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The 6 trends that will dominate the next decade of sports marketing


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

July 20, 2022 | 9 min read

At a recent roundtable with some of the best sports marketers in the business, hosted by The Drum Network, our panel closed the show with a sporting favorite: a little future-gazing. For The Drum’s Sports Marketing Deep Dive, we’ve compiled their responses to the question: what one trend will shape the next decade in this fast-moving space?

A busy sports stadium

What is the future of sports marketing? We asked 6 experts from The Drum Network / Jimmy Conover via Unsplash

Nick Addecott, director of sports and entertainment, The Maverick Group: The age of first-party data

We’ve already started to see a focus on first-party data ownership strategies. That’s a real key for venues and rights holders – to be able to have real, tangible access to global fan bases; to be able to create better and more impactful partnerships.

Look at the Spotify x Barcelona example. I’m not bad-mouthing them at all, but during negotiations, Spotify asked Barcelona: ‘How many fans do you have globally?’ Barcelona said: ‘We have 350 million fans.’ Spotify said: ‘That’s brilliant, we’ve got 400 million unique monthly users; we can create something really special here!’

Then Spotify asked Barcelona: ‘How many of those fans can you actually communicate with? How many do you have the consent to speak to?’ And they said: ‘Well, it’s about 1%, around 3 million.’ That drove the price down quite drastically.

It’s going to be key for rights holders to be able to own that data, and for brands that come into those sports to really try and bridge the gap between awareness and conversion: downloading apps, downloading websites and starting to actually get real, physical, tangible use of products.

Laura Randall, creative director, Iris – Adidas: Marketing to whom?

I hope we can stop prioritizing reach over impact.

We talk about the metaverse; personally, I have a slight aversion to the word ‘metaverse,’ just because in advertising it’s all I hear at the minute. But it’s not the answer to every brief. And I don’t think it should be the answer to every brief. In some cases, we look to answer a brief in a cool, relevant way – rather than actually looking at the brief and thinking: ‘Is that the answer?’

I’m worried that we’re prioritizing 12- and 13-year-olds who are in the metaverse on Roblox over people like me, a 33-year-old pregnant mum. How are you going to get me into the sport? I would love us to stop and consider briefs for much more niche audiences and how we can genuinely impact those audiences who are often overlooked – especially in sports briefs, which are predominantly aimed at the cool 15-year-old.

Neil Hopkins, global head of strategy, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment: The win-win of sustainability

It’s about sustainability. We’re going to have to use the unbridled power of technology to get people closer to the action. Whether it’s in terms of sport, music or another passion point, we’re going to have to find a way to enable people to enjoy their passions, but not necessarily by being right there in real life. I don’t think, necessarily, linear TV is going to be the answer to that either, because in the TV business, everything is being sliced and diced to such an extent that you’re going to end up with about 1,000 different subscriptions to watch everything in your favorite sport.

There are real benefits of doing the technological piece for rights holders. For brands that want to connect with those audiences, if you employ technology, you’re reducing the environmental impacts; you’re increasing the sustainability of the sport. You’re also doing it in a way, if you get the channel planning right, that attracts new audiences. And because it’s using technology, you’re going to have the data capture back-end to do it, which makes the whole thing far more commercially beneficial for everyone. So I think, effectively, we’re going to see a far greater focus in 10 years on being able to enjoy events at a greater distance.

Ryan Phillips, senior creative director, DRPG: A longer conversation

We’re already seeing fan integration through things such as ‘the metaverse.’ Companies including Ray-Ban are already teaming up with companies such as Meta to create content that makes us feel more together, more interlinked.

This will involve the connection between fans across the world in-stadium (as well as sponsorship) and talking to people in a more human way. I think we’re going to start seeing people really communicating where it’s open and free. And we’re starting to see brands embrace the fact that you don’t always have to give a quick line. You can open dialogue with people for a longer time. Whereas we used to look at seasons being three months, they can be ongoing. We can start seeing things from drafts; we can start seeing things from player integration; we can start seeing people really connected, far more so than we see now.

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Parisa Howard, vice-president, sports and entertainment marketing, Momentum Worldwide: Working on purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about the increased focus on purpose-driven campaigns. Brands know that they need to create an emotional connection with consumers and aligning with initiatives that they care about is a great way to do that, especially when we’re thinking about millennial and generation Z audiences.

It also allows for unique storytelling opportunities. We talk a lot about how content helps drive broader fan integration for properties and brands alike. That appeals to those audiences as well.

Mina Mikhael, creative director, Transmission: More action after the whistle

In the next decade, I’m excited to see us focusing more on the entertainment of sport. We’ve seen that through content and increased access, we have a way to engage with fans in between games. It used to be that your season ran for three months or so, and that was it. But because of how brands and leagues have been able to embrace marketing digitally, we now have this opportunity to keep fans participating in the sport between the whistles.

I believe we’re going to see increasing access to content, democratizing the sport so that wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever your age is, you have an access point to the sport. Hopefully that continues to lean into ultimately enjoying the sport and embracing that fandom a little bit more.

Check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, The New Sports Marketing Playbook, and learn the tactics employed by the world’s biggest sports organizations and their star athletes to stay at the top of their game.

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