5 Ways to Power Up Marketing to Sports Fans in 2022

marketing to sports fans
Marketing to sports fans in the digital era requires continuous adaptation to emerging technology. Here’s how today’s leading marketers are doing it.

If you’re a sports marketer or club CEO, then you’ll have noticed that marketing to sports fans is entirely different than just a few years ago. The fast pace of tech progress is making previous marketing tactics through traditional TV and radio mediums look outdated, while changing fan demographics mean that marketers run the risk of talking to the wrong target audience completely if they don’t adapt. 

As ever, sports are a part of daily life for people across the world, but the make-up of the people watching them is shifting, as is the way they’re consuming sports content. 

Studies now show that more women are tuning in, making marketing to female sports fans more important than ever. Younger fans, especially the digital-savvy ‘Gen Z’ and ‘Gen Alpha’, demand a different kind of sporting experience than previous generations. All of these demographics put seamless digital experiences at the top of priorities, and now expect to interact with their club before, during and after the game. 

The challenge for sports marketers is to create innovative and engaging marketing strategies to reflect these trends, which includes finding ways to deliver personalized content that speaks to the new crowd of fans while maximizing long-term revenue for the club. 

As we try to make sense of the emerging world of digital sports fan engagement, here are five tips that can help craft a well-rounded marketing strategy that best connects sports clubs to their shifting target audiences.

5 ways to take sports marketing to the next level

1. Get to (really) know your fanbase by defining persona

There’s no point promoting club events if you don’t know who you’re speaking to. 

Fan demographics change depending on the sport, but there are trends that are universal. We know the importance of marketing to female sports fans because of the increasing number of women and girls watching (especially in some sports), and we know that fans want to consume more online content than ever before. 

However, digging deeper into the most prominent fan personas that engage with your club is essential if you want to create hard-hitting marketing campaigns

The more detailed you can get, the better: come up with a name and image for each persona, and ask yourself the following questions. 

  • What does Fan X love about the club?
  • What does Fan X like to do before, during and after games?
  • What does Fan X wear to games?
  • What are Fan X’s frustrations and concerns about the club?

From this, you should be able to build a user story that will help you tailor marketing campaigns for this demographic. Building different personas, too, is important: whether it be a mom taking her kids to the game, or a club superfan who spends most of their free time on their passion, it is important to understand the variety of fans that your campaign should prioritize in its messaging. 

Enhanced technology will make this process easier in the future. Customizable fan engagement platforms will capture first-party data by allowing clubs to conduct marketing campaigns directly to fans, without having to pay social networks or fan agencies for the privilege. 

why fan engagement is important

2. Enrich the social media experience with interactive content

Social media has helped bring clubs closer to their fans since its inception, but the new era of fan engagement will require marketers to step up their social media game

While making regular and relevant posts or tweets were enough to get fans engaged in the past, a new demand for 24/7 content will convert club social media channels into one-stop hubs where fans can access all kinds of experiences. 

Over the next few years, social media channels will need to provide a gateway to cutting-edge interactive content involving players, club broadcasters and sponsors. 

Just look at how today’s major platforms have upgraded their service to satisfy consumer demand: Facebook Live and Instagram Stories are real-time features that speak to new demographics that are constantly connected. Streaming platforms like Twitch base their entire model around live streaming, where viewers interact directly with content creators. 

A prime example of how top sports teams are embracing these powerful tools is a collaboration between soccer teams Real Madrid, Arsenal, Juventus, Paris St-Germain and Twitch. Via the app’s new sports feature, fans can live stream coverage of games with popular streamers commentating in real-time. 

They can interact with the commentator, fellow fans and even players live, providing a two-way engagement that puts the fan at the center of the live event. 

The content doesn’t even need to be based on a live game. With over 70% of teenage sports fans saying they ‘don’t need to watch sports games live’, according to youth research agency YPulse, platforms like Facebook Watch now offer snippets of short videos including previews, interviews and highlights in conjunction with several sports teams.

While these two examples involve top clubs with huge marketing budgets, every sports club can offer similar services via their official site and social media channels at reasonable costs, especially if they are able to bring sponsors on board who pay for ads during these live services.

