Sports Advertising in the Social Age

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Sports Advertising in the Social Age


All kinds of brands are trying to crack the social code these days, and sports brands are no exception. More active than ever, brands are adapting their output in the new advertising landscape, and recognizing the power of their online customers. In return, it is as if the public is saying, “if you impress us, we’ll help to promote you”, usually through video and photo sharing. “If you show us what we want, we will reward you.”


Sponsorship – Millwall FC and Prostate Cancer UK

During the 2013-2014 football season, fans with an eye for detail will have noticed the image of a tiny man imprinted onto teams’ kit numbers. The “Man of Men” logo of UK charity, Prostate Cancer UK. This partnership began with the charity’s agreement to appear as the main kit sponsor for the Championship club, Millwall.

The deal transpired after Chief Executive of the South London team, Andy Ambler made the decision to improve the club’s reputation, after years of being associated with football hooliganism. As a result, Prostate Cancer UK became the new shirt sponsor of the club, paying no fee. This was a big financial sacrifice from the club, with competition receiving on average £3m a year from sponsors.

The deal led to a nomination for the charity at the BT Sport Industry Awards and it gained donations of around £400,000 from its football ventures. There is however more to be done to get the message across to a larger number of fans.

In the social age, brands are now taking sponsorship a step further to communicate their message by making more use of the areas outside the stadium. Clubs such as Millwall are looking to provide “fan zones” where the club and sponsor can engage with fans via promotions and experimental marketing campaigns. Seeing this messaging on the club/sponsor’s social media platforms before the match will give the fan more of an insight into the campaigns, perhaps persuading them to visit the zones when they arrive at the stadium grounds. In other instances, the sponsor will offer fans free food or football memorabilia in order to entice them to the area. However to gain the “freebie”, fans must share the post to their own page, extending the reach of the sponsor.

Brand Ambassadors

With new sport brand advertisements airing every year, children are exposed to many sport brand adverts while watching TV. As a result from seeing these successful and strong, larger than life sport heroes, children will grow up idolizing sports stars who wear these brands, and are eager to emulate their star’s image.

For example, sports manufacturer Adidas covers their Facebook page with stars like Lionel Messi, arguably the world’s best football player, and tennis sensation, Novak Djokovic. Children may see these adverts and be under the impression that if they wear the same football boots as Messi, or use the same tennis racquet as Djokovic, they will be able to emulate the same talent. Usually the likeliness of this is result is very low, however the desire for the product is set in stone.

In addition, ambassadors can be used to increase awareness of the brand in markets which similar products already exist. In the social age, social media tools have allowed brand advocates to express themselves on forums such as Twitter, by tweeting about brand experience or liking the brand itself. As a result, ambassadors will provide visibility and essentially create buzz around the brand, leading to a higher sales count.


Social TV’s Impact on WWE

Social engagement in 2016 isn’t just limited to sponsorship or brand ambassadors; the introduction of social TV in the WWE had a dramatic effect in its early stages and has been growing ever since.

The WWE has used live pre-shows on YouTube to generate social buzz by creating a connection via social to fill gaps between shows. Engaging pre-shows have been tested to encourage fans to share photographs and vote on the match type at the top of the card. Statistics show that 25% of WWE’s 9.5 million channel subscribers voted. As a result, viewers feel that they are playing a part in the show and are actively involved.

The Synthesio timeline shows the peaks just before WWE’s weekly “Raw” episodes when the pre-shows take place. WWE have proven that these shows are a valuable initiative that reach fans on a global scale across all platforms. These initiatives will ultimately be the most attractive for brands, whereas ideas and experiences without scale are less likely to connect to business impact.


Which social strategies do you think gets the most results? What are the exciting ideas informing your own social advertising and how are you implementing them? Let us know in the comments.

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