Marketing through sports’ is a concept that’s been used since the 1980s, but has increased in importance in the last two decades due to the growth and expansion that the different types of sports have enjoyed since then. “Marketing through sports” it is a marketing strategy that can be used in sports in two different ways. First, the use of marketing and promotion can be carried out through the sport or through the sports club. In the first case, the use of marketing is under responsibility of the different sporting associations, while in the second case, the responsibility falls on the different sports clubs. In this manner, marketing and promotion through sports and through the club involve sponsorship, corporate events and boxes, licensed merchandise, names and images also known as “endorsement”, advertising through broadcaster, advertising such as advertising as ground signage/clothing/equipment advertising, promoting games, promoting using players/club/league or developing ‘business opportunities.’ The peculiarity of sports is that “sports is the only entertainment where, no matter how many times you go back, you never know the ending.” This singular fact is used by marketing companies as an advantage: every time the audience attends an event it will see the advertisements again and again, providing a wide range of opportunities for the different companies which operate in this field.
Sponsorship of events
One of the oldest examples of the marketing of products through sports is Slazenger’s supplying of the official ball of Wimbledon (1902- 2015). Another international example of marketing products through sport is Adidas’ sponsorship of FIFA, which includes the company supplying the balls used in the World Cup and having its logo on the side boards along the play-field. In what it described as a “world first” in corporate sports sponsorship, in 2016 BNY Mellon and Newton Investment Management announced they had donated their title sponsorship of the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races to Cancer Research UK.
Sponsorship of teams
Sponsorship of teams is found throughout sports. Some of the most visible examples are found in the MLS as company names and logos are featured on team jerseys. For example, Alaska Airlines is the official jersey sponsor of the Portland Timbers while Valspar is the official sponsor of the Chicago Fire. These are examples of sponsorships of companies that are not related to sports.
Turkish Airlines established a sports marketing strategy involving high-profile sports teams, players, and sport associations including Manchester United, FC Barcelona, the Euroleague basketball competition, NBA player Kobe Bryant, the Turkey national football team, and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki.
Another example of sports marketing through sponsorships of teams is the apparel contracts seen throughout sports. In 2011 Nike agreed to become the official apparel company of the NFL in exchange for around $220 million per year, a deal that has been extended through 2019.
At the college level, Ohio State and Nike maintain a contract that provides the school a value of $16.8 million per year in cash and product through the 2033-34 academic year. Michigan meanwhile receives a total value of $15.3 million per year. Under Armour and Adidas are also major apparel brands as Under Armour sponsors Notre Dame for $9 million per year while Adidas provides more than $7 million each year to both UCLA and Louisville.
These are examples of sports marketing because as it is defined, sports marketing is a marketing strategy in which companies related to sports products or services promote their trademark through design, production or other resources. In this case apparel companies Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas, which are all completely related to sports, design the uniforms of these teams and in this way, promote their trademarks every time there is an event.
Sponsorship of athletes
Apparel companies also sponsor professional athletes such as Kevin Durant who receives $30 million per year from Nike. Stephen Curry is speculated to receive even more money than Durant from his contract with Under Armour. Meanwhile, Puma pays sprinter Usain Bolt $10 million per year.
Many athletes maintain contracts with a variety of companies; some of them are related to sports and others that are not. Roger Federer holds agreements with Nike, Wilson, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, and Gillette, worth a sum close to $60 million each year. LeBron James’ contracts with Nike, Beats by Dre, Coca-Cola, Kia, McDonald’s, and Samsung accrue the NBA player more than $40 million per year. Peyton Manning meanwhile holds sponsorship agreements with companies including Buick, DirecTV, Gatorade, Nationwide and Papa John’s worth in sum approximately $12 million per year. Fellow NFL quarterback Drew Brees earns $11 million each year from his contracts with Wrangler, Vicks, Verizon, Nike, and Microsoft.
Another example of marketing through sports is the strategy used by Gillette to promote its personal hygiene products through representative figures of each sport on television during broadcast sports events. Gillette uses athletes such as tennis player Roger Federer, golfer Tiger Woods, and soccer player Thierry Henry. In the commercial these celebrities appear using the products of the company. This is done in order to promote these products to the fans of these celebrities and inspire them to use these products. It is a clear example of this concept, because the company using this marketing strategy is not related to sports at all, but through important sports personalities, its products are exposed to a larger target audience.
Nike and Gatorade also hold sponsorship agreements with top athletes. Included among Nike’s clients are Federer, Woods, golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis player Rafael Nadal while Gatorade has deals with NBA star Dwyane Wade, Serena Williams, and Peyton and Eli Manning.