3. Spread the word online via artists and content creators

The stars of social media are those that have built large audiences through engaging content that speaks directly to their followers, also known as influencers

Naturally, more and more sports brands are collaborating with these personalities as a way of connecting with their fans, especially artists and content creators that have built-in audiences of millions and also share a passion for their sports club. 

Using these influencers offers a direct, simple, and (comparably) inexpensive way of gaining credibility and traffic among a large pool of potential customers who place a huge amount of faith in their favorite star’s endorsements. 

The appeal of influencers lies in the ‘one-on-one’ feel of their content. 

These content creators produce Twitch streamings, YouTube videos, podcasts and Vlogs to make their audience feel as if they’re talking to them directly, which appeals to the modern consumer’s desire for a personalized experience, and fosters a deeply loyal following.

The typical approach here is through native advertising, where sponsored social media posts to appear in follower’s news feeds, beaming club content directly into the device they’re holding.

Influencer endorsements help to:

  • Generate web traffic and potential leads
  • Gain brand interest and credibility
  • Increase revenue through higher sales

Imagine, then, just how powerful an endorsement of your club can be if it can reach thousands, if not millions, of users through the endorsement of people they know and trust. 

4. Make your content more personalized

In a digital society where the individual is king, sports marketers need to make their fans feel valued, and the perfect way of doing that is to tailor content to each person

Gone are the days where a one-size-fits-all approach of advertising sufficed: today’s crowd expects the red-carpet treatment in an industry where they have a galaxy of other options at their fingertips — and can switch their attention at any moment.

Incentivized marketing is one way to get personal. And there are a few ways to go about doing this. 

Fans who contribute to the club in certain ways, whether it be by subscribing to a club membership or newsletter, could receive exclusive benefits, such as discounts, personalized merchandise, or special perks.

The new internet era which makes use of blockchain technology – or even Web 3.0 tokenization – also offers tools to take this type of marketing further. Sports fan metaverses can be created, allowing clubs to build personalized experiences for each fan, such as special club NFTS (non-fungible tokens) and money-can’t-buy-experiences, including meeting top players in real life –  all based on their unique interests.

The beauty of this arrangement is that it sets up a two-way interaction that benefits both parties. 

Clubs benefit from the exposure brought via user-generated content as fans increase their engagement to unlock higher levels of personalized marketing. In return, the fan feels like a valued part of the team, receiving exclusive access and personalized perks in exchange for their support.

5. Get select athletes involved in exclusive content through direct-to-fan rewards programs

The fans are the driving force behind the club, while athletes are its main attraction, so why not bring them together? 

Social networks make it easier to connect than a decade ago, providing live stream capabilities to directly connect athletes with fans. A well-timed round of personalized Twitter/Instagram responses to superfans builds bonds between the club and its fanbase; it makes the fan feel special and shows that the club cares about its followers.

Yet, the growing demand for a 24/7 connection with players means that the need for round-the-clock content is stronger than ever. 

We can see this through the recent wave of All or Nothing soccer documentaries that give fans access to ‘fly-on-the-wall’ footage of training and pep talks, while many athletes are now influencers in their own right, giving expert advice and insights via club-affiliated YouTube channels.

The good news for marketers is that improving technology is going to increase the toolkit at their disposal. 

Select star athletes can represent your club by participating in ‘money-can’t-buy’ experiences, such as direct streaming Ask Me Anything conversations on YouTube, or actually meeting with fans that win rewards through a direct-to-fan rewards program based on points and social media/online interactions. 

Collectible NFTs offering special access to behind-the-scenes footage or voting rights on things like which jersey the players wear during a game is becoming well within reach.

 However, no matter your tool of choice, the aim will be to use your star athletes to provide unique and exclusive content as rewards to drive participation in engagement campaigns and build loyalty. 

With such a huge range of tools now available, reimagining the fan sporting experience is no longer optional: it’s a necessity.

Looking for a way to make marketing to sports fans easier and more lucrative? The Fanprime rewards platform lets you create personalized direct-to-fan rewards programs, monetizing every online interaction. Contact us today to find out more.