Sports Marketing: Reaching Beyond The Core Fans


What would happen if the taste of Coke regularly changed or if it suddenly started to leave a bad taste in consumers’ mouths? What if the company was the subject of daily analysis by the press and a non-stop barrage of tweets and posts by consumers?

How would consumer perception of Coke change?

Fortunately, most brands don’t face those challenges. But sports brands do.

Cultural shifts, changing tastes, aging demographics… they all influence our relationships with brands. But changing demographics can be predicted, cultural shifts can be reasonably forecast, consumer trends can be dissected… and as long as the product is consistent a good marketer can plan accordingly.

But sports brands are unlike consumer product brands. The sports “product” can and does change from week to week: an exhilarating series of wins can be followed by a disheartening losing streak. Teams, players and management live under a microscope, and their performance is scrutinized and analyzed on a daily basis by both the media and fans.

Instead of focusing solely on the team’s current state, the best sports brands take a wider view. The team’s current performance is only one moment in a much deeper, mythic and ongoing story. Yes, nothing succeeds like success and everyone wants to be part of a winner, but fans also want to invest their time and emotion in a good tale that has unfolded over time. And as with all good stories, we all want to know what will happen in the next chapter.

Hard core sports fans are so invested in their favourite teams that they feel a sense of ownership, and the best sports brand acknowledge that investment.

It’s a strategy we’ve embraced in our sports marketing for many years. Field Day acknowledged the relationship between the Toronto Raptors and its fans with our season-long “One Team” campaign which told the stories of the many people who contributed to the team’s success including the players, announcers, ACC ushers and elevator operators, season seat holders, and even fans who had never had the opportunity to attend a game in person.

Storytelling is key to engaging hard core sports fans who live and breathe their favourite team’s mythology and who are invested in the team’s heroes and their fate.

But how can a team attract casual fans or younger consumers who aren’t invested emotionally in the team? And what about newer sports franchises that haven’t yet developed a deep mythology?

Next week, part 2 of this article looks at what the non-fan wants from a live sports experience and gives you examples of how to engage them with your sports brand.

Andrew Arntfield, President, Field Day Inc.

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