Sports For The Non-Sports Fan: Marketing Recipe Worth Following

In the December 13, 2022 Media Post Marketing Insider, SLRG’s Jon Last speaks to recent attitudinal research and why that is putting an emphasis on sports marketing activations targeted to more casual fans or event enthusiasts.

I’ve conducted significant amounts of research over the years among sporting event attendees, with the goal being to optimize the onsite experience.  It’s table stakes today to incorporate a variety of social experiences and interactive, participatory activations into any event or venue.

But what we’ve been seeing most recently is a heightened emphasis on offerings geared towards the casual or nonfan.  This makes perfect sense since research increasingly shows divergent paths to attract and retain core fan loyalty versus those with weaker levels of connection. As to be expected, the attrition risk is significantly lower among this core group than among those along for the ride, or kicking the proverbial tires.

What’s been particularly interesting to observe has been the impact of some of the less property-centric activations, which compel the casual and core fan alike.  I’ve written in this space about catering to the less sport-centric “event enthusiast” segments, and some of our more recent tracking work suggests that creating engagement and delivering unique onsite experiences will only become more important in the coming months, particularly if a softening economy puts greater pressure on sponsors and properties alike.

In our latest data, half of American sports fans strongly believe that the economy is currently in recession.  While that is a three-month low, nearly two thirds strongly agree that they are more budget-conscious today than they were two years ago.  Both of these measures are up +10 points since April.

In two related questions, only about a third felt strongly that they or the country as a whole, was better off now than it was four years ago.  And while nearly half of sports fans see themselves as very likely to attend a live sporting event within the next two months, the ability to extend that invitation to others in the orbit of core fans will be an even more critical success factor as the economy softens.

There’s no doubt that for core fan and event enthusiast alike, live sports offers a unique oasis from the chaos of day to day life that is still transforming in a post-pandemic and still-divided populace.  The ability to broadly deliver that escape valve plays perfectly into sports marketing.

This is where we see the strategy of optimizing social spaces and ancillary activities in venue and around properties will be put to its greatest and most creative challenge in the months ahead.

Properties and their marketing partners must seek activations that resonate with both the core fan and those around them, to effectively compete against non-sports specific leisure activities, particularly as those alternatives continue to struggle with staffing and service quality challenges.  It’s all part of a value equation that will take on greater primacy as we head into 2023.