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Why Sports Marketers Need Data-Driven Marketing Intelligence Now More Than Ever


The COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended the sports industry. For the foreseeable future, the stands of every stadium are mostly empty and almost all fans are staying home. Without tickets to sell, sports marketers have been forced to focus on new KPIs, such as ad sales, digital channel engagement, and fan loyalty. Because fans aren’t driving as much revenue through ticket sales and in-person experiences, sports marketers must pivot to consider sponsors as a new key audience.

Ticket sales are simple enough to measure, but measuring ROI for these new goals of sponsor and partner engagement requires marketers to adopt a new approach. Marketers need to get a deeper understanding of their data, so they can add more detailed metrics to their marketing mix and show sponsors the true value of their investments, especially in unprecedented times.

A strong measurement strategy is critical for sports marketers both now and in the future, when it’s time to sell tickets again.

How COVID-19 has changed sports marketing

The pandemic has brought many new challenges to the world of sports marketing. Internally, sports businesses have had to invest in new digital tools to help their employees adapt to remote work, and they’ve also had to adopt new measures and protocols to ensure the safety of employees and players returning to offices and stadiums.

Teams face questions of when and whether it will be safe to ask fans to return for live games, and many are reckoning with what maintaining fan momentum looks like in the absence of in-person sports.

Before the pandemic, sports marketing was centered around live events. It’s every fan’s dream to visit an iconic stadium and see their favorite team playing in person, and this was a key selling point for game tickets and team merchandise alike. Now that most fans can’t attend games in person, and the structure of games themselves has shifted, sports marketers need to find new ways to drive revenue — that’s where sponsorships and partnerships have come into focus.

Why sports marketers need to focus on new digital channels

For the first time ever, the key value driver for sports teams isn’t ticket sales — it’s fan loyalty. That value pays off for teams in digital engagement, apparel sales, and an eventual return to in-person ticket sales, but it’s also great for sponsors. Fans are engaging online with their favorite teams — and by association, their sponsors — more than ever before.

That’s why sports marketers are engaging fans in new ways by bringing their teams onto vibrant new social video platforms such as TikTok and Twitch, adopting content marketing strategies influenced by esports, and experimenting with bringing fans closer through virtual reality.
Many teams are finding success by mixing these new, innovative channel tactics with older, tried-and-true tactics such as merchandise discounts and interactive post-game surveys for email subscribers.

But how do sports marketers know which channels will work best for their fans and bring results for sponsors and partners? The answers are in the data. To understand the best ways to connect with their fans in an all-digital landscape — and calculate the ROI and ROAS of these opportunities — marketers now need to understand engagement by analyzing fan data in detail. This includes everything from email opens and link clicks to site visits and channel preferences.

How data-driven marketing intelligence can help sports marketers

With the right marketing intelligence, sports marketers can get to know as much as possible about each fan and each marketing investment that they make. These days, sports businesses are walking on a tightrope. They need to balance investing in short-term success with staying positioned for growth once stadiums reopen and tickets can be sold again — all while engaging sponsors and earning ROI.

A strong, unified data foundation is the key to achieving these goals. With so many different marketing data sources (and more coming in all the time, thanks to new digital channels), sports marketers need to connect them together to drive the insights they need.

In the aftermath of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, sports marketers will need to stay nimble, maximize brand awareness, drive value through sponsorships, and optimize every dollar of their budgets. With unified marketing data sources and intelligent analytics, sports marketers can use data to guide them as they achieve these goals and build stronger connections with fans and partners for years to come.

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