Humans are passionate about various things, some more so than others, and in pursuit of which we push ourselves to think and feel outside of our comfort zones. Some choose to keep passion (or hobby) separate from their profession but I’ve always found that hard to do. I’ve even gone so far as to claim marketing as my passion, but upon reflection, there’s one interest that has been truly inspirational and all-consuming (when appropriate) in my life – sport.
From a young age, I have had a broad-reaching interest in sport. In fact, my first job was in sports marketing and I will always hold that fondly in my heart. From football to cricket, and any ball game in general, I have probably spent about a solid year of my life watching professional sports programming, which isn’t much if you think about it. But the impact it has had on me is quite significant indeed.
Over time, those invested hours and the narrative around them have shaped how I think and approach challenges – both in my personal and professional life. As a marketer, anything I see outside of work generally gets scrutinised in similar parameters as they would when on the clock. Within this context, watching sport means noticing sponsor boards, player endorsement deals, tactile stadium experiences and the list goes on. For the purpose of this blog, here are four tenants of sports that I have looked at when looking for inspiration time and time again.
Watching people from all walks of life, band together and bond over a shared love of a sports team is always a remarkable thing. Flowing beyond stadia and television, the loyalty they display extends to merchandise purchase, attending events, general advocacy to entire lifestyles in some instances.
In B2B marketing, it can be difficult to build a base of advocates, not many people want to talk about their service providers in social settings. In contrast, there are examples out there to aspire to – companies like Salesforce and Adobe even tier their ardent fans, almost gamifying the experience.
When thinking about your brand, there are many tools to explore as a platform for your ‘fans’ – testimonials, case studies, social sharing – and your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for your audience to wear your colours.
Every team is only as strong as their weakest link. Organisational leaders will always look to the collective impact of their ‘team’ in delivering against company objectives. What gets missed at times, is the overall customer experience that your brand facilitates.
How can you make sure your team is playing cohesively? It is important that B2B marketers identify (and then measure) the touchpoints your customers engage with and thoroughly vet and optimise each touchpoint for consistency and quality.
Just as a team of sports players must conduct themselves professionally, contribute to the community, align their personal brands with the appropriate associates – similarly it’s important to empower your team to engage your audience in the right manner, from the people answering phones (or chats) to events that you associate with and the messaging that is applied across these touchpoints. Beyond this – where are the opportunities to embolden your staff to wear your colours with pride, be it on social media, their personal networks and when meeting prospects and clients alike.
Sports stars are masters of practice, and similarly, marketing is a study of continual improvement. Just as David Beckham practised free kicks into tyres, Michael Jordan practised free throws into waste bins* and Michael Schumacher had his start in go-karts – marketers need to flex (and relax) their marketing efforts to improve. There is no better time than today to keep a ‘test-and-learn’ mindset. No one has the answer to the perfect marketing and communications strategy and channel selection. If you don’t have the capability in-house, find a partner who understands multiple channels and has case studies to back that up.
Don’t forget, beyond campaigns, the ‘learning mindset’ extends to areas such as measuring content engagement, and the effect of creative and data currency. Use tools that can make measuring your touchpoints easier. All the better to market to your audience with!
Like marketing, sports brands are involved in elaborate sponsor/partnerships – heavily driven by revenue, they align with other brands that are of interest to their fans. This multi-billion-dollar business has globally spawned some iconic brand associations such as the NFL Superbowl advertising roster – Rolex and IBM with the golf masters and locally, Toyota’s sponsorship and activation around the AFL.
Naturally, the best measure is fan engagement – here’s one of my favourites – a prominent NFL player Marshawn Lynch was known for guzzling Skittles after every touchdown (fans even began throwing Skittles onto the field to celebrate his touchdowns). Skittles then collaborated with the player to capitalise on the association of success and their product.
At Green Hat, we’ve had success in partnering with a range of organisations such as Adobe and Salesforce (technology platforms), the Australian Marketing Institute (industry research association), Kiva (Not-for-profit for entrepreneurs) and sponsored industry events such as the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum. When it comes to B2B marketing, take some time to speak to your customers, ask them about what matters to them and then find brands that culturally and strategically align with your company values. As with any association, there must be benefits on both sides and cross-promotions should be peppered throughout your marketing communications. The right partnerships, executed well, will generate both brand growth and revenue.
In summary, your own passions can be a great source of inspiration to approach and engage your audience. Our work and our personal lives might be separate, but there is no reason you can’t draw inspiration at home to feed your professional development – both within your own career path and for the brands you are currently a custodian of.