When it comes to branding, some brands have it better than others. Thanks to effective marketing techniques, companies such as Nike, Adidas, or even Red Bull have managed to make it to the top in terms of popularity, while perennially associated with the sports world. But when talking about sports brands, we also have to address the various federations, clubs and right-holders, who are a central part of this business’ economics. In an ever-changing world, sports fields have become a place of display for different advertisers and brands. The global sponsorship spending for sports is actually evaluated at $65 billion.
To get a clearer vision of the latest trends in sports marketing, we reached out to Olivier Peulvast, Chief Brand Officer EGG Group & Head of EGG Sports. EGG is an international event agency that works with brands to create memorable experiences and promote sports values.
Do you want your brand to be remembered? Think *sparks*
Sportswear brands have it tough. While the technology of the product is an important aspect of a brand’s success on the market, brand identity is as crucial, if not more so. A stake Olivier Peulvast is used to:
“Brand preference is what we aim for. In terms of sports equipment, the final result is the one that is acknowledged once the customer is in the shop. Why would you buy this brand instead of another? Well, for me the secret to a successful campaign led through a diversity of activation platforms is consistency. A brand has to partner with or sponsor athletes or events and be able to name the reason why they are choosing to do so. It is about being very clear about your final target.”
And to do so, brands have the possibility to rely on what makes sports such a special industry: the spirit of it, its unity in diversity.
“Whether you work in football, tennis, golf or surfing, you are not going to give off the same vibe. The public will be receptive in different ways because these sports have a different spirit from one to the other. So if a brand wants to partner with a specific practice, that can add an extra spark to its marketing strategy. This works for sportswear brands as well as any other brand eager to use advertising space provided by sports,” says Olivier Peulvast.
The secret to a successful campaign led through a diversity of activation platforms is consistency. A brand has to partner with or sponsor athletes or events and be able to name the reason why they are choosing to do so. It is about being very clear about your final target.
Speaking of sparks and marketing, what about the role played by social media influencers? It seems no industry can be spared when the influencer marketing market has grown from less than $2 billion to almost $10 billion in just four years (and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years). However, our expert argues that the increasing importance of social media influencers should be taken with a grain of salt:
“When I think of all these influencers who promote a product on Monday and another one on Tuesday and then another on Wednesday, I see a blatant lack of credibility. When working with athletes, things are different: they only make one to three personal responses a year. Brands should take that into account.”
eSports: a good example of how digitalisation disrupts even the oldest industries
There are many ways digitalisation is changing the landscape of sports marketing. If influencers contribute to that change, the second most disruptive trend is to be found in eSports. Ever heard of League of Legends, Dota 2 or Fortnite? If these don’t sound as familiar as the good old World Cup Fifa video game you played on your PlayStation as a kid, know that they are presently among the most played eSports games. And thanks to platforms such as Twitch (and maybe also to a global pandemic that had the whole planet under lockdown), the audience for eSport is expected to grow at a rate of over 7.7% a year, and already reaches close to half a billion people. In 2020, eSports generated $1.1 billion in revenues. Most of which came from sponsorship ($636 million). But to Olivier Peulvast, eSports still have a lot to learn from traditional sports, marketing-wise:
“Things are different with eSports because you cannot know if, for example, people will still be playing World of Warcraft in 20 years. On the contrary, chances are people will always play football. eSports top tournaments are clearly attracting a bigger crowd each time, so sponsors are interested as well. But eSports stars don’t benefit from the same exposure as, let’s say, Cristiano Ronaldo. There is still a lot of work to be done, and I think eSports are looking at traditional sports to see how they can structure their marketing and sponsorship strategies. They need insights to determine what they can offer to sponsors in terms of visibility and marketing rights.”
eSports stars don’t benefit from the same exposure as, let’s say, Cristiano Ronaldo. There is still a lot of work to be done, and I think eSports are looking at traditional sports to see how they can structure their marketing and sponsorship strategies.
Supporter-filled stadiums were pretty scarce in 2020. You probably heard, but a global pandemic slowed a lot of markets down — and the sports industry was not spared. If lockdowns around the world have given a boost to eSports, other stakeholders were not as lucky.
“The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the limits of most economic models used by sports institutions and clubs. We were able to see that most of their business models, relying primarily on sports events, were not balanced between ticket sales, media rights and other sources of revenue. A lot of actors in the industry have taken a toll, and the fact that many brands were not able to or did not have the opportunity to invest as much in advertising or sponsorship also contributed to that recession.” Hence, the importance of digitalising part of the business.
“The companies that coped best during this pandemic are those who turned instantaneously towards digital,” says Olivier Peulvast.
What makes a brand unique is the values it conveys
So is embracing the digitalisation of our world the key to building a lasting name for your brand? Not as much as other values that every business can draw from the example of the sports industry.
“To me, sports brands can inspire other brands to foster stronger and more engaged communities. They are also leading examples of how storytelling works, and the importance of being consistent in your image strategy. Around 17 million French people watched the first match of the UEFA Euro 2020. I think the power of sports is exactly there, in its ability to be an international language, its ability to gather people and to create this community of values, of passion, and a vision.”