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12 June 2016

Sports Brands need fewer fans to be commercially fit in the 21st century

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Scratch the surface and sports brands are not as fit as many think. Guest contributor, James Osborn, discusses the challenges facing many sports brand owners.

At the end of 2015 Forbes highlighted the weak performance of many in their brand contribution to overall organisational value. The top 10 football clubs for example only averaged 14%, the top 10 corporations in comparison a healthier 20%.

Considering the loyal nature of fans to sports brands this doesn’t make great reading, so what can brand owners do to inject some value back into their brand?

One of the main catalysts for change lies in a piece of robust research conducted by the Ehrenberg Institute for Marketing Science. The research was conducted across multiple categories with a credible sample of 1,000 brands.

It identified that slightly more than half of a brand’s sales come from the top 20% of it’s heavier, loyal buyers or fans. The rest from the bottom 80%, lighter, less loyal buyers.

And this highlights the challenge for many sports brand owners.

Too much emphasis I believe is placed by marketing teams on loyalty programmes targeting their loyal fans (the top 20%) in budget spend, messaging and channel investments. Not enough on engaging less loyal buyers, those that make up the 80% majority who will buy the brand occasionally.

In my experience of working with brand owners in growing their brand and market share, here are five ideas to re-address the balance to ensure brands engage more lighter buyers:

  • Have a social purpose. Brands that are promising to do good for society and the world have a much broader consumer appeal. These brands really resonate with Gen Z, who expect their brands to have the same ideals they do.

In 2015 a Havas Media ‘Meaningful Brands’ study found that purposeful brands outperformed the stock market by 133% and gained 46% more share of wallet compared to lower rated brands.

  • Brand fame creates broader appeal. By fame I mean word of mouth, brand buzz and mentions, proven to drive brand growth. Fame comes from creating entertaining, interesting and consistent creative ideas that are contagious.
  • Use distinctive and consistent brand assets. Branding matters. It facilitates being noticed and importantly makes your brand salient. And that is really important in making sure you are front of mind for fickle, lighter buyers.
  • Connect more with your female side. The rise of the two income family in the UK is upon us, professional women a growth audience. Few sports brands speak with them, when 75% make decisions for the household.
  • Make it easy to consume, to buy. A consumer experience as a fan and more so as a lighter buyer needs to be easy and ‘frictionless’. As a brand you need to make sure your buyers consume what they love, when they want, wherever they want.

So in summary, brand value will grow through broadening your appeal beyond your loyal fans, creating consistent brand experiences and activating strategies that create more ‘moments that matter’ for lighter, less loyal buyers.

Only then, will sports brands be truly fit for the 21st Century.