Turn Sports Fans Into Fans Of Your Brand

Sports fans are some of the most devoted people on the planet. Imagine if they loved your business (almost) as much as their favourite team?

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Sports fans are some of the most devoted people on the planet. Imagine if they loved your business (almost) as much as their favourite team?


Turn Sports Fans Into Fans Of Your Brand

Sports fans are some of the most devoted people on the planet. Imagine if they loved your business (almost) as much as their favourite team?

Share this article

2016 is another big year of sport – England have just won the Six Nations and come second in the T20 cricket. There's the Olympics, the Euros, and the Ryder Cup all bolstering the usual sporting calendar.

It’s a good time to review the lessons from last Autumn’s Rugby World Cup, to see how brands can maximise the impact of their marketing activities around major sporting events. The aim, of course, is to turn the fans of the sport into fans of your brand, but you can’t expect your market share to increase just because you are an ‘official partner’.

As one of the agencies that worked on O2’s #weartherose campaign, we looked very closely at campaigns past and present to learn what makes for a really successful marketing campaign around the world of sport.

1.     First and foremost, figure out why you are here, as a brand.

Fans don't need to be told 'support your country', they will do that anyway. Ask yourself: what is the contribution you as a brand are going to make to this sporting event? How are you going to improve it for the fan? The players? The country? Think of your brand as an enabler - there to make the whole experience better.

2.     Brands can enhance the experience for fans, by tapping into their thirst for content.

But you have to ensure your content is good enough, when held up against all of the sports journalism out there. Sports fans already have their chosen destinations for news and opinions, and you can’t expect to replace them – you have to add something new and different of value.

However, you don’t have to create and publish yourself: you could simply sponsor, curate, or co-create with a publisher or content company.

Content which works particularly well includes exclusive insight; behind the scenes footage; training ground footage; player access; in-depth analysis; or entertaining and light-hearted content with a different spin on it.

Maraca Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

Maraca Stadium in Brazil: Offering exclusive access to sporting events is always a winner

Samsung’s School of Rugby campaign was a really nice example of this, with funny clips and short videos featuring comedian Jack Whitehall learning about rugby by training with England heroes past and present.

Whatever your content is, you should think about the moments when your content will be consumed, and create formats to match: from bite size and snackable formats, that can easily be viewed and shared in social, to longer formats for a more focussed, but personal, consumption.

3.     Brands can enhance the fans’ experience in many ways.

It might feel that the only way to improve the experience for the fan is to create some superb new piece of sports journalism. Yes, sports fans often have an insatiable thirst for content, but there is already more content out there than any one person can consume.

Don’t feel you have to create ‘content’ in the classic sense. You can enhance the experience for the fans in other ways: through fan parks, supporter packs, shirt giveaways, free posters, pin badges or just by bringing people together to enjoy the event.

Lucozade ran an on-pack promotion to give away home nations’ shirts whilst Heineken, as an official partner of the Rugby World Cup, offered customers a chance to win match tickets, and even be there on the pitch for the coin toss.

4.     Join the conversation, but don't be crass.

Let’s be clear, the conversation about the rugby /football / Olympics is happening, so don’t blunder in like you thought of it first. The way for a brand to join in the conversation is exactly as you would join in a conversation as a human being.

Pick your moment, judge the mood, show you have the same passion, and that you are a real fan too. Don’t do a drunken Jonny-come-lately move and barrel in, interrupting the fans with uninformed comments that smack of a recently acquired interest in the sport.


Fans are fanatical, so don't disrupt their experience

It helps if your brand already has a human tone of voice, and a presence in social that reflects that. And remember that the vast majority of conversation about matters on the pitch happens on the day of the match, and especially during the match itself.

It’s no good joining the party after everyone has gone home, so make sure you have an approach that can be adapted and delivered in real-time. Products such as Twitter Amplify – which brings TV clips from the sporting action into people’s news feeds in a sponsored tweet – give brands a natural way to join the conversation at scale,  in a relevant and timely way.

5.     Be authentic.

Whatever the sport, make sure your participation and enthusiasm is authentic. Fans can spot a corporate message a mile off – but a glimpse of the fan behind the brand can be enough to win people over.

Brands that are seen to be investing in the sport, for the long term, or at all levels of the game, can really increase their brand appeal amongst fans of the sport. Just look at Land Rover’s ‘We Deal in Real’ campaign during the Rugby World Cup, which featured grass roots rugby players, rather than the elite teams.

Of course, as we saw with England at the Rugby World Cup, you can't guarantee the success of the team on the pitch.

But just as a real fan sticks with their team through thick and thin, so it should be with brands too. In sport, it's the shared experiences of the highs and the lows that bring you together, and deepen ties with the club, the community, and the game.

If you get it right, your sports marketing activities can also bring you and your customers closer together.

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Turn Sports Fans Into Fans Of Your Brand

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