How to use sporting events for your marketing activity

Huge sporting events send companies scrambling to be a part of it. Whether this is in the form of high-profile (read: expensive) sponsorship deals, or just piggybacking on the event, it seems companies with even the most tenuous of sporting links fly out of the starting blocks to declare their interest.

In this year’s Rugby World Cup, companies as diverse as DHL, Innocent Smoothies and Jacamo all got involved, even though not all were on the books as official sponsors.

This raises an interesting question: what can brands expect to gain from tying in with global sporting showpieces?

Shared interests

One major hurdle to overcome with any marketing channel is getting customers onside. This is especially true when first engaging with people, as they’re more sceptical without that bond of trust having been built.

The best way to overcome this is through reaching out more to consumers’ hearts than their heads.

A true, emotional connection will mean more to consumers than anything that appeals to their common sense. Take emotive ad campaigns that tug at the heartstrings or send shivers down the spine. When an advert achieves this, people from around the world will start sharing it of their own volition – hitting a level of reach that may cost millions if a brand were to try that itself.

This also sticks around in the memory for much longer, as people can recall with much more ease a campaign from years or even decades ago if it tugged at their emotions, rather than something from last week that their brain said was a reasonable deal.

Sporting events are the ideal chance to foster these emotional connections and engage with people’s rawest emotions. Land boundaries are seen by some as arbitrary, and the rules of all sports are made up, but people invest so much of themselves within it.

Therefore, pointing out these shared interests between brand and consumer builds affiliation and targets the heart, so much more than the head.

Something to say

A common issue with any marketing format is the need to say something of worth. There’s little point blasting texts or emails out at a rate of knots if they have nothing to say to the recipient. In fact, this approach will actually turn people away and prompt them to unsubscribe.

The problem is finding things to say that recipients will actually want to hear. Segmenting contact groups will help, but it’s always a worry that messages won’t say enough of the right kinds of things.

Sporting events change this, as they provide a wealth of opportunities for communicating with consumers about something they actually want to talk about.

One prominent example involves tying discounts to the on-field action. During the Rugby World Cup, Ospreys – the regional team of Welsh fly half Dan Biggar – offered a one per cent discount off the club shop for every point their number 10 scored against England. Perhaps the Ospreys hadn’t anticipated Biggar breaking the Welsh record for points scored in a World Cup match, but regardless, the team duly honoured their offer with a 23 per cent, one-day-only discount.

Messages needn’t be offering discounts, though. Dove’s more masculine range (Men+Care) used Twitter throughout the tournament to engage with fans and post creative Vine videos. There are no vouchers or discounts in sight here, but instead engaging content that will drive shares and conversations – which all results in brand awareness. The 23,000 follower count (to date) says all you need to know.

Getting an ‘in’

Whilst not everyone will be interested in World Cups, Olympics or Grand Slams, there’s a good chance that a sizable percentage of the population are – especially when home nations or players are doing well.

This opens more doors, as it provides an ‘in’ for conversations to get going in the first place.

For example, a clothing brand may have isolated a certain group of previous customers that haven’t purchased anything within the past 12 months. Furthermore, this group may also include anyone who hasn’t opened emails or replied to texts in that time. As this group is fairly unengaged, a sporting tournament could be just the tonic for getting back into their good books.

A message detailing recent results, or asking for score predictions will likely generate intrigue from those who have been following the action. From there they go from a stone cold lead into a much warmer one, almost instantly. Those who aren’t so interested in the sporting goings on are likely to remain unresponsive, but hardly any more so than they were already.

If nothing else, seeing the sheer volume and diversity of brands that piggyback on global sporting events should be enough to illustrate just how good an idea it can be. Of course, you still need to get the tone, wording, frequency and message of any communications spot on, but all that has been made easier thanks to the numerous benefits noted above.