Digital Marketing Models for Sports Business


Digital marketing is no longer a subset of marketing and in fact most marketing is now digital. Therefore, the marketing strategy of any organization will have a digital marketing model at its core (whether this is intentionally known or not).

Every organization now needs a digital ‘line of sight’ that connects all plans and activities of the organization.  Marketing is - or should be - the conduit between enterprise strategy and execution of social platform activation, analytics program and digital technology investments.

The following examples of digital marketing models in sport, and sports-related, industries are based on the strategy business article ‘How to Choose the Right Digital Marketing Model’ which identifies four paths for winning and retaining modern customers.  

(i) Customer Experience Designers 

Brands employing this approach use customer data and insights to elevate the end-to-end customer experience, typically built around customer service. They aim to create memorable experiences at multiple touch points to create deep and loyal customers. 

Since all sport teams, leagues and events compete in this way, we have an industry term to describe this approach - ‘fan engagement’.

Teams such as AS Roma, FC Barcelona and Orlando Magic follow this approach particularly well since they have created an internal culture based around fan-first thinking, design and inclusion.

(ii) Digital Branders

Digital Branding is often found in consumer products that focus on building brand equity and deepening consumer engagement.  Digital Branders move away from traditional advertising towards immersive multi-media experiences that connect with consumers in new ways which can include extending the experience. 

Red Bull is a digital brander worth learning from. Firstly, they created their own category based on excitement and adrenaline and then crafted leadership by owning teams and events to retain control over multi-media content publishing and distribution with spectacular success.  

Coca-Cola also elevates its status from that of a soda drink to provider of ‘happiness’ through brand storytelling across multi-media channels. 

Tough Mudder events are one of the ultimate tests of physical endurance and the community that they formed around the brand inspires participants to line up for the Tough Mudder tattoo post-completion.

(iii) Demand Generators

These brands prioritize volume and efficiency over the deeper emotional experiences that those in other categories pursue. 

Typically, companies employing this model are retailers that focus on driving online traffic and converting as many sales as possible across multiple channels for maximum reach.  All digital elements such as a website, search engine optimization and social media focus on increasing awareness and boosting sales.

We have all experienced this strategy in action from buying tickets for a sport or entertainment event to then be followed-up with offers for every other event the agency is selling (if we don’t unsubscribe). 

(iv) Product Innovators 

This model is used by organizations to identify and develop new digital products and services. Companies focus on analytics from digital interactions to gain consumer insights for innovation. 

The following quote captures the philosophy of Product Innovators;

We used to think that everything started in the lab.  Now we realize that everything spins off the consumer.  And while technology is still important the consumer has to lead innovation.  We have to innovate for a specific reason, and that reason comes from the market.  Otherwise, we’ll end up making museum pieces.  – Phil Knight, Founder, Nike

In the sports industry, Levi’s Stadium in the heart of Silicon Valley and London’s O2 Arena are examples of venues that push tech boundaries to create the most unique fan experience and unlock game-day revenues.

What does this means?

Each digital marketing model requires a different mix of marketing capabilities.  

For example, Customer Experience Designers - the category pursued by most teams, leagues and events - require marketing specialists in segmentation and needs assessment supported by optimized content and innovation competencies.  

Organizations pursuing other digital marketing models will need a different blend of these and other analytics and real-time decision making expertise.

The next edition of Managing Digital Transformation in Sport is commencing in September 2018. Click here to learn more about this program. 



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