Sports marketing remains one of the most effective advertising channels for franchises because it targets specific consumer segments while also tapping into fan loyalty, which helps franchises increase marketing reach and build community good will.
Sports fans are loyal and economically and emotionally attached to their favourite teams and athletes. Franchise brands can take advantage of these unique characteristics through sponsorship, endorsements, or sports advertising, resulting in greater brand awareness and loyalty from sports fans.
Digital sports marketing for franchises
Sports marketing may seem like a very traditional mode of advertising, and in some ways it is. Marketers have been aligning themselves with sports leagues, teams and athletes for decades. But sports marketing is also at the cutting edge of digital marketing.
Star athletes can align themselves with your franchise by wearing your logo or appearing in commercials, but they can also promote online through social media to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers.
Before new media the number of avenues for an athlete to promote a franchise was highly restricted. For example, Shaq couldn’t walk onto the court eating a Big Mac. But, with new media, he could post a selfie at McDonalds or even live tweet himself enjoying a meal. And the effect on consumers is greater than ever. 78% of fans are more likely to have a positive opinion of brands that they see on social media via their favourite teams or athletes.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Russell Scibettie, founder of TheBusinessOfSports.com and VP of Product Strategy at KORE Software summed up the advantage of sports marketing in the digital age, explaining that, “social media has given athletes a very public and direct line of communication to their fans, so the brands endorsing these athletes want to tap into that conversation more and more. The size of an athlete’s social following is incredibly valuable” to both the athlete and to potential sponsors. According to Julie Frank, manager of marketing and public relations at Navigate Research, “fans are 164 percent more likely to be influenced to purchase a sponsor brand if recalled through social media.”
Franchises are perfectly poised to promote themselves via social media. Large franchises are more easily identified by fans and can be recognized on a local, national or global level. A player doesn’t have to be seen wearing your clothing, eating your food or even be in the same room as your product. All they have to do is ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘retweet’.
Papa Johns and Peyton Manning
There is perhaps no better example of the success of sports marketing for franchises than Peyton Manning and Papa John’s Pizza. Two years after becoming the official sponsor of the NFL, Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos quarterback, became the proud owner of 21 Papa John’s outlets in the Denver area.
After winning the Super Bowl, Manning said on national television “I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that.” A statement which is valued at more than $3 million in ‘brand recognition value’. If a brief mention is worth that much we can only guess how much it was worth when the first person Manning hugged after his Super Bowl victory was Papa John himself – a controversial hug that sparked national and international debate.
Canadian sports marketing for franchises
Sports marketing elicits a unique level of loyalty and emotional commitment from fans, but it also has a huge reach. In Canada, according to Bell Media, some of the most watched television events are sports related. 8.26 million Canadians watched the Super Bowl, 5.95 million watched the IIHF World Junior Championship, 5.08 million watched Game 6 between the Jays and Kansas City, 4.06 million watched the 103rd Grey Cup and 2.97 million watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup – talk about exposure opportunity!
The franchise advantage
While independent businesses or individual franchises may not be able to afford sponsoring national, or international stars, part of the beauty of franchising is centralising marketing costs. A group of franchises (or the head office itself) can pool funds to afford to advertise with major teams or individual stars. Further, by pooling resources, franchises gain greater negotiating power, and can strike better deals than their independent competitors. For these reasons franchises have an advantage over other businesses when it comes to sports marketing.
Attracting new franchisees is a critical part of any growing organization. Advertising franchise opportunities can be tricky. There are many laws and regulations that restrict what can and cannot be said. That is why general brand awareness is so important. The same advertising that attracts new customers will also attract potential franchisees.
Your biggest battle is exposing your brand to the right audience. You need to attract individuals who can add value to your franchise and, of course, have the financial means to take on a new franchise.
Part of the value of sports advertising is that it is a highly segmented demographic. You can target specific groups by advertising with certain sports. Fortunately for Canadian businesses looking to attract franchisees, fans of the NHL are the wealthiest, and thus most financially capable of pursing franchise opportunities.
About 33% of NHL viewers make more than US $100,000 per year, compared to just 19% of the general population. Thus, targeting NHL fans instantly increases the number of potential franchises by over 10% compared to the general population. Then, by targeting your advertising to the most expensive seats (or corporate boxes), you can exponentially increase the percentage of your audience that is financially capable of pursing a franchise opportunity.
In addition to targeting potential franchisees, sports marketing enables franchises to target specific customer demographics. For example, almost 35% of MLS fans are Hispanic, college sports fans are about 80% white (and 40% are over 55), golf fans are the oldest, whereas 45% of NBA fans are under 35 (and 45% are African Canadian).
This demographic data is an important consideration. You should choose your target demographic and then select the appropriate sport to maximize your reach.
Local sports marketing
You don’t need the budget of a multinational chain to take advantage of sports advertising. If you are looking to attract your first franchisee, or own one local franchise, sponsoring a local team might be a better option.
Sponsoring local sports teams is a positive way of engaging communities and potential customers. It builds goodwill and, in some cases, even allows your franchise to take advantage of tax incentives – and all this for a relatively low price. Sponsoring local sports teams can cost between $100 to $5,000.
Hockey advertising in Canada
Sponsoring a local team won’t net you global broadcast exposure, or get Crosby to retweet your latest campaign, but you’ll still enjoy a sizeable local reach.
What better sport to emphasize the reach of local sports marketing in Canada than hockey? Kate Nematollahi, the marketing director at National Alliance For Youth Sports reports that 1,239,000 Canadians over the age of 15 play hockey for 37,500 different teams in organised leagues? Now take into consideration their families and friends that watch them and you have access to a healthy local audience for a relatively small investment.
According to Nematollahi, 48% of Canadians consider hockey to be “an important source of personal or collective pride in Canada.” Marketing your company through sponsoring a local rink or team (at any level from Timbits to the NHL) allows your brand to become part of that “personal or collective” pride. And let’s remember that local hockey is not just a male sport. Between 1990 and 2013 female hockey registration has grown 967% in Canada .
Best of all, sponsoring a local team could genuinely help young athletes and your community.
Advantages of sports marketing for franchises
Whether a six-figure sponsorship deal with an international star or a $200 investment in your local hockey league, sports marketing has serious benefits for franchises looking to reach customers and potential franchisees.