Wake up Sport: Don’t skimp on the hype

This is a guest post by Aalina Tabani, Assistant Director of Marketing for UNLV Athletics. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram: @aaleenz

We’ve seen it time and time again, the season looks promising, prospects are healthy, coaches rave about their squad depth and fans gear up for a season that’ll be different than all the rest.

But what happens when that season begins to plummet? When you’re heading towards a crucial stretch that effectively determines the next two months of your season? Where does a sports team find that golden ticket to buy their way out of impending disaster?  And how do sports marketers, communications specialists and fundraisers alike overturn the Achilles heel that is a losing team?

After years of promises, months of anticipation, and thousands of dollars spent to promote a team that only disappoints, attendances go down and the growth of the organization can go right along with it.

While sports fans around the globe maintain a deep and unwavering loyalty towards their teams, every facet of our industry struggles with the same challenges. We can all understand how the competitive changes in our teams affect the profitability of our organization.

So what do we do? How do we, as industry leaders in the world of sports entertainment, fight the fire?

We empty our pockets, collect the change, and bet big.

Starting with Sponsors

Sponsors should go with teams like peanut butter goes with jelly. After all, every leading quarterback is still only as good as the depth of his team, right? So why should a business partner function any differently? As a sponsorship / sales executive, it’s important to remember that you sell the athletic brand to the business, not the business to the athletic brand. Develop relationships with partners that allow you to market more opportunities within the game that matter.

Forget boring, mindless reads that no one in your stands is paying attention to. Forget ball presentations and random promotions that create more work for your audience to follow than they care for. Develop opportunities that will drive fans directly back into a partner’s business. Create a relationship that teaches those in the stadium that they’re rewarded not just for their team’s ability to win, but for their loyalty, too. No one pays attention to sales jargon anymore: if it sounds like an ad, scrap it, because chances are, you’ve already lost 50% of your audience.

Use Money to Market

A word to the wise, scared money doesn’t make any money. Marketing isn’t about slapping “Saturday at 10 AM” on a billboard and hoping it drives a disconnected audience to your game. If you give people a reason to care about you, they’ll look for the information, themselves. Spend money on what matters. That means, giveaways that people actually want or half time performers that are somewhat relevant to the growing generation. Also, let’s not forget the traditions which go along with the culture of each sport.

As ridiculous as it may sound, it’s important to remind fans of the classic experience each sport has to offer. Never underestimate the power of stadium hospitality to your attendance and revenue. Proper food and ice cold beverages are vital to the success of a sporting event.

It’s also time to do away with media buys that don’t return. Forget about print, times have changed. Familiarize yourself with the world of promoted social media advertising. Learn how to Snapchat. And please, for the love of God, stop flooding fan inboxes with 100 of the same emails. The occasional blast, sent strategically, during a peak time-frame is highly effective. But everything else? Trash. Don’t fill the content of your advertising with the same sales-jargon we’ve all heard one thousand times before. We’re fully aware that “Tickets are On Sale Now” or that we should “Act Now Before it’s Too Late”. If creativity isn’t your strong-suit, well, find new employment. No one is saying it’s necessary to rid your ad placements of pertinent information like appealing ticket prices, intriguing game themes and highly coveted giveaways…but mix it up!

Entertain the crowd

When was the last time you saw a concert? Was it just a guy, with a guitar, on a stage, rocking a solo? Were their lights, surround sound or a backdrop? There’s a reason why live entertainment comes bundled up with a comprehensive package of sensations. Sports are no different. Instead of focusing on the team actually driving momentum on the scoreboard, focus on engaging your audience so they celebrate every pass completed like David Beckham scoring from the halfway line. Promotions are fun and sometimes encouraging kids to perform stunts on the field is even mildly amusing. But more often than not, the stands are clearing at every break for people who can’t wait to get their hands on some food.

Change the atmosphere. Play songs that drive the tone of the environment. Scrap anything slow, get rid of Taylor Swift and find something that gets the adrenaline pumping. Cut the lights! Use a smoker, throw some confetti; for God’s sake, light a fire and smoke the other team out!

Use your in-game host. They’re the face of the night, the energy of the brand and the one personality everyone in the stadium should be drawn to. Make your hype-man someone the audience will want to find. And lastly, use that video board like it hinges on your every breath. People LOVE behind the scenes action; throw up a few 30-second clips of your guys on the field doing outrageously ridiculous things in training. The chances are your audience will think less of that long line waiting at concessions afterwards.

At the end of the day, it isn’t about giving people the same things they’ve had for years. If you’re like every other athletic organization in the world, you’ve had your ups and downs. It happens. That’s what the world of sports is. The key is to stop your fans from thinking about your failures. Change the subject. Force your fans to look at you differently. Instead of visioning your team as a hit or a miss, help them to envision a lively atmosphere.

In the end, if the bar across the street that always serves cheap pints, even though the chips are salty and the beer is never ice cold, you don’t go back because it’s a culinary wonder, you go back because it’s always a good time.

Like I said, change the game. Make it fun, make it exciting, and make it unforgettable.

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