Sports Starts: Sports Marketing 101
By Rene Concepcion
There are very few brands of blue jeans that fit great from the get-go. Some recommend multiple turns on the washing machine before wearing, so that the jeans get the soft, worn-for-years feel that everybody loves about their favorite pair. Some designers have incorporated the distressed-look already, with the holes and tears in designated spots. But nothing works quite like wearing a pair all the time for a long, long time. They become part of you, and like Indiana Jones’ hat and leather jacket, they might even symbolize you.
If you think you’ve stumbled into the wrong section, expecting to read about sports, fear not, you are not in a retail store advertorial. You are still going to get insights about Steph and LeBron; Serena and Roger. First names that don’t need surnames because they’ve become so familiar to us. Their lives have been written about, viewed by millions on YouTube and TV; some have had both documentaries and Hollywood films made about them, and their faces are all over the place (your phone, billboards, and even cereal boxes) that losing them from our consciousness is like having to buy a new pair of jeans. How can anyone replace an Ali or a Jordan? Is it possible to have another PacMan?
So here comes a global sports marketing machinery that will want to do just that: discover, create, hype, and nurture the next sports superstar, recognized in any type of community, just like anyone knows what a small white “f” with a blue background means, or simply when you say the word swoosh. One billion followers: a marketing director’s ultimate nocturnal emission. Even if each tweet or the highest trending hashtag earned a fraction of a fraction of a penny each, that’s still pretty good bank. Besides, these stars are practically trending daily, even if within their own sport or community, if not yet globally.
Learn from using your favorite jeans. Allow it the time to become comfortable, to have the right color and the appropriate contours especially when you’ve added a little weight. There is no way to manufacture that, just like you cannot find another lanky Jamaican who can run faster than anyone in the world, have the most appropriate last name, and despite the cocky personality, is endearing because of it. You think you can make the next track star point up to sky without it feeling fake?
All products have their unique qualities. Getting that across to customers is really the trick. Sports superstars make it easier though. The talent is out of this world. No one else can be an Olympian at 15 years old, win six gold four years later, then eight, then add another four, and hoping for more next year in Rio. Selling him is a no-brainer, even if the back-down-to-earth human side occurs between Olympiads. In fact, this mortality makes us like them more. Some favorite jeans have paint stains, and this blemish is an automatic, albeit accidental, fashion statement.
Sports that have no major personalities will have a tougher time convincing sponsors that their game is as captivating as the Super Bowl. Niche markets are satisfactory, and most of the time, the bean counters are happy even if there are only two beans remaining. Two beans are better than none. We all get swept away by potential fairy tales, however. We hope the two beans skyrocket into a magical beanstalk with gold raining down. What are the chances that a ping pong powerhouse player will be a household name? The chances are better if you trade your last remaining cow for magic beans.
Should sports marketing teams even bother for Kobe Bryant-level stardom if the MVP is in the WNBA? A male golfer has said to this author that he doesn’t watch the LPGA. Anything under Division I in the NCAA would be lucky to find live coverage for a championship game. Even some Division I sports are airtime fillers on sleepy, past-midnight weekdays 100 clicks of the channel remote away from the networks. That’s reality TV. You’d think lingerie football would be the next big thing, but it is not.
Would you wear your favorite torn blue jeans to a wedding with a specific, requested formal dress code? Probably not. Some of our brightest stars couldn’t play professionally in other sports. Some attempt to become actors or broadcasters to remain relevant in the spotlight, but they fail. There are very, very few who can transcend their playing years and become even more renowned. Us fans, sports agents, and the athletes themselves should dial down our expectations every time we see someone we think could be the next big thing.
The next big thing lands on us, like a gift from God. The talent, the hard work, the right coach, the right fans, the right competition brings out the best in them in a destined time. All these things have to come together naturally. One element missing, and there is no product. Washing your brand new jeans because the instructions says so, to get the right fit, doesn’t fit. Wear it, enjoy it, wash it, wear it again and again. Sports is the same thing, the drama comes naturally. No amount of marketing will make the next Thrilla in Manila unless we’ve lived with boxing from the beginning.
RENE CONCEPCION a.k.a. Coach Guy has had sports-related experiences for over 30 years, first as a National Swimmer and Olympian, then as National Coach and up till today as a sports event organizer for swimming and triathlon. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley where he was a four-year varsity swimmer in the perennially top-ranked swimming team. Later, he earned a Masters degree in Fine Arts from the Columbia University in New York. He was a faculty member at the De La Salle University for over a decade, teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses, mainly in sports management and arts management. An accomplished speaker and lecturer in Asia, Europe and the United States, Guy is also a father of two boys and is married to a super triathlete, the former Ms. Tricia Chiongbian. He is a blogger at Coach Guy Concepcion.
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