As an agency owner, I know the power that great creative has on clients. Today, experience and reputation can no longer get you hired in sports marketing. The big idea has to come from a creative process with output that moves clients into action. What grabs their attention? Creative is the catalyst in this cycle. Not unlike the broader competitive agency landscape, the sports marketing landscape is expensive and cluttered. And similar to any mass-audience advertising campaign, brands attempt to distinguish themselves with great creative.
So, where do brands turn for the best creative ideas using sports? Everyone in my industry will agree that we are stereotyped with the notion that sports marketing options consist only of high-profile naming-rights, athlete deals and/or sponsorship programs. But as we've seen most recently in the creative executions surrounding the Olympics and the World Cup, sports thrives at the center of a fully integrated marketing campaign.
A perfect example of a company that broke the mold using sports marketing is Nike, and the most recent "Write the World" campaign surrounding the World Cup. Nike, a brand synonymous with sports and the sports lifestyle (and not an official FIFA sponsor), used primarily digital-only channels to compete for the spotlight from Adidas, an official FIFA partner. Nike understands sports and its creative experts understand sports. And, voilà, the connection is made.
But going back even further, Anheuser-Busch (A-B) and its various Super Bowl campaigns trail-blazed new ground in television creative. That creative now has become experiential and iconic for the beer brand, and even has jumped the rail from the small screen into the public lexicon.
But even beyond great advertising or marketing campaigns, creative in sports can bring brands to life via "live" channels such as promotional stunts and event marketing. For example, "The NBA on ESPN RV Tour," featured prominently in both TV and digital campaigns, is also a season-long fan fest which travels via RV to basketball arenas promoting ABC/ESPN's basketball coverage. Additionally, the importance of creative ideation in the strategy phase before the activation is often overlooked.
Asked for his thoughts on the power of creative from an activation standpoint, our creative director, Brian Quarles, said, "Creative doesn't stop with a video piece or even a print ad. It's most powerful when it translates off the page or screen and into a real engagement with consumers."
This is why the prevalence of event marketing, promotional marketing, stunt marketing, etc., surrounding sports continues to thrive, even in times of economic downturns. So, while event marketing often rates near the top in terms of effective marketing tools for accelerating and deepening relationships with brands, it is the event marketing campaigns that arise from truly creative campaigns, which open the door for even deeper connections with consumers.
Overall, the exciting news for the sports marketing industry is that, today, agencies and brands have greater options to distribute top-notch creative via multiple digital channels. With brands relying less on traditional media to deliver messages, the model of an advertising agency producing major ad campaigns, handing them off to media agencies and then to PR/marketing agencies to help circulate, is no longer the status quo.
The competition might be tougher, but the playing field has broadened for the great creative ideas to rise above. Sports has proven that, as a platform, it can be revolutionary for implementing great creative and influencing lifestyles globally.