FUTURE FIT MARKETING

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We were excited to attend the first ever Campaign event, dedicated to sports marketing, Future Fit. With so much focus on getting our nation fitter, this was one conference directly aligned to our own brand purpose. Or so we thought.

What became quickly apparent was the focus of the day - how brands can capitalise on people’s interest in sport for commercial gain. But whilst initially disappointed I still hoped to gain some learnings from the big brands, nonetheless.

Topics included influencer marketing, sponsorship, media placement, celebrity endorsement and using dark social - so there was a lot to report back on.

First up, news from the NFL. The growth of interest in American Football across Britain has been rising which they attribute to 4 key strategies. Social content, media distribution, direct to fan initiatives and the events themselves.  Nothing surprising there! I would also guess that the timing of their investment has been perfect. The creation of communities and hosting entertaining events, including fireworks, music and celebrity guests, is all set up for the rising trend in experience economies.

But it is all well and good having a great platform to sell to potential sponsors but surely the bigger goal is to get more children playing American football? This would ensure a longer term fan base and future talent growth. NFL - are more people playing the sport?

OK, so, first cynicism out the way I was more positive about the next speakers from Adidas. With a focus on their influencer marketing strategy which, in itself is nothing new, their customer research concluded that influencers actually stop having an impact at a certain level. Influencers with lower than 1000 followers had 8% engagement whilst higher than 100,000 had far less. They also discovered that 70% of shares were actually via Dark Social (1-2-1 messaging apps such as snapchat or private closed small groups.)

They switched their influencer strategy to a more local and targeted approach. One which would encourage advocates of their brands to become true brand ambassadors. And there started the launch of Tango Squad with a follow up documentary, perfect for YouTube territory.

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This is not only a good example of using insight before defining your strategy, but also how to use local influencers and grass roots clubs to help your audience become engaged.

Don’t buy influencers to sell a product, give your audience a platform in which to grow your brand.

What does this mean for smaller brands? Whilst not everyone has the budgets for a David Beckham endorsement, you can still identify relevant communities, give them a platform that’s right for them, not your brand and make them feel proud to belong.

Now we turn out attention to something quite different.

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Y Sport introduced an inspirational story and wanted to discuss how sports brands should use their power and rewrite the rules of sports marketing. Her advice to the industry;·

  • Think big, play small.
  • Be true to the beliefs you hold
  • Implement 5 Rs - Resonate, relevant, reach, reward and reputation.
  • Do less and achieve more.

It also suggested doing a few things at the same time can create steady and sustainable brand advocacy rather than one really big thing. I’d personally add that this is vital for us to tackle the long-term goal of getting more people active. One big awareness campaign is a great springboard (Like This Girl Can) but it’s important that smaller, more local initiatives are supported throughout the year.

Now we turn our attention to Nature Valley and a strategic decision to colloborate with the sport of tennis. This is an example of aligning yourself with the right sport for your brand. Tennis is an inclusive sport that appeals to all ages, both genders and has seen a recent rise in interest. Beyond the campaign itself, it was also good to hear their planned next steps - to provide facilitation through free tennis lessons, free tennis kit and local club endorsements. Brands definitely need to strike the balance between creating brand awareness and product consideration along with their social responsibility.

From Tennis back to football and the activities of COPA99, a reminder to us all that the world of entertainment has moved on considerably. People are talking about your sport for just moments now, not 90 minutes of action.

This means that talking about football isn’t enough. You have to provide really rich content aligned to cultural tastes and associate it with your sport. The cultural association will drive a far deeper relevance.

As consumers, we just expect to see and hear sports differently now so as marketeers we need to think about making everything ‘in the moment.’ Whilst not everyone has big budgets like Manchester City, others can learn and be inspired by simple things like a clever use of a GoPro for your own sporting event.

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So, there we have it. The leaders in the sports marketing industry all showcasing their own examples of what good looks like, some of which can be implemented by smaller brands.

Personally I still feel that any company getting involved in sports has a responsibility to promote participation. Even if they ultimately want to sell metal or shoes – they should use their voice (and big budgets) to create more awareness of the sport itself.

I applaud Helena Jennison speaking on behalf of Movember, and her recommendation for ‘doing more better and acting together to create bigger change.’ Collectively, we can create more impact and get our nation fitter. It was a ‘Future Fit’ conference after all.

Joanne Scott