The power and emotion of sports are powerful tools. Our teams have created fan bases with similar characteristics, and followings that rival some religions.
Fans want to be part of something, it is a human need that lives deep in our brains. Sports teams fill that need with the ups and downs of each season.
If we can harness this need and emotion, we can use it to direct fans to action. This is why sports promotion is such a powerful tool for both brands and sports teams.
Sports promotion involves authentically infusing a message into the power and emotion of sports. It is the act of piggybacking our message into that fanaticism. Usually, this maximizes our sports sponsorships.
In this article, we will dive into the dos and don’ts of sports marketing & promotion, and how you can successfully launch campaigns to reach fans.
What Are The Best Sports Promotions?
The best sports promotions tap into the excitement of the game, while authentically adding in a message or goal (usually for your sponsors). Below are a few that are easy to launch and great for capturing fan attention.
Mascot Race- A Time Honored Tradition in Minor League Baseball and the Big Leagues
Nothing grabs attention during breaks in the game like a good old-fashioned mascot race. The same way fans start to build loyalty to their favorite players… they can also build that same connection with your mascots.
The best ones tie into the culture of the city. For example, the Seattle Mariners run a Hydro Race that shows boats crisscrossing through the waters on the Puget Sound. Fans can choose which boat they think will win on their phones, creating even more buy-in from the fans.
Tie in a sponsor to this experience, and you can authentically create a connection between that brand and the fans.
Prediction Games at Major League Baseball Stadiums
Fans love to predict the outcome of the game…or even the outcome of an at-bat or drive-in football. There is a rush that we feel when we can actually feel like we are part of the game.
That rush can easily be transferred into an affinity for a brand sponsor with a sports prediction promotion.
It doesn’t have to be one that focuses on gaining money for the outcome, like betting. You can easily add in different incentives that help drive foot traffic for a brand. The Pittsburgh Pirates launched a 4th 5th 6th Inning prediction with their tavern sponsor to help connect that excitement with their restaurant sponsor. One lucky fan who was correct won a free steak dinner.
Predictions games can be a great sports promotion to help your sponsors reach their goals.
Trigger Promotion- Sports Events With Local Flavor
Trigger promotions are a great way to help fans feel like they are affecting the game. A trigger promotion is one where the entire stadium wins a prize if a milestone is reached in a game.
For example, a hockey team can tie a free oil change for all fans to the team’s ability to score a goal in the first 2 minutes. Maybe if a baseball team hits 4 home runs, they can win a free doughnut from the team’s pastry partner.
The best part of a trigger promotion is that it raises the intensity of the crowd. They roar even louder as the milestone gets closer, making it impossible for the opposing team to communicate or play defense.
The Chicago Bulls run a great trigger promotion with their hot dog sponsor called Portillo’s 4th Quarter Franks.
It’s a simple activation. If the opposing player misses 2 consecutive free throws in the 4th quarter of a home game, each fan goes home with a free hot dog at Portillo’s.
As you can imagine, in the 4th quarter…when free throws matter the most… the crowd is screaming at the top of their lungs to try and make the opposing player miss. They want their free hot dog…but more importantly, they want to be the reason they earned it.
To make it even easier, SQWAD has digitized the experience to ensure every fan can easily redeem their hot dog…but more importantly, the sponsor can track their promotion to see how many fans played and won the offer.
They simply scan a QR code on the scoreboard and enter their email address to register. No more missed hot dogs for fans.
Find a good stat or milestone in your gameday and match a sponsor prize with a trigger promotion.
Scratch & Win- Engage the Larger Audience
Fans love to win things. But sometimes if you have multiple promotions to win, you cancel their attention. With multiple options to play & win… you divide where fans will end up engaging.
The result is that certain sponsors don’t get the same attention as others, which doesn’t bode well for getting them to continue to invest in your sports promotions.
With East Tennessee State University, they wanted to tie in multiple brand sponsors to one central promotion to help send coupons to fans. What better way to do so than with a digital scratch & win. Raise awareness to a target audience at a sporting event is good business.
During home basketball & football games, the ETSU scratch & win is posted for fans to play. It is loaded with offers of over 17 unique sponsors. Fans scratch digital cards to win prizes right on their phones. It could be a free burger from their local restaurant or a tank of gas from a car dealership looking to build trust and connection with future car buyers.
By creating a central sports promotion, you don’t cannibalize attention. A scratch & win is the perfect activation to help focus fan attention in one place…maximizing the results of the campaign. Easy access to resources with budget friendly features means clients and potential customers get the best result possible. Online contests are a fun marketing strategy for sports fans.
How Do You Promote A Sport With Digital?
