Insights October 21, 2020

Recreating in-stadium experiences and driving engagement in sports marketing

By Living Word

Sports leagues and teams are turning obstacles into opportunities by upping their advertising off the field to keep momentum among loyal fans around the world.

With stadiums closed or at very limited capacity, sports fans are instead watching games and other sports content at home. So how can marketeers make them feel part of the action? Adrian Staiti, APAC President of sports marketing agency SPORTFIVE, recently identified opportunities and reasons to remain optimistic in an article for Campaign Asia. “Sport is a formidable force, and we can count on it to unite societies all over the world again,” he promises.

During various lockdowns, many sports leagues and players managed to achieve great engagement with, for instance, online competitions and at-home videos, and if this can continue in the future, Staiti believes, “it will create interesting opportunities for brands and sponsors to be part of what are organic conversations with fans”. He trusts that, with the return to live events, teams and stadiums will be able to deliver enhanced fan experiences. “People are itching to go out and live their lives again, and we can expect live sports and entertainment to be even bigger than it was, not just in terms of attendance but in overall interest, engagement and production,” he says.

The NFL kicks off with a strong message of community

To celebrate the return of the 2020 football season in September, the National Football League launched the campaign It Takes All of Us on its social media channels, with passages from former player LaDainian Tomlinson’s legendary Hall of Fame acceptance speech from 2017, calling for unity among players and fans. It continues the league’s commitment to bringing about positive change: “Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions and creeds living, playing, side by side. I am asking you to believe in your ability to bring about change. We represent the game, our team, our community.”

In this article, Ad Age looks into some of the NFL’s sponsor messages to audiences. For instance, ahead of the NFL kick-off, Doritos revived its “Crash the Super Bowl” ad with a pandemic-style ode. Doritos asked fans to create and submit their own videos, and “Crash From Home” featured creative winners in the brand’s first ad since the start of the pandemic. Another sponsor, Postmates, is capitalising on the idea that football fans will order food while watching the games at home this season, and is dedicated to providing promotions and content “to celebrate both food and football”.

Most downloaded football app for millions of fans

An award-winning example of successful sports marketing was featured in Marketing Week, courtesy of one of England’s most successful football clubs, Chelsea. With a social media following of around 100 million people around the world, Chelsea Football Club launched the mobile app The 5th Stand long before the pandemic, with the aim of improving the match day experience and drive deeper engagement with fans.

It was crucial to offer somethings that fans can’t get hold of elsewhere, so the app gives access to live match updates and analysis, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, news and interviews with players, and hundreds of videos on demand. The app became an instant hit, and in a survey among the club’s fans, 92% said that “as a Chelsea fan, you have to have The 5th Stand app”. Impressively, within six months of launching, The 5th Stand became the most downloaded football club app globally, and it recently won the 2020 Marketing Week Masters award for mobile.