Sport + Marketing = UNIQUENESS

I have never taken a sport marketing class, let alone taught one….. so I found the opportunity to teach it this semester at West Virginia Wesleyan College an intriguing challenge.  Besides, I’ve studied, taught and practiced marketing for years, so this shouldn’t be that much different, right?


Sport marketing is founded on primary key marketing principles, but with a specialized focus and strategies.  In reality, every product has a unique focus and requires particular strategies to effectively meet customer wants and needs and communicate with the identified target audience…. which also happens to be unique for every product.  I think that is why I love marketing so much.  There is always the promise of change and something different.  You never know which way the wind is going to blow.  How you market in healthcare is different from retail.  The marketing objectives will be different for a non-profit than for a company out to make a profit.  A new product requires special promotional strategies that inform consumers where a well-established brand that’s been around for decades may only need to remind consumers their product is still the best on the market.

I knew sport marketing would require thinking outside of a different type of box.

Being one who is willing to take chances and try something new, I welcomed the challenge of teaching this course during the Spring semester.  Add in that I love sports, and that working with sports is fun and exciting, my enthusiasm skyrocketed.  And as if that wasn’t already enough, the fact that I have AWESOME students in the class put the icing on the cake.

As I started digging into this interesting world of sport marketing, I was truly amazed at the statistics I’ve found about the sport industry as a whole.  I knew it was popular… I am a sport widow from the first NCAA football kick-off in August until the end of March Madness.  But I didn’t fully grasp the considerable impact sport has on the economy and social engagement. Here is some of the information I discovered….

Economic Impact

Research conducted by Statista shows that projected revenue this year for American sport teams and clubs to exceed $26 billion.


Darren Heitner with Forbes Magazine reported projections of revenue of the North American sports industry, as a whole, to reach $73.5 billion by 2019.  This revenue will be generated through ticket sales, media rights, merchandising and sponsorship.  WOW!! That’s a lot of popcorn and peanuts!!

Who are the big players in the sport industry? You guessed it… pro football.  According to the Harris Poll, Sunday afternoons, Monday night and the Super Bowl reign as king of sport in America.  Although holding onto second most favorite sport, baseball – the great American pastime – has seen a decline over the past 30 years of nearly 10%.  NCAA football, auto racing and the NBA are not ranked too far behind in the next three spots sequentially.

Social Impact with Marketing Strategies

Finally, social engagement and technology continues to make an impact on the increased awareness of and fan participation in sports.  During Stanford University’s Sports Innovation Conference in 2014, the 5 top trends driving the sport industry were discussed.  One of those trends I found especially interesting is the increased use to develop deeper engagement with fans through social media and technology. During his speech at the conference, ESPN’s executive VP, John Kosner stated

“43% of’s audience came to them exclusively through mobile devices the previous month.”

What is this telling us? Fans are checking scores and watching highlights all the time from everywhere through the use of mobile devices. And this trend of technological social engagement is increasing.  The social landscape has changed in that fans want and share information about their favorite – as well as not-so-favorite – teams at their convenience.  They’re no longer waiting to glimpse at scores on the PC when they get to work or watch the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen from their recliner at home…. They get their information and engage with their teams on the go, when and where they want it.  Fans are emotional about their teams, so they want to know scores and rankings ASAP requiring sport organizations and media to just try to keep up.

As I peruse these stats, read articles and research on this very special form of marketing, I’m continuously and increasingly amazed at how fast everything is moving.  Revenues, sport rankings, fan engagement… the variables involved with marketing this unique product calls for tremendous creativity, thorough understanding of the target audience as well as the product itself and fast, timely communication and engagement with that target audience.  All this makes sport marketing exciting!!  As my class and I go further into the semester, I find this course of study even more intriguing and interesting.  It’s definitely a new and stimulating spin on marketing.

I believe there could be a correlation between the increased revenues with the unique engagement with fans. Do you think there is a link between the two?  Is increased interaction between the fans, media and sport organizations one of the causes of the increased ticket sales??


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