Sports are part of daily life for billions of people around the world. Nearly half of all Americans consider themselves sports fans, and 25% consider themselves avid fans.
Being fans of a team unites us on a sociological level. It makes us feel like we’re part of a larger community, like having extended family across the country and the world.
For businesses, dedicated sports fans are also a very powerful group to target with your marketing. Let’s take a look at what it means to be a sports fan, and how we can better market to them.
Sports fans are dedicated people. When you watch your favorite team you know at the outset that it’s win, lose, or draw.
“People like to use sports as a way to tune out the rest of the world for 2 or 3 hours while the game is on,” says Tim Skibbe, general sales manager for WTRC-FM, WTRC-AM and WAOR for Federated Media. “If your team is terrible, you still show up to the game or turn on the broadcast. It’s a faith in your team that’s rooted in who your parents, or your grandparents, or your aunts and uncles have rooted for. It becomes a part of who you are.”
Regardless of the outcome, fans stick with their team, even when it takes a long, long time to win the trophy.
“You can’t walk away from something you’re passionate about,” Skibbe says. “Sports is an ever-changing monster. Players get older and retire, there are new coaches, and things evolve, but the team always remains.”
Even when they’re not attending games or buying jerseys, sports fans show their support by watching their teams on TV or online streaming and by listening to them on the radio. In fact, 73% of fans say accessing sports content when they want is important to them.
“When you’re marketing to a sports fan you’ve got great frequency, you’re not just reaching someone once in a blue moon,” Skibbe says. “You’re reaching someone who is engaged in what they’re listening to — it’s not background noise. Sports fans truly care about what’s happening with their team, and they’re listening for long periods of time.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Getting involved in marketing to sports fans can be as simple or as complex as you’d like.
Work With Influencers
Radio is its own animal when it comes to dedicated fans. People tune in to hear the broadcast of their favorite team, but a large part of the draw to fans is the people commenting and calling on the game.
“When it comes to Indiana University, people will literally mute their television and turn up the radio because they want to hear Don Fischer,” Skibbe says. “He’s been doing the radio broadcast for IU sports since before Bob Knight was the coach. People want to hear Don’s take on the game — he’s a legend.”
The effect of an on-air personality like Fischer is a deeply loyal listening audience. That audience will not only stand behind their team and the on-air personality they know and love, but they also highly value the companies who consistently advertise during games.
“You’re all listening to this sports broadcaster who is talking to you in this one-on-one way,” Skibbe says. “It’s like you’re sitting in a room with them and they're creating this theater of the mind while they’re painting a picture of what’s happening on the field so you can experience it with them. That connects you with every other listener, because you’re all trying to recreate the same image in your head.”
Imagine that on-air personality promoting your business to their very engaged listening audience. That’s a powerful endorsement!
Sponsor A Broadcast
Being a fan of a team makes you a part of a certain tribe, Skibbe explains. By its very nature, you feel more connected and more likely to trust people who love the same team you do, even if you don’t know them.
“When I see someone with White Sox stuff on, I’m like: ‘Hey, man, go Sox!’ and we high five,” Skibbe says. “I don’t know this guy from Adam, you just feel like you’re connected no matter where you are.”
As a marketing example, Skibbe points to Goose Island, a Chicago-based brewery that supports one of his favorite teams, the Chicago White Sox.
“Goose Island created these specialty White Sox cases of their beer, and I love picking those up whenever I’m in Chicago,” he says. “I can bring it home and crack one open while I’m listening to the game and it feels like I’m enjoying a beer with fellow White Sox fans.”
Kassie Taksey, general sales manager of WBYR, WFWI, and WKJG at Federated Media, agrees with Skibbe. But she says it’s important to remember that your sports marketing should be about the fans, not about selling your product.
“When you’re marketing to fans, it’s important to understand that it’s not about advertising your business, it's all about the fans,” she says. “Sports fans are much more likely to do business with someone that does business with their favorite teams. It’s all about meeting them where they are consuming their content.”
Customize your message or products to support the local favorite team, and you could have a home run marketing campaign.
Interact On Social Media
Social media has allowed fans to become more closely knit, and to feel even more like a part of the team. A simple tweet can reach a player directly, or the franchise and fans can have personal, one-on-one conversations. Feeling connected to a team and to players makes sports fans feel like they’re part of the conversation.
“The buying power that sports fans bring to the market is second-to-none,” Taksey says. “Look at NASCAR. They did it right with their fan base. People follow drivers, and it helps make their buying choices for them. If your driver is sponsored by Coke or Pepsi, that’s the pop you’re going to be drinking.”
Being a modern sports fan means that you’re never far away from sports content, thanks to social media.
“I love being a sports fan in 2021,” Skibbe says. “I can watch my teams on TV, I can listen on the radio, I can follow players and teams online, and I can listen to podcasts. It’s almost all on my schedule, so I never have to miss a game or feel left out.”
By interacting and advertising to sports fans on social media, you’re connecting yourself to an entire, on-going conversation. There’s real power in always being connected to your fan base — and bonding with them over a beloved sports team.