It’s been a busy start to 2017 for The Martin Group, as our Martin Sport vertical has had the opportunity to travel to New York and Baltimore and have high-level discussions with a host of sports executives from a variety of industries — in addition to attending the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show. From athletes to brand marketing leaders to league brass to media executives, we’ve been able to get a ton of insight on the hottest trends in sports marketing for 2017. Here are some early takeaways:
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Everyone is trying to figure out how technology fits with their particular spot in the sports world. But I was blown away by how smart wearable technology is getting, and how quickly it’s going to be mainstream. From trackable fibers embedded in shirts to tiny devices, tracking athletes’ movement and energy live during games and learning via virtual reality devices are just the beginning of the new world technology is opening up across the sports industry.
Gone are the days of the stereotypical endorsement where the player can’t even pronounce the product and simply throws his name on it exclusively for the payday. Athletes are seeking out endorsement deals for products they actually use, versus the other way around. Consumers can see right through forced endorsements, and with social media forcing players to be more accessible and transparent than ever, faking it is getting more and more difficult.
Can’t count the number of times this has come up in recent conversations, most notably when talking about content on social media. More and more, brands are realizing that super polished, over-produced content (especially video) isn’t what consumers want. People just want real, raw looks at brands, teams and athletes. Behind-the-scenes, quick and untouched is better than staged, delayed and corporate-approved.
Content is King
A host of different sports brands I’ve spoken with have recently hired content creators: photographers, videographers, social media producers, etc. This is especially true on the video side where shooting footage is becoming easier and more accessible but editing and packaging it continues to be a coveted skill.
Growth by Acquisition X Collaboration
More and more businesses are taking advantage of critical mass and, rather than outsourcing things like uniforms or event management or video production, just doing it themselves. Why continually place massive orders for uniforms when you can just make your own to your built-in customer base? It’s also been great to see more brands collaborating and creating relationships that might not make sense to the casual observer. There seemingly are no limitations to relationships these days, which is leading to some innovative marketing tactics.
Return of Experiential Marketing
We all know the opportunity and difficulty that social media, digital and email marketing provide. Our world gets noisier by the day. So while there are more ways than ever to reach your consumer, it’s harder and harder to cut through that clutter thanks to social media algorithms and a million distractions fighting for attention. The best way to guarantee your message is going to be heard it finding the right events where you can interact directly with your customers.
We all get pinged multiple times a day about Facebook and Instagram Live videos, and Twitter is signing deals every month for live sports programming on its platform. I’ve talked to multiple brands who are formalizing live video strategies and using these features in their digital marketing efforts. Like general social media content over the last five years, though, it will take brands time to learn the right content and mix for live video. Not everything is good for live video. But this will work itself out and we’ll be able to access some incredible live behind-the-scenes programming from our favorite sports brands this year.
Over the Top Programming
Cord-cutting is a real thing, and consumers are fleeing cable subscriptions en masse. This dramatically opens up video distribution, and is creating some big-time opportunities for content creators and brands looking to get their content seen. It’s definitely important for brands to be thinking ahead of this trend to take advantage of where content distribution and consumption are going.