From the professional leagues to neighborhood competitions, a sports event’s success depends on its marketing. Whether you measure success by how much money the event brings in or how much fun the participants and audiences have, successful marketing means a successful sports event.
Of course, this is easier said than done. These days, people are inundated with hyper-targeted online advertisements. Cutting through the digital noise to reach your target audience can seem like an impossible task. But, it’s not.
In this post, you will learn how to market a sports event: everything from important background information to the most effective tools and strategies.
What to consider before starting to market a sports event
Before you even consider which tools and strategies you need to market your sports event, there are fundamental questions that need answering.
Firstly, who is your target audience? For some events, the answer can be as simple as “parents of Smith High School students,” while for others, you may need to consider a variety of factors, including age, income, and hobbies. If you have trouble answering this question, then do some research; there are plenty of online guides that can help you identify your target audience.
Closely related and equally important, before you start to market your sports event, you need a clear idea of its purpose. The event’s goals will have a direct impact on its target audience. For example:
- If your goal is to build or strengthen a sense of community, you want to focus on the people who live within the community
- If your goal is to raise money for a cause, you want to target everyone within a reasonable geographic region who cares about the cause
- If your goal is to start a brand-new, semi-professional league, you need to consider everything that goes into making your league profitable
Remember that filling the stands is not enough; you want to fill it with the right audience for your event. For example:
- If thriving competition is your goal, you don’t want to fill the stands with people who will watch only half of the event and spend the rest of the time on their phones; cheers and boos from the stands have a profound impact on competition.
- If raising money for a cause is your goal, you don’t want to fill the stands with people who aren’t willing to open their wallets.
After you have your target audience and event purpose in mind, you can turn to logistics. For example, if you have multiple options for a venue, choose the best fit for your audience and goals. Also, consider if you need assigned seating and tickets or if first-come, first-serve would fit the bill better.
Similar considerations go into the aesthetics: Do you need decorations and a welcome booth complete with fliers and friendly volunteers, or is the best option to simply let the audience walk up and find seats?
All these pointers will impact the sports event’s overall success and how you market it.
Best practices for marketing a sports event
Once you have determined your target audience, goals, and event practicalities, you’re ready for marketing. Here are some of the best tools and strategies to help you market your sports event, along with insight on how to use or implement them.
1. Social media
Few marketing tools are more effective than social media — as long as you keep your event goals and target audience in mind. With the right strategy in place, social media marketing can be the difference between a good turnout and a great one. Bear in mind that there are tools to help you with your social media campaign.
Many factors go into a successful social media campaign. When designing your campaign, it’s helpful to break the process down into simple steps.
Organic social media marketing
Before turning to paid advertising, consider developing social media buzz organically. Posting to a Facebook group, Instagram account, or other such sites is a great way to spread the word about your event without spending a dime. Interactive content like videos, polls and prize contests helps drive engagement. Depending on the event, informational posts alone might fit the bill. You can also entice your target audience with teaser content, such as interviews with the players and sponsors.
If you’re not sure where to start, Facebook is a popular platform for event marketing. Indeed, on Facebook, you can create an event — and make sure you choose a catchy name for it! However, it’s not the only option. YouTube remains a fantastic site for videos, whereas Instagram specializes in photography. Try to match your medium to the right social media platform.
Whatever else you include, you need pictures. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Eye-catching images allow you to show off merchandise. You can make attendees feel included by featuring their photos from past events. Adding photos to emails boosts sales, and adding pictures specifically of customers dramatically increases the email open rate.
Consider trying to engage any influencers who may be interested in your event. When meeting influencers, you don’t want to overdo it, and you want to make a good first impression — both of yourself and the event. Be sure you have everything that they need to know ready when you first approach them.
Once you know what and where to post, you want to market your event consistently. A one-and-done is never enough, yet you don’t want to overdo it. Instead, post just enough to stay on people’s minds. There is no universal best time to post on social media, but there are helpful guides for breaking down when your target audience is likely to be using sites like Facebook.
2. Email marketing
Online tools other than social media can help you market your sports event. Email marketing is a great tool, especially for recurring events. Tools like email automation can help you work smarter, not harder.
Creating an email series generates buzz and reminds people when events are coming up. Announcement emails should summarize what’s going on, why people should be excited, and what they should do next (call to action).
If the sports team has a website, use it to promote upcoming events. Fans of the team likely already check the website, giving you a built-in audience. You may also consider building your own website, which isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Today’s website builders can help you get your website up and running quickly.
4. Offline marketing in a digital world
Though the world today tends toward the digital, offline marketing methods still have their place when marketing a sports event. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Posters and Fliers
One of the main offline marketing methods involves the use of posters and fliers. There are countless places in every community where you can hang hard-copy advertisements — from your coffee shop’s community board to the bulletin boards at city hall.
When you design your posters and fliers, be sure to make them catchy and colorful. A single word can make all the difference. For example, “Firefighters’ Softball Tournament” is a far more attractive title than just “Softball Tournament.”
Include pictures or graphics that highlight all of the event’s most important features. Will there be a raffle for ticket holders? Are the Girl Scouts going to be on hand with their delicious cookies for sale? This information belongs on the poster.
Remember that less is often more. You don’t need to give your prospective audience an event dissertation; highlight what they can expect at your sports event. The goal is to paint an image of the event for the mind’s delight.
Word of mouth
Another useful offline marketing tool is word of mouth. Everyone knows someone who knows everyone. Engage these people, and ask them to help you spread the word about your event. Start by asking the players and event sponsors for help since they have a vested interest in making the event all that it can be.
If you’re raising money for your local school, get the teachers and staff involved in event promotion. The possibilities for word-of-mouth marketing are numerous — just be sure to keep your goals and target audience in mind!
Finally, don’t forget about potential sponsors. Think about any businesses or institutions that may want to lend their name and donate to your event. With this, you can generate more excitement and revenue for your sports event and increase your marketing reach.
The bottom line
The most important thing to remember is that this is all supposed to be fun. You’re marketing a good time, so your promotions should be fun for your audience too.
People today are inundated with content and information, both online and in the real world. If your marketing can give them humorous or inspirational breaks from all that noise, then your event is sure to be a success.
For more tips and marketing advice, check out The Download, our free guide to making sense of online marketing.