Understanding where humans focus is the easiest way to devise a strategy to reach them. In the past, attention was put on print & radio…followed by television.
Today, our fans’ attention comes on their phones. It is a magnet when the game action stops in our arenas.
Our job is to redirect that attention back to campaigns that help connect our fans with our sponsors. The easiest way to do that is with digital campaigns that allow them to participate in the campaign.
Luckily, our fans have their phones inside of our stadiums.
Putting a QR code on your scoreboard that links to a digital game is an easy way to grab that attention back. From there, they can participate and have some skin in the game with the promotion.
This is far more beneficial than simply running a commercial on your scoreboard. It pulls the fan in while creating an asset that is more trackable for results.
Utilize your scoreboards to channel the fan attention and pull in their phones to help drive participation.
Benefits Of Sports Marketing
So what are the key benefits of sports marketing? Why would a company want to use our audience of fans to promote their products?
The greatest asset we have is the affinity our fans have for our team. We as teams (for the most part) have built this affinity over decades…. Some over centuries.
Teams are almost that friend who sets you up on your first date. Why would you go on a date with a perfect stranger? Well, usually it is because you trust your friend.
The same goes for sports marketing. The affinity and trust we have built with our fans can be transferred to trust in brands through our campaigns & promotions. As we make the introduction…the fan assumes it is a good brand if they support their favorite team.
That trust needs to be nurtured over time. After the first date (sports promotion or campaign in a stadium), we want to continue to find ways to keep the fan connected. This is where sports marketing comes into effect.
Game after game, year after year, if we are consistent with our campaigns, eventually we build brand loyalty for the fan.
This is the key to why brands love sports marketing and spend over $56Bn per year globally on them.
Challenges For Sports Marketing
The two biggest challenges for sports marketing come with authenticity and attention.
To capture a fan’s attention and tap into their affinity for a team, we have to authentically link our sports promotions into that experience. Anything else will feel forced or inauthentic. Today, fans can sniff out when you are simply trying to sell them something.
Your campaigns must center around authenticity. Looking back at the Mascot Race example with the Seattle Mariners, if that race simply was the sponsor’s logos running around a race track…it wouldn’t have captured the fan’s attention. They would feel the inauthenticity.
Instead, they made the focal point a hydro boat race around the Puget Sound, something that everyone in Seattle appreciates and loves. Making it the focal point of this sports promotion helped make it feel authentic.
In addition, you have to do something that will grab fans’ attention in the stadium. You have to violate their expectations with something unique. If you don’t, the promotion will go over the fan’s head.
Think about all the distractions fans see in the stadium during breaks in the game. If you aren’t doing something to snap their attention back to your promotion, you will get low participation, which means low results for your fans.
So what can you do to grab their attention? A few items include:
- Utilizing a big, amazing prize they can win
- Making the characters unique and interesting
- Tying it in with team nostalgia or history
These are just a few items to keep in mind when crafting your sports campaigns.
Why It’s Important To Build Relationships
Today, sales & marketing aren’t transactional. Customers want the brand to build a relationship with them before they go for the sale.
This changes the entire strategy of marketing and advertising, and pushes it in favor of sports promotions. We have fans who have built a relationship with our team. All we need to do is transfer that relationship to the businesses that sponsor us.
Sports promotions are a great way to ease businesses into that relationship. With each game they interact with our promotions, fans will become familiar with the company sponsors.
For example, if you can run a fun scratch & win each game where fans participate to try and win a jersey. They will become familiar with the brand sponsoring it. Each time they play, they build loyalty.
If you can add prizes (like a free coffee), you build that connection and relationship even more with the brand. Compare this to just handing out a paper coupon after the game, and it pales compared to the relationships it builds.
Advertising without relationship building is a losing strategy in today’s marketing world. Sports promotions are a great way to build a relationship with sports team fans.
Digital Promotions in MLB
We dove into the importance of digital sports promotions & marketing in the world of baseball in a previous article. Digital marketing has given us the tools to accelerate the power of sports promotions in our stadiums.
Whether you are crafting sports promotions for a baseball team or another sport, digital sports promotions should be the key distribution method to reach fans. It is usually more scalable, trackable, and easier to grab their attention.
Sports Promotions are a powerful marketing tool
Today, it is essential for businesses to build relationships with their customers. Normally this is a heavy lift for them, it’s hard to connect with a logo.
Sports promotions and marketing are a great way to help sponsors piggyback off the affinity and fanaticism that we have built over decades of games and exciting moments.
At SQWAD, we can help you harness that affinity and authentically connect your brand partners with fans through our easy-to-launch digital activations. We’ve done so for over 60 sports organizations across the globe.
Click here to get in touch.