It is hard to believe that Facebook and Twitter have only been around for 5+ years and the Internet less than 20 years. Our lives have changed in the last 5 years and so has the way that Sports teams and Athletes interact with fans and participants. Sports Marketing and Digital Marketing in Sports has changed from the days of TV Advertising, Radio Advertising and Newspaper columns to reach fans. Communicating with Fans and participants has become so much easier and instantaneous. With Facebook Fan pages, YouTube Channels, Mobile Media and iPhone Applications, SMS and MMS channels you and your fans can be in constant communication. We now place the way a Sports Fan or participant communicates in their own hands, they determine the method that works best for them, we as business owners, and marketers do not.
Of course everyone in a community follows one team or another, if you’re an Ohio State Buckeye’s fan the people around you know it and you participate in anything from Twitter meet-ups to LinkedIn groups dedicated to your school. Companies are realizing the benefits of these communities and are creating them for those that follow their brands or creating communities so more people will interact with their brands. Two companies that are at the forefront of this are Nike and Rebook.
A pioneer in the Digital Marketing is Nike. Nike created an entire division dedicated to developing technology that allows users to track their participation in sports and fitness and integrate the results into a communication process through Facebook and Twitter to broadcast the results. Through all of this Nike is creating a mega channel for data that can be used by marketers. Nike is building on-line communities for wearers of the new Nike Fuel to interact with other owners of the product. Nike was very successful with the Nike+ in creating a community that allowed Nike to gather data to target marketing to those who regularly provided feedback on their logged runs and created incentives for runners to participate in competitions against others in the Nike+ community, bring followers back to the Nike site over and over again. Participants broadcasted their results on Twitter and Facebook and encouraged Friends to provide “Cheering” or challenged Facebook Friends to get in on the experience by joining the Nike+ community. This built additional brand awareness for Nike and put them on the forefront of Digital Marketing.
Rebook is another brand that has tapped into the digital community of an underground fitness crazy CrossFit. Rebook became the initial sponsor of CrossFit in 2010 and launching the partnership with a shoes and clothing line during the 2012 Superbowl. CrossFit is a social media networking crazy in-and-of it-self, with WOD, CrossFit games and barebones gyms. Instead of changing what CrossFit is, Rebook is embracing the CrossFit culture with the partnership. Rebook is bringing CrossFit to everyone with large shipping containers being dropped all over the country for people to try out the sport, most times locations only learned about via social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter.
So what as Sports Marketing professionals can we learn from all of this? Don’t stop believing in the next big digital marketing method. Find a way to engage your customers now in a community, whether you are a professional sports team, a marathon or fitness crazy, find a way to build a community for your current fans and for your future fans to interact. All the while you will be collecting data on them. How to use the data will be another Oprah Show in Sports Marketing.