Sooo… I decided to write a piece on sports marketing. I found it to be a pretty fascinating area in marketing. I’ve got to be frank from the start, though. I don’t know much about the field. Never worked in it, never got too close to it. Only observed from a distance.
Recently, though, we’ve been talking to a few amazing people in sports marketing agencies.
Why, you ask?
We wanted to learn more about their field and their workflows.
Why, you ask?
Sports marketing has a lot of moving parts. A lot of people involved in each campaign. Where there’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of collaboration. We’re a collaboration tool. Ba dum tss, cha-ching.
So, yes, you got me. sport371 Moving on, talking to so many professionals in sports marketing got me thinking. And googling. There’s not much content out there and I’m sure there’s a lot of people wondering. About what exactly is sports marketing, about possible careers in sports marketing, about what sports marketing agencies do and so much more.
Since I’m a rookie, thought it’d be wise to go to an expert. Jeremy Tucker has helped athletes and brands build and implement marketing, branding, and public relations strategy throughout the course of his career. Lately, Jeremy has been involved with diversity and inclusion awareness campaigns with both current and former NHL athletes. Having recently launched Radix, an athlete marketing consulting agency, he and his team hope to transform the way athletes value their platform and position in the market place through brand partnerships and new technology ventures.
They have a really cool team, too:
Jeremy was kind enough to answer the internet’s top 5 questions about sports marketing. Let’s check them out:
What is sports marketing?
Let’s start with the basics. Sport is one of those weird things that can’t really be explained. Starting with their popularity across the globe to the incredible amount of money spent and generated from sports. It’s just a tad unbelievable.
Let’s paint a quick picture. Statista estimates that in 2021, NFL will have 141M viewers in the US. 84M people in the states will watch eSports. And it’s not just the US. Soccer’s world cup final is watched by an estimated 600 million people worldwide.
sports marketing sports audience fan base per sport statistica
Too many numbers? Let’s put it this way — a lot of people watch sports. Most people watch sports. And an audience of hundreds of millions calls for …drumroll, please… marketing.
Sports marketing is a combination of all the potential marketing techniques aimed at attracting sports fans. The sole difference between marketing and sports marketing is that the latter targets a specific audience. Though I wouldn’t call a pool of billions of people specific.
Q: Dumb it down for us, what is sports marketing? What’s its role, purpose, and way of doing things?
The definition above is pretty much what I understood after turning the internet upside down. I got that sports marketing is anything and everything. But let’s see what an actual professional in the field would say.
“You can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers to ‘what is sports marketing?’ Simply put, it’s a way to market a product, service, or even athlete, within a specific category ‘sports.’
The purpose of it, for us anyway, is to help athletes leverage the emotional connections that fans, consumers and audiences have within that category to do a number of things ranging from raising money for a charity to partnering with a brand looking to grow their influence within the sports market.”
Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? Sports marketing has a wide range of possibilities. So much so, that trying to completely define it is pretty complicated.
Q: Why do sports need niched marketing agencies to manage their presence?
Sports marketing exists because sports has a huge audience. But why is this a field that needs special attention? Why does it need agencies whose focus relies solely on sports marketing?
“I wouldn’t say all athletes need to have niche marketing agencies, but it helps to have an agency or marketing rep who understands what it means to develop and manage an ‘athlete brand.’ No athlete is the same in what they are trying to accomplish through marketing and branding, so knowing how to handle each athlete’s needs and emotions is a must.”
It’s starting to make sense. What seems to make a difference in sports marketing is the level of industry know-how. Sports marketing is a bit different from, say, FMCG. Its mere consumption is widely known. Its behind the scenes though? Not so much.
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Another aspect is exactly what Jeremy said. Sports marketing is a lot about personal brands. Athletes are the stars. People fall in love with them. Watch them. Root for them. That’s what the audience is interested in. So sports marketing has to appeal to that. To fully embrace who the represented athlete is and what their fans are looking to see.
Sports marketing agencies and firms
Sports marketing agencies and firms know a lot about their field. They have a huge role in consulting companies on their target. They suggest the sports their clients should invest in, and the ones they should stay away from. They also do the match-making between brands and players. Since athletes have such different personalities, they attract different fan bases. The audience is huge. So brands have the luxury of segmenting. Of choosing the athletes based on the profiles of their fan base.
I like the way Jonathan Schecter puts it on Quora:
“There are two types of sports marketing firms (well, more than two, but we’ll segment it this way for now…), the first is brand-side and the second is the player side. The brand side has marketing and public relations agencies organizations like Team Epic, Octagon, IMG, Taylor Strategy, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment. Also, some of the major sports brands (i.e. Nike, Adidas) do not use these agencies and source endorsers and negotiate contracts in-house. The player side is represented by many of the same organizations (Octagon, IMG, M&C Saatchi S&E) but also by agents and marketing reps.
The partnership process works both ways. There are times where a brand or their representatives will call an agent and say “is so-and-so interested in promoting our brand?” There are also times where the agent will seek out potential partnerships. I have experience working with both brands and athletes and it has worked both ways. I have pitched my athletes to brands as endorsers and I have also approached athletes on behalf of brands that I’ve represented to be endorsers.
In terms of the pay scale, generally, if you are working on behalf of a brand, the brand will pay a fee for what is basically headhunting. If you are working on the athlete side, you will get a percentage of the endorsement contract.”
Q: Tell us about Radix and the way you do things. What makes you unique in the sports marketing agencies’ landscape?
I wanted to know more about Radix, in particular. How do they approach things? Here’s Jeremy Tucker’s answer:
“Radix is another way of saying ‘root’ or ‘base’ and that’s how we approach each athlete. That’s how we work – we identify who the athlete really is at their core or base. We then work to identify different partnership opportunities and long term relationships that help them build on that base so they become more than just a ‘hockey player.’
As for what makes us unique, I think it’s our approach to the way we do things. As I just said, this is an athlete-focused 100%. Some athletes may be looking to generate revenue streams in different ventures away from the game. Others may just be looking to network with different groups and people within a specific hobby, or something they are passionate about, and we’re ok with that.
My business partner, Jamie, and I both played the game professionally ourselves. We’ve experienced firsthand just how short the window of opportunity is for these athletes to use their platform to grow as brands and individuals. Our mission is to do whatever we can to support the goals of our athletes and help them maximize that window.”
Radix is a sports marketing agency that focuses on the athlete side. The company’s founders are former players themselves. That helps them understand the industry and the point of view of a player. Their needs and challenges. Their opportunities and space to grow.
The sports marketing industry’s way of doing things
Q: Your business is, in a way, representing unique individuals. This type of marketing has to be very personalized and tailored to the athlete you’re working with. What would you say is the biggest challenge to that and how do you approach it?
I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t brands unique too? How is that different? Brands are all different from one another, yes. But think about it like this. A brand is built. It’s built with consistency and clarity in mind from the start. Everything you do for a brand has to fall within the parameters of its written and established personality.
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