Making passion infectious: What other sectors can learn from sports marketing

By The Earnie Team

Written by Alistair Gammell and Phil Gault

All sports marketers enjoy a natural advantage: a bedrock of highly passionate, highly committed fans. Stoking this fire is an important part of the job, but it’s rarely the priority. There are minimal gains to be made by simply preaching to the converted. Of much greater commercial significance, short and long-term, is finding ways to impact the next circle out – the wide base of the casually interested, whose attention and spend are increasingly discretionary.

When we discussed this with a senior FMCG marketer the other day, it was clear that her challenges were essentially identical. Saturated markets, changing shopping behaviours, greater choice and declining brand loyalty make every day a battle to find new audiences in order to maintain, let alone grow penetration. What became equally clear was how much she (and presumably her peers) could benefit from adopting three key tenets from our sports marketing playbook.

1. Amplification via perfect alignment.

Typically, sports marketing budgets are dispersed across numerous parties: the rights holder, venues, ticketing provider, broadcast partners, sponsors and so on. This means there is a real danger that messaging fragments into incoherence and penny pockets of invisibility. But the upside is the multiplicity of channels and touchpoints this creates. By giving every stakeholder the tools to tell a consistent story in their own individual way, there is real potential to grow the chorus and reach new audiences. Our work for the ECB and the NatWest T20 Blast proves the point. With all parties aligned behind a flexible, distinctive communications platform and toolkit, we were able to control the big idea and drive greater returns via every potential fan touchpoint. There seems to be a parallel opportunity here that many FMCG brands have yet to capitalise on. In this sector, more could be done to leverage the growing power of retailers as media platforms. They need fresh material, and it makes sense to move your content – and perhaps your influencer marketing – as close as possible to the point-of-purchase.

2. Relevance via actionable segmentation.

The client we met had a wealth of data into different consumer personae and shopper missions, but wasn’t doing much to put that insight to work. She said the same had been true in her previous roles; the tendency was always to default to “one size fits all”. This wouldn’t wash in sports marketing. Working with insight from the ECB, we focused on key segments for the T20 Blast. Examples included “groups”, “families” and ”big player fans”. In order to reach the right person with the right message at the right time, we used these segments to build a schedule of over 500 different creative executions. Constant A/B testing and optimisation via close alignment to the media agency, allowed us to identify which messages generated the most impassioned response, constantly increasing returns throughout the campaign.

3. Low investment participation.

Pretty much by definition, these more casual audiences only buy occasionally. But that doesn’t mean they should be neglected between purchases. To keep the pot boiling, you need to develop content which provides maximum reward for minimal effort. For the T20 Blast, for instance, the ECB produced weekly snackable content that showcased the previous week’s matches. For NFL London, the task is more about using short-form content to deepen an understanding of what is, for many, a complex and ”unknown” sport. Obviously it’s easier to “package” American Football in this way than, say, a deodorant. But sports marketing can still teach FMCG brands valuable lessons in terms of developing ‘always-on’ content flows that drive participation by giving more than they ask for.

The brands that win in today’s world share two key attributes. First, they have a clarity of purpose that stimulates real passion amongst both new and existing user bases. Second, they possess effective strategies for harnessing this passion in ways that works across multiple partner touchpoints, maximising reach and return.

Our experience in the highly competitive and fragmented world of sports marketing has taught us how to make passion infectious. Regardless of category, we can help you maximise volume through stakeholder alignment and channel development; maximise relevance via smart, actionable segmentation; and maximise engagement by lowering the barriers to participation.

If you’d like to know more, please contact Alistair Gammell, Managing Director, at or on +44 (0)7931 754031.