You don’t have to speak to many people to hear someone mention the Summer of sport we have just entered. Whatever sport you like, your needs will be catered for over the next few months. The Euros, Wimbledon and The Olympics are all taking place within months of each other, and the fact that we are coming out of a pandemic which saw the widespread cancellation of sporting events in 2020, makes it even more exciting for fans. Whilst a great feast for consumers, it can also be hugely beneficial for brands. But how can marketers successfully capitalize on this year’s summer of sport?
How brands should adapt their marketing approach
It’s vital that brands adapt their marketing and advertising tactics to the changes that have occurred over the last year. With many fans potentially unable to watch sport in person, it would be wise for marketers to focus their attention away from traditional tactics during sporting occasions—which includes in-stadium sponsorships and TV advertising—and instead adopt more wide reaching and accessible channels such as digital and influencer marketing.
The pandemic has shown the powerful impact influencers can have on consumers that are increasingly engaging with brands online—especially in a sporting context, and across a variety of purposes. From Courtney Black providing popular workouts to Marcus Rashford and his ability to raise attention to child hunger and literacy.
According to our whitepaper ‘Into the Mainstream: Influencer Marketing in Society’, which surveyed 4,000 consumers, marketers and influencers across the UK, US and Germany in September 2020, consumers are more likely to source information from creators over other information outlets, with 24 percent of consumers in the UK and 28 percent in the US saying they would source news updates and opinions from influencers and not from journalists and established news outlets.
The power of influencers and celebrity brand alignments was highlighted recently when Portuguese football player, Cristiano Ronaldo, shifted bottles of Coca-Cola away from him during a press conference for the Euros. He followed this up by holding up a bottle of water before declaring, “Agua!”, appearing to encourage people to choose that instead. The company’s share price dropped by 1.6 percent almost immediately after Ronaldo’s gesture—a fall in its valuation of $4bn!
Although this was unpredictable and could not have been anticipated by Coca-Cola, the drop in share price demonstrates the impact high-profile individuals can have on a brand’s value and its public image. If harnessed in the right way, it can be an important asset for marketing brands—provided the partnerships are authentic and relevant and the content is creative.
Gen Z and sport
Not only do marketers need to consider how to adapt their campaign strategy to suit the current COVID restrictions, but also they need to tailor their approach to suit the different demographics of their target audience.
Surprisingly to many, Gen Z make up 32 percent of the population, a percentage who are consuming sport in a very different way to past generations. Whereas older generations of fans tend to engage with sports in social, in-person settings such as stadiums or pubs, the focus of younger generations is increasingly on entertaining online content, such as gaming and eSports. Instead of ‘just’ watching TV, they often cast their attention to platforms such as Twitch in a bid to get closer to the sports stars and some of their favourite creators surrounding it. Reaching consumers on these platforms has the potential to open up a variety of new marketing opportunities for brands.
Since 2016, there has been a significant increase in eSports viewers—rising by 12.3 percent year-on-year between 2018 and 2019. Newzoo predicts that by 2023 the annual growth rate will be approximately 10.4 percent and that by this point, there will be 646 million people watching. This highlights how important it is for brands to broaden their horizon beyond the stadium/arena and increasingly towards digital channels where a growing fanbase is heightening marketing potential for sporting collaborations.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that brands can benefit from the ‘Summer of sport’ we have just entered. We’re used to seeing brands use sporting occasions as an opportunity to target an engaged consumer base with relevant content and partnerships. But 2021 is a year like no other and also a sporting calendar packed with opportunity for brands if they can get it right. Broadening campaign strategies to incorporate digital channels is the key to unlocking the potential this summer, and influencers can be a crucial asset in opening the door to the marketing opportunities available.
Summer of Sport is all about community, and that influencers are best placed at uniting communities through shared interests and creating social commentary to bring the occasions to life.