Seven Deadly Sins of Sports Marketing

OK, I must admit that sometimes I am a sports marketing snob. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I just don’t believe that very many people fully understand what sports marketing is all about. Sports marketing is not just about athlete endorsements, big logos on signs, or using tickets to entertain clients. Although they are each aspects of sports marketing, in and of themselves, they do not capture the power of what sports marketing is meant to accomplish.

Sports marketing is an opportunity for brands to separate themselves from their competitors and to help engage and interact with their consumers. Sports marketing is a mechanism, that if used properly, should enhance a company’s relationship with its consumers, and persuade them to do more business with that company.

It’s pretty simple stuff, yet brands, teams, athletes and organizations quite often do not properly activate their initiatives and sponsorships. This primarily occurs because the people who are selling, fulfilling and implementing programs and initiatives lose site of the true purpose of sports marketing: to help people create new business opportunities.  As a result, many sponsorships fall short of their potential and thus do not have the desired results for all parties involved.

Below, in the fiery depths of this post, please find what I believe are the Seven Deadly Sins of Sports Marketing.

Greed – When teams and agents view sponsorships and/or endorsements as a transactional deal rather than a relationship-oriented deal designed to build relationships with customers. They only care about their sales revenue goals, and gorge the brands with high-priced one-off deals that have no chance for success.

Gluttony – When the quantity of deals is more important than the quality. For example, instead of being satisfied with the “official bank,” “official car” and “official beer,” teams opt to create more of these types of deals, and erode both their brands and the value of their key partnerships by creating the “official dry-cleaner” or “official bowling alley.” How is there any value in the logo or “official” status when teams stoop to this level of deal making?

Envy – When other leagues and teams have deals with certain brands that your team or league does not, and you then focus all of your attention on obtaining that brand or category to the detriment of obtaining better suited business partners. People lose sight of the fact that just because a brand fits with one entity doesn’t mean that the brand is a right fit for every entity.

Sloth – When a brand lets the sponsorship lie dormant after it is purchased, and doesn’t activate the assets they acquired in the deal. Expecting the sponsorship to come alive solely due to its existence rather than through creative and pertinent activation is a major blunder. Furthermore, when this happens, the team also remains idle and doesn’t attempt to assist the partner to create an effective sponsorship.

Pride – When a brand just slaps its name on a venue because it wants to be seen as bigger than they are, without any thought as to whether or not the sponsorship suits them and their needs. Throwing names on buildings without a complete strategy is a recipe for failure, and could influence other better suited naming-rights candidates to negatively view the same opportunity.

Lust – When a brand wants to partner with a team or athlete so badly that they become totally fixated with the notion and toss all logic aside. They then proceed to do whatever it takes to obtain a deal with the team or athlete with total disregard to business sense and with no forethought about potential negative consequences.

Wrath – When an agency erects road blocks to prevent a team from doing business with a brand because the team began the process directly with the brand. Especially when the package makes sense for the brand, yet the agency still uses its influence to stop the deal from happening.

Sports marketing can be a great tool to separate your brand from the competition. But there must always be an all-encompassing strategy to ensure that it is an effective mechanism for the brand and not just an empty attempt to get into the game. Sports marketing should not be treated as a transactional business. It is each party’s responsibility – teams, leagues, agents, athletes, agencies and brands alike – to enter into sports marketing initiatives for the right reasons. If that happens, everyone will be satisfied, leading to long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.

Thanks to my pal, Lenny, for suggesting that I write the Seven Deadly Sins of Sports Marketing (while chatting over a bottle of the wine, 7 Deadly Zins).

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