Successful fan engagement amidst the din of an overcrowded marketplace is no easy task. To ignite fans' attention and build loyalty, brands investing in celebrity endorsements and set-piece marketing events have had to get smarter to make themselves heard. GlobalSportsJobs investigates how sports brands are achieving high ROI through innovative twists.
When INTERSPORT joined forces with Nike to work on a slick, fun athlete endorsement event called 'Strike Night', big names, digital technology and a dash of ingenuity combined to produce a huge success.
To celebrate the release of the new Hypervenom 3 football boots, exclusively available in INTERSPORT stores, a cast of stars were invited, including Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, AC Milan's Andre Silva, Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, among others.
Each player had to impress a judging panel that included Ian Wright and Didier Drogba with their finishing skills, and their shot accuracy was measured by a gadget embedded in the glittering LED goalframe.
Balls were fired at each player randomly from either side of the arena and the eventual winner (Andre Silva, incidentally) was crowned the world's Ultimate Finisher.
Set in a gladiatorial atmosphere with live music artists and a baying crowd, the event was broadcast on Facebook Live and prompted an explosion of energetic fan engagement: 1.9 million views in the first day alone and a feed-busting 700 million reach across social media.
BT Sport teamed up with Arsenal to produce a similarly spectacular, instantly-viral event that used established football stars as influencers to promote the TV station's coverage of the NBA Global Games on Facebook Live.
Freestyle basketball trick team The Dunkin' Devils performed dazzling stunts with the help Per Mertesacker, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi. Thus the instantly-recognisable Arsenal players were used as marketing tools for a niche basketball event with which most users would have been been unfamiliar.
It's a very similar fan engagement strategy to that of Major League Baseball in the UK to gain traction for a sport which is not yet engrained in the culture. Partnering with England and Wales Cricket Board, they enlisted England's well-known big-hitting batsmen Alex Hales and Jos Buttler as influencers at 'MLB Battleground’ events around the country, helping to hook in potential new baseball fans.
This concept of 'localising' a brand or product to grow its influence outside its normal market is one being embraced by leading sport marketing agency Lagardère Sports.
They have been enlisted by Formula 1 to identify and secure strategic partners in several areas including event promotion, media rights, digital and brand partnerships, merchandising, talent development and racing team development.
As Lagardère Sports CEO Andrew Georgiou said: "Sports fans in the country, as well as media platforms and sponsors alike, are craving premium, local and live sports and entertainment, supported by quality digital content and meaningful fan engagement.
"Through this new partnership we will work with Formula 1 to develop premium local content for the Chinese market, in a way that the sport deeply engages with local fans and becomes part of the Chinese sporting culture and fabric."
The need for sports federations and clubs to broaden their attraction to new markets, while continuing to engage core fans, has been the subject of research by the Johan Cruyff Institute, focusing specifically on football clubs.
The biggest European clubs now have huge followings outside their own countries and continents thanks in no small measure to TV rights deals, but this presents what the Institute calls a "paradox" in fan engagement: how can clubs appeal to "spatially and culturally distant" customers without jeopardising their historical bonds with local fans?
The report concludes: "At the end of the day, after success eventually fades these are the people that keep the club alive. No club should ever forget this."
Another example of innovating to engage fans is by Fuse, who made creative use of existing content by repackaging it to provide added sponsor value. The ‘Nissan Play of the Day’ ran throughout the ICC Champions Trophy in England and the World Twenty20 tournament in India, asking fans to choose between each day’s three best moments, displayed in slick, well-presented video clips. It attracted 38 million views, 1.5 million votes, plus a 50% increase in consideration and 60% increase in ‘brand love’ for Nissan.
Each of the examples above uses different strategies to engage fans, but all achieve an explosion of hype that dominates social media timelines, raises brand awareness, activates customers and ignites passions.
For opportunities at INTERSPORT, the ECB, Lagardère Sports, the Johan Cruyff Institute and more, head to GlobalSportsJobs latest vacancies.