, and nutrition awareness among kids and youth of the country 
  • Promoting lesser popular sports in specific geographies
  • Enabling grassroot sports development and talent identification in tier 2/3 cities as well as towns/villages
  • Promoting awareness on contemporary issues such as girl empowerment, self-defense training for women, and so on.

Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Basketball program, Stayfree iCan Women’s Half Marathon, Hero Grameen Khel Utsav, Tata Tea ‘Suraksha’ self-defence program, KBD Junior etc are some prime examples of brand-led sports initiatives addressing a multitude of causes while building on brand value. 

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Make ‘Sports Enabling’ a prominent piece of pie within your marketing budget 

One thing almost every brand can be assured of is this – that sports enthusiasts are bound to comprise a considerable chunk of their target audience/customer base. And this segment missed out on playing sports during the lockdown.

As a result, they are going to be willing to explore almost every opportunity they get to engage in sports, provided they are assured of safety as seen in the first point. And this props-up several opportunities for brands to generate consumer interaction – through being sports enablers.

Sports enabling could comprise of any of:

  • Hosting sports tournaments
  • Amateur and professional sports development opportunities
  • Sporting talent identification programs  
  • Campaigns that focus on positive lifestyle shift in consumers through physical activity and health awareness
  • Sponsoring sports events organized by other organizations

Phygital is the new mantra

‘Phygital’ campaigns, especially ones that revolve around sports can be potentially very effective when it comes to enhancing brand experiences- in these times when on-ground opportunities are restricted.

More importantly, there are a multitude of ways in which brands engage their target audience through the phygital approach as it allows audiences to be physically active using the digital medium.

Kid-fluencers to be the most targeted demography

Kids are one of the most valued target demography for brands for three reasons – they get influenced very easily if the brand communication connects well with them, they are very vocal advocates of the brands that they like, and they have a high customer lifecycle value. Why sports marketing can be a very effective channel for marketing to kids is because they are also the ones who participate very enthusiastically in sports.

Therefore, sport is a great medium to generate brand-consumer interactions with the very valuable population segment(kids) and thus, indirectly with the key decision-makers (parents). 

The above five strategies will take a brand’s business to new heights, not just in terms of value, but a healthy consumer-brand relationship. Experiential Sports Marketing is in demand, not just because it has a successful track record of enabling leading brands in building strong consumer connect but it also puts ‘purpose’ at the forefront of marketing. And what is good for consumers is always good for the business of brands.

The overall effectiveness of sports as a marketing channel is undoubtedly high, but the new trend will move beyond simply placing a logo in the stadiums or buying an ad slot in a cricket match. Rightly and purposefully investing in sports marketing will be the key.

The author is the Chief Business Officer at Sportz Village Xp, India’s leading Experiential Sports Marketing Agency. Views expressed are personal.