What marketers should take away from this year’s Summer of Sport

What marketers should take away from this year’s Summer of Sport
Nick joined Rakuten Marketing in August 2013 as Director of Service Strategy; responsible for cross-product strategy as well as heading up the team that manages our Network in France and Germany. Prior to joining Rakuten Marketing, Nick was at Tradedoubler for 6 years, where he held a variety of roles in the international and local UK teams.

(c)iStock.com/Leonardo Patriz

As Team GB celebrate their record haul at the Rio Olympics, the 2016 ‘Summer of Sport’ that has seen global crowds gather for the Euros and Wimbledon approaches its final, Paralympic stage.

As spectators, it’s been a roller coaster of early knockouts and ‘Super Saturdays’, but as marketers, what can we learn from sport and its international audience?

When it comes to tournaments such as these, brands are presented with a unique opportunity to flex their muscles in front of a new and wider audience.

But with so many rival brands in the same race, marketers need to play to their strengths and develop stand out strategies if they plan to win over the crowd.

According to the Brazilian Central Bank, tourists spent $1.586bn during the World Cup and this figure is expected to be replicated again, with 80% of tourists that visited the Olympics having anticipated a spend higher than their regular holidays.

This presents vast opportunities for brands to target high spending tourists.

To make the most of these opportunities offered by sporting events, advertisers should establish mobile-first campaigns, partnerships and incentives whilst also ensuring agility in their approach.

Mobile brings brand to fans everywhere

Whether fans are organising travel to see their country compete or watching the footage from across the globe, they will want access to the latest updates wherever they are – and this is where mobile’s role is so crucial.

When it comes to online communication, our research into sports tourism booking habits showed that nearly two thirds (63%) of respondents did indeed use mobile devices for their Olympic Games research and travel arrangements, with 58% also using tablet devices.

Whilst this goes a long way in proving marketers are honed in on the right platforms at the start of the customer journey, when it comes to purchasing, the research shows that fans migrate from mobile and tablet devices to book via desktop, indicating a residual trust for this older platform.

Marketers must pay attention to the channels being used by sports fans to plan these trips. Mobile messaging chat groups, for instance, were used by well over a third (37%) of sports tourists planning trips this summer.

Unlike normal web traffic that’s attributed to a known source such as Facebook or Instagram, these private chat groups cannot be tracked by analytics tools.

It’s estimated that 84% of content in the UK is shared via ‘dark social’, however the only real indicator of this is when a customer lands directly on a specific webpage without having clicked through another marketing channel first.

Dark social could be one of the most valuable sources of social insights because it represents the real interests of the person sharing and receiving content.  It’s a prime tool for consumers planning sports tourism trips so it’s imperative that marketers don’t overlook the power of this channel.

Partnerships and incentives

Our research also found that the majority of sports tourists either start or end their trip with cultural or other traditional holiday activities and well over half (68%) plan to extend their travel in order to sightsee, shop, dine and sunbathe.

For marketers, this presents an opportunity for partnerships with other brands across the hospitality and tourism industries, including promotions with airlines, restaurants and tour operators.

When it comes to incentives, such as vouchers, air miles and cashback, over a third (34%) of sports fans utilise promotions and the same amount also champion cashback offers, whilst just under a third (30%) do not take advantage of either when arranging their trip.

These promotions become even more powerful when they are shareable.

A fun hashtag that incorporates both your brand and the event or athletes can encourage consumers to share, which not only provides additional reach and visibility, but also allows marketers to gather data on their likes, dislikes, and where they like to ‘hang out’ online.

It’s worth noting, however, that even under the IOC’s amended Rule 40, the Olympic rings, and terms such as ‘Olympics’, ‘games’ and ‘gold’ are set to remain off limits to all but official sponsors throughout the Paralympics and beyond.

Fast reactive marketing

Much like Superbowl Ads, timing is of particular importance at the Olympic Games due to its limited ‘shelf life’. Marketers need to be aware and on top of the latest trending topics.

For example, with fears surrounding the Zika virus epidemic, Off! acted promptly by voicing public warnings which resulted in the bug spray becoming the official insect repellent of the Olympic Games.

This reach stretches further than Rio, with Bug! OOH advertising also being displayed in pharmacies across New York where the virus isn’t even a threat.

If marketers don’t capitalise on multichannel strategies at these international sporting peaks, no matter how clever the campaign may be, the customer experience will still be fragmented, lack engagement and damage the ability to build long-lasting relationships with customers.

However, it is of vital importance that the right audience is targeted with personalised and relevant content.

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