The ‘Passion Premium’ in Sports Marketing

In his June Media Post item, SLRG’s Jon Last speaks to those unique elements of sports marketing that are a starting point from which practitioners can break through the marketing clutter.


Too often, marketers have implored the need for break-through big ideas like it was the evolutionary trigger of some 21st century drinking game. But to the extent that engaging customers has become even more difficult today, I’m reminded that sports marketing enjoys a unique series of advantages relative to other horizontal categories.

To call this a “passion premium” is just scratching the surface. But a look at some pervasive themes provides an initial framework from which sports marketers should seek to uncover and leverage their own unique and ownable positionings through sports:

Undisrupted and (relatively) undistracted viewing: One could say that sports and live theater remain the final frontiers for immersive engagement.  This places those brands and marketing partners who can seamlessly integrate themselves into that environment with an incredibly powerful vehicle to create consumer connections.  This works — something we’ve quantified countless times through fan research that shows significant lift in consumers’ ability to relate activating brand message points, in post versus pre-exposure testing.

The ability to stand for something that isn’t polarizing:  The symbotic affiliation between an activating brand  and a sports property does more than check the box for today’s trend towards cause-related branding.  Alignment with the unique rituals and traditions of a particular sports property gains entry into a magical space that we’ve defined as a “brand community.”  Done well, it can break down the barriers of skepticism often found with other cause marketing efforts.  If we all support the team or event, we share a strong and unifying bond impervious to political ideology.

Sharing a memory with those important to us: One of the most compelling drivers of live sports’ ability to create a fertile environment for engagement is that it’s inherently a shared experience, able to bring people together and create lasting memories. Properties and activating brands that find resonant ways to leverage this factor have found the holy grail of sports marketing.

Witnessing history, with inside look into larger-than-life heroes:  That sports is escape is a given that also fuels its marketing power.  But beyond this, we’ve consistently seen the aspirational and affirmational power of being witness to something never seen before. Gaining close proximity to this factor is a powerful lever. A common element of the best digital sports apps is their ability to magnify the live experience, through unique perspectives and insider vantage points.  Brands that come along for the ride can only benefit.