Stop Calling It "Sports Marketing"
Updated: Feb 20
When my mother asks me to remind her what I do for a living, I have typically responded with “sports marketing.” Her response is to smile with a look of mild confusion. In these moments, I’m reasonably certain she wishes I would respond with something she can more easily explain to her friends. You know, something like “banker” or “nuclear engineer” or “burger flipper”. Anything but “sports marketer.” It’s too nebulous.
And I think she’s got a point.
The phrase “sports marketing” is simultaneously incredibly specific and broadly meaningless. Specific in that is says exactly what it is, meaningless in that encompasses so many things as to lose relevance. This produces confusion, and then, at times, disregard.
This is particularly true when corporate partnerships are involved. The folks involved in partnership sales for sports properties are all too familiar with the impact. Here’s what they hear: “We don’t do ‘sports marketing’” or ‘we don’t have a ‘sports marketing’ budget.”
The perception is, generally, one of two things:
Sports marketing has never been part of their marketing plans.
Sports marketing is a luxury that only the world’s largest brands can make use of.
Classifying the work we do as “sports marketing” unnecessarily boxes us in with the preconceived, frequently inaccurate assumptions people make about the discipline.
So stop calling it “sports marketing” and simply call it what it is: “marketing.” Sports is just the channel in which we work.
One of the things that makes this work so powerful is that it takes every single form of marketing and wraps it around the central theme of sports. It doesn’t matter what the size of a company is, what the marketing team is trying to accomplish, or what kind of KPIs will be evaluated. We’ve got a solution.
Need help with a social media campaign? Done. Drive traffic to stores? Simple. Increase brand awareness? Child’s play. Entertain B2B clients? Walk this way. Highlight community good works? Got it. Launch a new product? Done it a hundred times. Make it harder for a competitor to gain traction? Can do. And on and on and on.
The fact that sports overlays all these solutions makes it more compelling. In an increasingly fractured media environment (how many streaming services are there now…? ), and with attention spans getting shorter (ok, not goldfish short, but still), marketers need content that will draw people in. And nothing does that better than sports.
There’s no need to hem ourselves in with the phrase “sports marketing.” We’re in the marketing solutions business. Sports is just the channel in which we work.