Sports sponsorships have quickly become one of the most important tools in the $100 billion advertising industry. With that kind of money on the line, sponsors and teams alike are constantly searching for the best way to maximize sponsorship dollars for the benefit of their brands. In this post, we take a look ahead to 2016 and share how leveraging inbound marketing trends can help you stay ahead of the latest sports marketing trends.
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As Inbound Sports Marketers, we are constantly looking to stay one step ahead of the competition. That makes leveraging the concepts of inbound marketing in our sports marketing an easy decision. Sponsorship marketing lends itself so nicely to inbound methodology in that the best sponsorship experiences draw the fans to the sponsor through content and activities that are focussed on them.

In the following section, we highlight four of the most current sports marketing trends and show how employing inbound marketing practices will help you stay on top of them all. We like to call this new practice inbound sports marketing.

1. The Fight for Authenticity

With 84% of B2B marketers using social media in some form, according to the Aberdeen Group, it is even more important to stay true to your brand and your audience.

One way to remain more authentic is to be careful with how often and which guest bloggers you use. Make sure you thoroughly vet any potential bloggers for quality content and make sure their inbound links come from high-quality, relevant blogs/sites only. Content creators are the strongest players on your team, and quality content is a win for everyone. Although, as we know all too well, great writers are hard to find, and even harder to find is one in your own business niche. The best writers are knowledgeable and interested in the content they are writing so that it comes through as authentic in their writing. We find it is worth the investment to pay a great writer a little more per hour to get better content. And, we’re not the only ones, marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014).

By 2013, lead management campaigns integrating four or more digital channels will outperform single- or dual-channel campaigns by 300%, according to Gartner Research. Another key factor in remaining authentic is to select the right social channels for your audience and then tailor your content for those specific channels. Don’t try to make one-size-fits-all content and push it out through all the channels. Users will see this coming from a mile away and automatically tune you out. For example, auto-posting to Facebook decreases likes and comments by 70% (Digital Buzz Blog, 2012).

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2. Stats Rule The Game

Now that digital marketing is the standard and no longer considered a passing phase, marketers have more data than ever before. Marketing analytics is a powerful new tool that must be mastered to stay alive.

First, you need to find a way to own the data and not let the data own you. With so much information readily available to us marketers now, it’s often easy to get a bit overwhelmed and not know where to start. One good place to start is by recruiting a trained marketing analysts for your team. This person looks at your web and marketing analytics continually, forms hypotheses and draws conclusions for your other team members to act on. If you think you don’t have the budget to support someone like this on your team you might need to find it, as your competition may already have. Spending on marketing analytics is expected to increase 60% by 2015 (CMO Survey). CMOs report they spend 8% of their marketing budgets on marketing analytics, and expect to increase this level in the next three years (CMO Survey).

3. Don’t Just Sell Tickets, Sell Experiences

With all of this new customer data coming from your integrated marketing solutions, you now know your customers on a more personal level. At the very least, you should know what they expect or want from your organization. Now you just need to give it to them.
This personalized or data driven marketing materializes in the form of highly targeted campaigns with extremely high conversion rates. These campaigns could include targeted keywords in specific geographic areas with customized messaging based on your customer’s interests or to playing to their emotions. Or, in a live stadium experience, location-based marketing technology like iBeacons or RFID. Creating iBeacons or RFID tags throughout a stadium that are triggered by fans walking by is a great way to add a customized experience to an otherwise crowded and sometimes chaotic arena.

Any experiential marketing agency will tell you, that it is all about creating relationships with your customers. Social Media is the best place to start building those relationships. Some types of social campaigns that are trending are, offering exclusive content that has an expiration date through vehicles like SnapChat or Periscope. This “less is more,” approach is all about communication that’s shorter and more to the point. Your audience is busy and so much content is being thrown at them throughout their day you’ll need to be succinct and on point if you want to break through. You’ll also need to offer the right type of content for each channel and know which channels your target consume so you can focus content where they already are. This drives the growing need for content based campaigns versus traditional, channel based campaigns.

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4. Agility Is Not a Drill, It Should Be the Standard

Marketing technology should be embraced and acknowledged not avoided. While change can sometimes be difficult, the cost of not acknowledging and evaluating new technologies as they arise is naive. On the converse, we’re not suggesting that you become an early adopter of every technology that comes along, only that you stay on top of trends in technology and implement the one’s that have staying power and make sense for your business.

If you haven’t already implemented a marketing automation tool like Marketo, HubSpot, or Constant Contact for your business you may want to make it a priority for 2016. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with brands without talking to a human (Gartner Research). If that’s not enough to convince you, how about this: Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads (The Annuitas Group).

Search capabilities within social media are improving to the point of giving Google, Bing and Yahoo some solid competition. This is good news for brands as this gives the Google search engine fiefdom a little run for their money. Buy buttons and payment messaging will also begin appearing on social channels in 2016. This advanced type of social search paired with an integrated shopping experience is a great opportunity for marketers to turn buying into a quick, fun, shareable experience.

Other technologies on the watch list include: virtual reality, augmented reality, and wearable technologies. Consider how each is advancing and their potential staying power. Wearable technology will see a user adoption rate of 28 percent by 2016. You may want to consider who these 28% of people are, and if they are a fit for your business. If they are a good fit, think about how your messaging may need to to be modified or customized to be consumed properly through these new technology platforms.

We will continue to keep our eyes open for emerging trends in sports and inbound marketing and share what we learn here in our blog. Read more on how SFAW Marketing can help you with your sports marketing strategy.

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