Commentary

New Decade In Sports Marketing Amplifies Battle For Attention

  • by , Columnist, December 10, 2019
Ten years ago in this space, as we entered the second decade of the 21st century, I wrote of a tenor in sports marketing that was quite different than where we sit today.  Still reeling from the effects of “The Great Recession,” we were grappling with how to demonstrate greater value amidst fears of 11% unemployment.  

In January of 2010, I wrote, “As the air has been let out of the luxury market, the incessant aspirational pursuit of ‘more’ has been replaced by a value consciousness that is being articulated in our research, more loudly than in recent memory, if ever. So the question remains,  ‘will this prevail,’ or will we go back to where we were just a few years ago?”

It seems ironic to read these words 10 years later, as so much of what we’ve seen during the latter half of this decade has been about further escalation of sports consumption options. This has spawned a vigorous fight for attention and relevance.  

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We fuel this through incessant campaigns that play to an aspirational desire to “super-size” everything we experience, from the pace with which we prematurely canonize our superstars, to the conga line of social media rants.  

An unabashed return to the pursuit of outsized luxury has also consumed our sporting goods marketing.  Technology innovation has narrowed product introduction cycles and pushed price points to all-time highs.  

The recent rancor over Peloton’s holiday campaign may well have been driven by outrage.  But for  some, clearly its impact has been to remind consumers that there's a market for a $2,000 digitally connected exercise bike, and those who use it are often attractive and live in beautiful homes.

Sports properties have begun focusing on every aspect of capturing fan attention, in a constant battle to break through the clutter.  

I look back at the arc of our research conducted over the past decade and see a mix of studies that range from optimizing digital content and platforms, to informing the build out of physically alluring social spaces that can compel a broader fan audience to eschew the couch for “unique in-person experiences.” We’ve been tasked with leveraging behavioral and attitudinal insights to create a deeper and more personal connection with fans and to quantify the efficacy of sponsor activation amid a cluttered playing field.

On the media side of the equation, a decade ago we foresaw the emergence of digital as a wave of the future and a means by which to create incremental touch points that connect with audiences beyond traditional platforms. Today, we are closer to seeing digital properties flip the script as primary distribution points, worthy of an important seat at the broadcast rights negotiation table.  

As we move toward 2020, the key sports marketing questions are no longer about how to do more with less, but how to break through amid the excesses of more.

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