Sports Event Marketing: How to Be a Winning Brand

Sports event marketing

“In baseball and in business, there are three types of people. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wondered what happened.” – Tommy Lasorda

Those who know Tommy Lasorda know him for his long-time association with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He got his start with the team as a player in 1954, when it was the Brooklyn Dodgers. Several years later, he became a coach, then manager and, finally, in 1996, the club’s Vice President. Some may attribute his rise in ranks to his love for the game. But the truth is, Mr. Lasorda also knows business.

A Forbes article dubbed him “the Lee Iacocca of baseball, the master motivator, the prince of positive thinking.” That’s because Lasorda understood the importance of his players – his employees. Thus, he always let them know he appreciated their efforts and sought to motivate them to believe in themselves and give their all. At the same time, he reminded them of the significance of their fans. Without fans, Lasorda said, “there wouldn’t be any people like us.” He believed that keeping baseball alive meant saying thank you to fans and giving autographs upon request. It meant giving the fans a great experience.

Since Lasorda’s reign over the Dodgers, the experience level necessary to delight fans has grown in scope. But, Lasorda’s message still applies in baseball and in business. If your consumers are at sporting events, don’t be the brand sitting idly on the sidelines. Be the brand that makes it happen though sports event marketing.

For the Love of the Game’s Experience

Though baseball is “America’s favorite pastime,” other sports fans may beg to differ. From the NFL to NASCAR, and the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Kentucky Derby, there’s a sport or event for everyone. And, while many articles attempt to uncover the science behind the love of sports, we know, in a nutshell, it’s the fan experience.

A Washington Post article says these sports “help fill the need we have to connect with others, the desire for a transient but thrilling moment.” It’s why three out of four millennials prefer to buy an experience versus a product. Yet, today’s expected level of experience goes beyond a touchdown or hockey goal. And, this is when experiential marketing gets its turn at bat.

Sports event marketing can combine the need for a connection with the desire for a big experience to win the hearts (and wallets) of sports fans. But, if your brand is new to the experiential game, how do you guarantee a grand slam?

Tech-Savvy Brand Ambassadors

3 Ways to Win with Sports Event Marketing

The following three experiential marketing ideas have scored with sports fans. Give one or more a try to get your brand on deck.

1. Build on the excitement.

From the Super Bowl to the World Cup, every sport has its “big” game that attracts immense attention. And, companies with the budget to sponsor them are getting great exposure. Take the NCAA Final Four, for example. As a NCAA corporate sponsor and the “Official Hamburger” provider, fast food chain Wendy’s embarked on a road trip to get in on the tournament’s action. Dubbed the “Drive to the Final Four” tour, the experiential marketing activation kicked off on Selection Sunday. Brand ambassadors began with visits to three NCAA powerhouse campuses and then traveled to all the tournament cities. At each stop, fans were able to enjoy a fresh burger, basketball-themed games and chances to win upgraded seats and other awesome prizes. They also had plenty of photo ops to share on social media, helping Wendy’s maximize the ROE for their sports event marketing investment.

These games provide brands a great way to unite with fans by making an already memorable experience even better. And, the good news is any brand can build on the excitement of these large-scale events. It doesn’t matter their location, since fans will likely reside in every community. (Think viewing party!)

Sports Marketing Experiential Campaign

2. Think outside the box.

Sports marketing isn’t what it used to be, which in the past was primarily directed to men watching men’s sports. Today, brands are tapping into other consumer markets and demographics. And, appealing to women is high on the list.

In the case of the NFL, it’s reported male viewership has mostly “maxed out,” while women are “among their largest growing demographic” at 35%. This is in line with other sports leagues, including NASCAR (37%), PGA (35%), NBA (30%) and MLB (30%). Yet, it seems the predominant changes are in brands’ advertising and the gender of brand ambassadors. So, this leaves plenty of opportunity to reach women through sports event marketing.

On the other hand, alcohol brands are going all the way. They’re putting more resources into less traditional markets and building relationships on-site. Anheuser-Busch is one company pulling out all the stops. Marketers for its Natural Light brand used fun tactics to attract a younger generation to the classic Masters Golf Tournament. And, its Michelob ULTRA brand made a big appearance at select PGA Tour stops and running/cycling races nationwide. At these events, participants enjoyed beer samples, digital photo ops and a koozie-making station. These were great ways to build on its position as the beer for the active lifestyle. Now, it’ll be interesting to watch the brand as the official sponsor of the World Surf League! 

3. Sharpen your team’s abilities.

Lasorda knew the importance of his players in building fan loyalty. And, marketers must realize the effect event staff members have on fans’ experiences. The personality and skills of your talent impact your ability to either bring home the gold or wind up in the penalty box. Choosing the right people and training them properly is top priority when planning sports event marketing activations.

Your product or service activation will require that staff have certain capabilities. These may include technical or artistic skills, sales experience, and more. But, you’ll also need brand ambassadors who are approachable, flexible and punctual, among with other vital qualities. This helps ensure you have the right people for the job – the people who will make it happen when it counts the most.

Since 1999, EPS has helped countless brands “make it happen” by providing industry-leading event staff for their sports event marketing initiatives. Contact us to learn how our event staffing and execution services can help you win the hearts of sports fans and convert them into consumers.

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