What does Marketing actually mean?
When I did my Marketing Diploma I was taught it was Kotler’s 6 P’s of product, price, promotion, place, process and people. Working in the real (business) world I found it actually focused more on just Promotion, so things like branding, packaging, advertising, etc. However in the “Sports Marketing” industry even today, it still refers to the rights sold to Sponsors or Licensees to use in their marketing of their brands. This narrow definition is I think symptomatic of a very narrow view of what it takes to be commercially successful as a sport.
Sport has been obsessed these last 30 years with Sales. They need money to finance their sport, so they flog their TV and sponsorship rights to commercial partners who distribute the content to fans and provide some promotion. Because of sport’s massive audiences, major rights fees have been secured in return. And over three decades the industry became very good at selling thanks to a swathe of deal-focused agents and more recently in-house teams, and the deals got bigger and bigger.
But recently, it has become a lot harder, Outside of the absolute elite of properties such as the World Cup, Champions League or the best F1 teams, deals are much more difficult to close. Brands are deluged with more and more sponsorship opportunities to invest in, and yet audiences are fragmenting, meaning that ROIs are diminishing. Yet the properties need more cash.
So do you hire an even more determined sales team, much as the Chairman of a flagging football club hires a new striker to reverse it fortunes? Or do you work to increase the value and therefore the appeal of your property to Sponsors? Even the CEOs of major organisations sometimes question the ROI of marketing, to which the best answer is to stop it for a year and see what happens – but the likes of Nike, P&G and Apple wouldn’t dare!
So why don’t sports do this? I think it is a question of evolution because the industry is only 30 years old, and also because until recently the sales-only model worked and revenues grew and everyone was happy. Now as times have got tough, sport needs to get going, and place brand marketing at the heart of its whole strategy and operations. Using the word “Marketing” in its correct sense will help instill a more holistic mentality, and drive long-term success not just commercially but to grow sport.
Then we can really call this Sport Marketing.
Image Credit: Sunfrog1