This article was updated on November 19, 2021.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. While it’s affected businesses across the globe, certain industries have been impacted more than others, such as live events and sports marketing. As digital marketers are forced to pivot their approaches and engage fans who are viewing games from home, it’s helpful to consider the trends playing the biggest roles.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the major impacts the health crisis has had on the sports industry. We’ll also discuss some key elements for advertisers to consider as we navigate the new landscape both during and post-pandemic.
How Covid-19 is Impacting the Sports Industry
It’s no secret that the global health crisis has impacted and upended businesses across the world. However, some industries are feeling the effects most severely, such as professional sporting and live events.
The Covid-19-fueled digital transformation continues to introduce uncertainty, complications, and challenges for advertisers to revamp and adapt their business models. Live sporting events are the epitome of what health officials are currently trying to avoid; people traveling from multiple regions and congregating in large groups in close quarters for extended periods of time.
Until a vaccine is available, it’s fair to expect that filling stadiums will not be an option. Concessions and ticketing alone result in a major loss of revenue, not to mention the lost wages for venue workers. However, there’s also broadcasting (sale of media rights) and commercial (sponsorship and advertising deals) revenue streams to consider.
According to Bizzabo marketing, last year more than 40% of marketers named live events as the most important marketing channel. With seasons postponed or canceled, the suspension and standstill of sports isn’t only a disappointment to fans; it’s a disruption to business.
For brands that rely on these events for advertising revenue, it’s devastating. According to Statista’s analysis of the sports industry, a loss of approximately $2.2 billion of national TV revenue is expected as a result of Covid-19. This is in addition to around $3.5 billion in fan spending on professional sports:
Just because people can no longer attend live sporting events doesn’t mean all opportunities to engage fans are lost. Rather, the success of advertisers will hinge on their ability to adapt and incorporate innovative platforms and channels. Adjusting to the new digital environment can open up new revenue streams, partnerships, and strategies.
Digital Sports Marketing During a Pandemic: 3 Key Trends to Consider
There are a variety of marketing opportunities and models for online transactions that can help digital marketers attract and engage sports fans, from merchandising and gaming to virtual events and competitions. Let’s take a look at some trends that will likely play a role in digital marketing to sports fans during a time of social isolation.
1. Diversifying Sports-Related Content and Channels
With more people staying at home than ever before, many are starting to consume new types of content and entertainment, and on platforms they wouldn’t otherwise use. Digital marketers can capitalize on reaching captivated audiences who are looking for new sources of entertainment.
It’s likely that this process will continue to pivot as brands focus on alternative investment opportunities in other areas. Marketers will have to find new strategies for attracting and engaging viewers.
For example, in lieu of being able to broadcast live sporting events, some networks such as Fox Sports and ESPN are running alternative programming, including archived content and docuseries such as The Last Dance.
Another example of this is social media. Even before the pandemic, the sports market and broadcasting landscape was shifting. With so many people cutting the cord on cable, broadcasters slowly moved to other environments such as Facebook and YouTube.
Therefore, it’s imperative that businesses make the adoption and improvement of digital capabilities a priority. Athletes can use their social presences and platforms to share training techniques and workout videos. This presents sponsorship and partnership opportunities, both with brands and via ads on social channels.
2. Exploring More Strategic Sponsorships and Partnerships
For some time now there has been an emphasis on allocating advertising budgets to create more tailored content and promotions and to establish a more targeted ad spend. While many partners may be pulling back after Covid-19 budget reductions, there are also advertisers looking to explore new partnerships and deals with sponsored content.
Affiliate marketing, for example, can help digital marketers increase brand awareness and engagement rates in categories they may not have previously pursued. For example, rather than working with travel or airline companies, which are popular and coveted deals during March Madness, you could expect to see an increase in brands working with online gaming businesses.
Exploring more creative cross-promotion and advertising opportunities can help businesses stay relevant. It can also help attract fans who are looking to fill the absence of professional and live sporting events with virtual, competitive alternatives.
3. Growing Adoption of Virtual and Immersive Technologies for Stay-at-Home Fans
Virtual technologies and e-sports present opportunities for leagues and media partners to reach fans in new ways. Immersive technologies can help fans replicate the experience of attending live games without actually doing so.
If professional sports leagues, as expected, start lifting suspensions by simulating spectator sports without permitting physical attendance, Virtual Reality (VR) technology can help impose or mimic the experience of being in the stadium for fans. An example of this can be seen with Nascar’s iRacing, which is a simulation platform.
This goes hand-in-hand with the trend we touched on earlier of exploring and diversifying income streams to focus on digital opportunities. Using immersive and virtual technologies can help brands engage consumers through gamified viewership, real-time commenting and analysis, and more.
The global health crisis is bringing uncertainty and complications for businesses around the world. Until suspensions are lifted, it’s important that digital marketers in the sports industry allocate their budgets accordingly, with a particular emphasis on exploring new types of content and channels, diversifying investment and partnership opportunities, and adopting immersive and virtual technologies.
Do you have any questions or opinions about the future of digital marketing for sporting games and events? Let us know in the comments section below!
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