Sports Marketing: high time it went mobile!

Sports marketers are lucky in the sense that their audience is generally engaged with the brand‪— users that are active, involved and happy to participate in a brand’s promotion. Every day hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe support their team at sporting arenas, and millions more sit in front of their TV and enjoy a match.

Inevitably, conversations follow about the previous night’s game in offices and schools, coffee shops and restaurants. In fact, saying that sports have become the opiate of the masses may not be an exagerration.

Given the high level of engagement by sports fans, what happens when the world of sports and mobile marketing meet? How does mobile change the way in which fans interact with their favorite team, and how can a sport brand utilize the immense power given to it by mobile?

It comes as no surprise that the way was paved by American companies and showcased in America’s biggest sports event‪— the Super Bowl. A huge conversation sprung up on the web about exactly how Super Bowl fans would engage with the event using their mobile phones.

A survey conducted by Velti on the topic showed that 30% of people under 45 planned to watch the game with their phone in hand. Nearly half of those aged 18 and older predicted they would check or use their device up to 10 times during the game. Following the game, mobile app analytics company Flurry found that nearly one-third of the U.S. population used an app during the Super Bowl, with this number increasing exponentially over the first three quarters. That’s 100 million + users who were already highly engaged and had their phones at the ready.

But how do sport brands actually use mobile?

According to a report published by VisionMobile in 2011, there are 3 stages to adopting a mobile strategy, the thirdof which was particularly compelling to us.

Initially, the companies considering mobile don’t necessarily think of an app as a way to “advertise” their services or their product‪— they just need an app.  At this Newbie stage, brands haven't yet figured out how they could incorporate the mobile strategy into their overall marketing strategy, yet alone ways in which they could monetize the app.

Once the first mobile apps are out, the brands start to demand more. As the second step in their mobile journey, they want to become “experts” ,i.e. brands with successful digital businesses, whose mobile strategy is integrated early on into their overall strategy.

We set out to investigate whether football brands, for one, in Europe have actually reached the “experts” point in their approach to mobile. the results were surprising.

We took a look in the google play and itunes in a quest to find all official team apps. We realized that there weren’t so many so we separated football apps, in three categories, official apps launched by the team, fan apps that were designed and developed by a fan club and news apps that focused on delivering club related news. We focused mainly on the major Europe Leagues.

Eventhough Spain is considered to have one of the most competitive leagues, they don't really given mobile so much thought, with only 21% of the teams offering an official app. Germany on the other hand rules the mobile app league with more than two thirds of the teams offering an official app for their fans. In England on the other hand six out of ten teams offer an afficial app.

Sport brands in Europe seem to have a soft spot for Android, since the majority (61%) of the apps was developed for Android.

Ok so you we got an app, now what? takes mobile marketing for sports into the future by giving Sport brands the ability to directly communicate messages and offers to their fans with rich HTML 5 push notifications, opening a new and highly-active revenue stream for teams.

It’s all about supporting and nurturing a community around your sport brand, and presenting offers to your clients that are not only relevant to their interests, but also will lead to monetization opportunities.

Imagine having the ability to send marketing campaigns like the following directly to a fan’s smartphone:

  • Videos of the coaches pregame statements
  • Videos of goals
  • Live scores & updates
  • Post-game player statements

In addition to creating a direct communication channel with their fans, sport brands who leverage mobile are in a position to engage their fans by utilizing smart game concepts and in-app purchases.

This includes campaigns designed with a  sweepstakes mechanism like:

  • Offers to purchase directly official goods like balls and jerseys (i.e. Buy our jersey before the match ends and get 50% off).
  • Campaigns designed to increase in-store traffic (i.e. Go to the official team store and scan a product for a chance to win it).

Using game dynamics, sport brands can tap into a new revenue stream by designing marketing campaigns that could monetize through premium SMS, including:

  • Sending a campaign to all app users: Follow our team at the next away match, participate in a contest and win game and airline tickets for our next away match, and so on;
  • Or sending a campaign to app users in the stadium : Send a premium SMS for a chance to see the match sitting next to the bench.

The opportunities for cross branding and cross promotions are obvious since teams have been working together with airlines, athletic and apparel brands and banks for a long time.

Mobile subscribers are sophisticated, savvy and ready to accept mobile marketing efforts that stand to improve their lives. Interaction with their favorite teams is an important part of fans’ lives.

By making it easy for fans to find what they're looking for - whether this is information and news about the team or where the next match takes place -  brands can infiltrate their daily lives and become the go-to mobile resources they crave.

Mobile marketing in 2012 should be about two things: opening the lines of communication, and providing value. Do this, and sports fans will flock to what your brand has to offer.

One-touch calls-to-action delivered to a sports’ brand audience can be immensely powerful from a marketing point of view and can create an exciting new revenue stream for a sports team.


George currently plans and executes the marketing and communication strategy of Warply.

He is a specialist in digital and mobile marketing, advertising and media having worked on a wide variety of projects including developing mobile strategies, creating products and services, and implementing initiatives for a wide variety of clients

He is organizing Startup Weekend University in Athens as well as London Startup Weekend where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out in an intense weekend if their startup ideas are viable.

As an adjunct professor at Panteion University of Social Sciences, he has designed and taught a course that focuses on inbound and mobile marketing while at the same time aims at introducing students to entrepreneurship and startup culture.

George has studied at the Athens University of economics and Business and received a masters degree in Marketing and Communication. Over the past 10 years he has designed and executed digital marketing plans in mobile, travel, e-commerce, fashion and health care industry, consulting companies on how they can build an effective digital strategy using the integration of content, search, social, video, and mobile platforms. He is currently investigating how mobile is disrupting most established business models, focusing on mobile advertising, loyalty schemes, payments and m-commerce.