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Sports Marketing Whats the Fuss?

By Richard Wanjohi
For the longest time in my running this article, I have had many thoughts and shared with you many experiences. All too often I have all along made certain assumptions and this was brought forth by one of my main critics and reader of my articles. What is this sports marketing you keep writing about? Wow! It really got me thinking, I have never quite set the boundaries on that and am sure many of you have also been reading on urged on maybe by the need to know what will be contained in any particular issue or article and relevance to your field or sport of choice. Allow me though to give you some numbers in the industry to try put things into perspective. 27 US$ Billion in television and media rights in 2010, 54 US$ billion in terms of sponsorships and merchandising in the same period according to The Business of TV , an annual report by Sport Business which analyses sports business figures across the globe. Thats the industrys revenues and figures, so why market it? For the sake of understanding this further, lets take some two definitions which explain this in two angles; Sports marketing where you take a certain sport say athletics and use its appeal and potential to sell it to different audiences be they media ( from radio, TV to Pay TV and online ) or live audiences at the stadia, courts or other platforms that the sport maybe offered in. The other form is when companies through their flagship brands or products sponsor a sport and use sports as a platform to try and market and reach their target audiences, or for visibility or even to cut on competition. According to Wikipedia sources; sports marketing morphs advertising, sponsorship, promotion, sales promotion and public relations into one of marketings most effective tools to reach and touch customers. Prof. C. H van Heeden lecturer at the Department of Marketing and Communication, University of Pretoria in South Africa gives three scenarios describing sports marketing as follows; Scenario One:
...the marketing of sports products and services, for example equipment, which might be consumed by professional athletes and amateurs...

Scenario Two: ...marketing through sport ...the marketing of an organisation through its association such as a sponsorship, with sports events, teams or individuals

Scenario Three: ...marketing by sport the way sports bodies and codes market themselves and their events to attract sponsorships, participants, spectators, funding and corporate involvement To illustrate this further, I will pick on two events and individuals who have epitomised the growth and expansion of the sports marketing as an industry. Olympics and the World Cup for the events as well as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan will be used to dig deeper in trying to make sense of what sports marketing is. The modern Olympics which started in 1896 have been one of sports main spectacles and also one of the first to attract commercial interest. Though the then IOC Chair one, Avery Brundage from US who had previously served in the International Amateur Athletics Federation had resisted any moves of including commercial interests, though private companies usually contributed monies for use of the logo and advertising rights as early as 1932 Kodak and Coca-Cola being front-runners. His case was the fact that with commercialisation of sports, there would be the loss of amateur nature of the Games. This did not appeal to the rest of the members and on Brundages departure in 1972 which coincided with the first direct attack on Olympiansas well as two consecutive boycotts in 1976 - Montreal and 1980 Moscow games (which had attracted interests from sponsors like Adidas). Come 1984 in the US and the commercialisation proper of the Games came into play. With the IOC desperate to get the Games back into the minds of world audiences, the sponsorship packages from interested parties which included Coca-Cola and McDonalds two of the countrys famous brands. For this we need to thank the Games organiser & CEO one Peter Ueberroth sports marketer par excellence! An estimated audience of 300 million viewers was able to view the Games which meant the earlier notion of Brundage could no longer hold water. Currently the Games have an estimated audience of 3.6 billion viewers who have a wide choice from the live television, pay-TV, Internet and radio. The FIFA World Cup, unless you do not live on the planet Earth, then you know this is sports single most watched tournament which spreads across the hosts nation(s) cities for a period of 28-30 days. This display has been around for about 80 years now and most women would rather it be held some other time than the usual 4 years period! But with cumulative figures of about 26.29 billion viewers watching it over the 30 days, it is any marketers playfield. From the runner-up of the qualifying rounds, the bids (or

what marketers love calling pitches) to even the actual trophys world tour; this is sport has been able to generate commercial interests worth billions. FIFA the body that runs the game and of course the richest sports association thanks to this among its many sanctioned events has been able to leverage its tournaments to corporate firms who are only more than willing to put their monies in it. Coincidentally most of the brands which end up pitching their campaigns and winning official sponsors tags have generated worthy business. You can ask brands such as Adidas, Sony, Visa and one of the most recent entrants into sports and making huge in-roads, Emirates Airline. Whats more is that the association has been able to work a system where national companies get a platform to sell their brands and use their logos and merchandise for promoting the tournament. One shortcoming though is the rather uncouth practice of ambush marketing thats perfected by companies who usually have not secured the rights but use every opportunity to sell an image of that to the audience and spectators. Though the sports organisations have introduced stringent measures to curb this, the practice still pervades these events. A classic example was the rivalry between Fuji who were then official sponsors of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and Kodak who though came from US had not managed to secure the rights but still bombarded the rest of the world with their campaigns. The IOC came up with TOP- The Olympic Partners (originally Programs) whereby a limited number of sponsors would receive special treatment and benefits on a worldwide basis while achieving product category exclusivity and protection for their Olympic sponsorship activities." Coming to individuals, Michael Jordan is one of the best sportsmen to have played his sport and his became a money-minting machine. How do you explain a guy whos able to come out of retirement twice and win major endorsements as well as retain a brand of shoes several years after hanging his boots (or is it sneakers?) As of last year, he was estimated to be worth around $600 million, monies coming mainly from continued endorsements. He was the best thing to have happened to the National Basketball Association and his hometown team of Chicago Bulls both of which were tottering with poor attendance and TV ratings. When he first retired in 1993-4 due to his dads death, the NBA TV ratings to a beating and on his return and winning another 3 back-to-back titles from 1996-1999 when he retired for a second time (came out of his retirement again in 2000-1). His sneakers, Air Jordan as developed by Nike remain one of the highest shoes for sale. A couple of things youll notice in all these from the Olympics to Michael Jordans role for the NBA (and also Nike and Chicago Bulls is the multi-level marketing involved. From sale of tickets, to attendance figures as well as branding of playing areas; there is heavy investment needed to make this possible. Another important tool to have emerged is the media starting with the radio to the revolutionary TV which still rakes in billions in advertising and screening rights and more recently the Internet and its multi-faceted platforms. The immediacy of the Net has added flavour to sports and sports news.

Lastly we look at the man who late last year pushed tabloids to into a frenzy following allegations of cheating. Tiger Woods! Prior to his shenanigans, he held the distinction of being the most marketable sportsman. In 2009, according to Forbes magazine he was the first sportsman to earn over $ 1 billion from his sporting activities. Anything he touched turned to gold, at least till December 2009. Though he has been involved in these troubles, if and when he decides to return to sport and maybe regain his winning ways, he will indeed prove why sports marketing is one of the most lucrative and powerful industries in the modern world. The amount of gossip was great fodder for fledging publications some of which had almost shut due to the financial troubles and dwindling sales and revenues. I hope these examples have illustrated what sports marketing is all about. In the next issue, I shall tackle opportunities available in sports marketing and also look at ways to incorporate this into our fledging sports industries in the country and continent as well. For aspiring sports marketers, the 2010 FIFA World Cups a great opportunity to learn and know what sports can do to a single country (region and continent as well). Welcome to 2010!
This article is by Richard Wanjohi sports marketing and editorial consultant at Marketing Africa and he can reached at rwanjohi@gmail.com