From the Olympics to your hometown’s Friday night lights, love and admiration for athletes has always been a part of the human experience across the globe. Sports are where we find our heroes, and if a player makes all the right moves on the field, they can go down in history with their name becoming synonymous with discipline, resilience and ambition. It’s no wonder that brands are willing to spend millions aligning themselves with this cultural force.
Global brand spend for sports sponsorship is expected to reach $44 billion this year and is projected to only continue growing in the years to come. Done right, a brand’s sponsorship of a major sport enables their image to evolve and become something new in the eyes of the customer. In the case of that perfect alignment between brand and athlete, the partners can ascend to a league of their own. Air Jordans, anyone?
We worked with a major financial brand to shape and maximize the returns of their sports sponsorships over several years. One critical aspect of this process was uncovering the underlying drivers of long-term audience maintenance: when you attract customers to your brand as a result of your sports sponsorship, what motivates them to stick around from season to season?
Here are our top five insights:
This is About the Super Fans
For every fifty customers who glance at the score and continue about their day, there is a super fan who lives and dies by the sport. These super fans are one of your strongest assets as a brand: they’ll appreciate your dedication to the game, promote your materials through their own channels and ultimately help you maintain your audience between seasons through their anticipation. Lavish the same love on them in return by creating super fan events like sport-specific loyalty clubs and custom experiences that allow them to attend games and meet their heroes.
Understand Your Brand
When a brand forms a partnership with an athlete or decides to sponsor a major sport, they are not starting from scratch. The brand already has an image in the mind of the customer and harnessing the strengths of that reputation is integral to effective sponsorship. For example, our client brand chose to diversify their influencer approach by sponsoring both a current player and a legend in order to appeal to all age groups within their customer base. This allowed them to attract potential customers from an older demographic without losing their modern edge.
Understand Your Audience.
While legendary partnerships between brands and rising athletes can seem like they came out of left field, a robust understanding of the audience is critical for a brand’s sponsorship strategy. Use lifestyle studies, demographic analyses and customer archetypes to understand the clusters of people who already have affinity for your brand and those who have the potential to switch their affinity from another brand to yours. By understanding how your current and potential customers spend their time in the off-season, you can continue to attract their attention.
Real-time Strategy Adjustment
What gets measured gets improved. Once the partnership is set up, it is important to keep asking questions and track the metrics that allow you to answer them:
Is this sports sponsorship having a positive impact on my retail sales?
How many people are switching their brand affinity to my brand as a result of this sports sponsorship?
What impact does this partnership have on my brand in the off-season?
Which sports sponsorship-related communications and campaigns have had the greatest positive impact on my brand?
How does the performance of my sports sponsorship compare to that of my competitor?
Continuously asking these types of questions will allow you adjust strategy as needed to ensure that your brand is getting the most out of the partnership.
Social is a critical part of sport and athlete sponsorship in today’s world. Fans want to interact with their heroes and feel a personal connection with them. When athletes engage your customers online by liking, retweeting or replying to their posts, it supercharges the experience and makes them and their network more likely to stick around.