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Leveraging America’s Love of the Game to Build your Brand

Group of fans watching sports game on TV
  • September 21, 2023

As a marketer, I'm always looking for new and effective ways to reach my target audience. And one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal? Advertising in sports. From the Super Bowl to the World Cup, sports events draw massive audiences and offer a unique opportunity to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

In this article, I'll explore the evolution of sports advertising, the benefits of advertising in sports, and some successful sports advertising campaigns to inspire your own marketing efforts. 

Introduction to Advertising in Sports 

Sports have been a part of human civilization for thousands of years, and with that comes the opportunity for advertising. In the early days, sports advertising was limited to local businesses sponsoring high school or amateur teams. But as sports grew in popularity, so did its advertising opportunities. Sports advertising today is a multi-billion dollar industry, including everything from stadium signage to TV commercials to athlete endorsements. 

The Evolution of Sports Advertising 

The first major milestone in sports advertising came in the 1950s with the advent of televised sports. Suddenly, companies could reach a national audience with a single ad. And as sports became an even bigger part of American culture in the 1960s and ‘70s, sports advertising continued to grow. In the 1980s and ‘90s, sports stars like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods became household names, and companies clamored to associate themselves with these icons. Today, sports advertising is everywhere, from the logos on players' jerseys to Super Bowl ads. 

Benefits of Sports Advertising 

So why should you consider advertising in sports? For starters, sports events draw massive audiences. The Super Bowl, for example, draws more than 100 million viewers each year. And unlike other forms of advertising, sports advertising offers a captive audience.

Fans watching a game aren't likely to change the channel during a commercial break – they're invested in the game's outcome and want to see what happens next. Plus, sports events are often social occasions, with friends and family gathering to watch together – meaning your ad has the potential to reach not just one person but an entire group of people at a time. With pay-per-view events or games streaming on OTT platforms, like soccer in the US, companies have broader access to a bigger audience.

Sports Advertising Statistics 

Still not convinced? Here are some statistics that might change your mind. Sports events account for 19 of the top 20 most-watched TV broadcasts in 2022 in the United States. In 2022, the NCAA made $1.14 billion in revenue, with the vast majority of that from March Madness alone. TV advertising during the 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament generated 940 million dollars solely from TV rights.

And it's not just TV advertising that's effective – 81% of consumers found brand sponsorships during a sports event were more trustworthy. 

Types of Sports Advertising 

There are many different ways to advertise in sports, and the best approach will depend on your goals and budget. Some of the most common types of sports advertising include: 

  • Stadium signage: Sponsoring billboards or logos on the field or court for fans to see as they attend events. 
  • TV advertising: Ads that air during sports broadcasts to reach viewers at home or in restaurants that play sporting events. 
  • Athlete endorsements: Paying athletes to endorse your product or service, either in their lifestyles, during interviews, or on commercials. 
  • Social media: Using social media platforms to promote your brand during sports events. 
  • Event sponsorship: Sponsoring a sports event or team to increase brand exposure. 

Maximizing Your Reach with Sports Advertising 

Think strategically to get the most out of your sports advertising efforts. That involves identifying your target audience and choosing the best sports events to cater your marketing to them. For example, advertising during NFL games might be a good choice if you're targeting young men. Sponsoring a Little League team could be a better option if you're targeting families.

It's also important to consider timing – advertising during the Super Bowl is great but incredibly expensive. Advertising during a less high-profile event might get more bang for your buck. 

Successful Sports Advertising Campaigns 

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few examples of successful sports advertising campaigns: 

  • Nike's "Just Do It" campaign featuring Michael Jordan: The iconic campaign that helped turn Jordan into a global superstar and cemented Nike as a leader in the sports apparel industry. 
  • Budweiser's "Whassup" campaign: This humorous campaign featuring friends saying "Whassup" to each other became a cultural phenomenon in the early 2000s. 
  • Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign: It encouraged consumers to buy bottles of Coca-Cola with their friends' names on them, creating a sense of personalization and community. 

Advertising Opportunities in Different Sports 

Different sports offer different advertising opportunities. Here are a few examples: 

  • Football: From the Super Bowl to Monday Night Football, football offers a variety of high-profile advertising opportunities to viewers at home or in the stadium. 
  • Baseball: With 162 regular-season games, baseball offers many opportunities for local advertising. 
  • Soccer: The World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and soccer's popularity continues to grow in the United States. 

Measuring the Success of Sports Advertising 

Of course, no advertising campaign is complete without measuring its success. There are a variety of metrics you can use to evaluate your sports advertising efforts, including: 

  • Impressions: The number of people who saw your ad. 
  • Engagement: The number of people who interacted with your ad, such as by clicking on a link or sharing it on social media. 
  • Sales: The ultimate measure of success – did your advertising efforts lead to increased sales? 

Build Your Brand with Sports Advertising

Advertising in sports offers a unique opportunity to connect with consumers in a meaningful way. By identifying your target audience, choosing the right sports events, and crafting a compelling message, you can maximize your reach and drive results for your business. So next time you're looking for a new advertising strategy, consider sports advertising – it just might be the game-changer you're looking for. 

As the nation’s second-largest media company, McClatchy has the tools and expertise to help your brand tap into sports advertising, whether you want to sponsor teams locally or nationally. Reach out to one of our trusted experts today to learn more. 

McClatchy Expert Blog Series.

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