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Sports Marketing During The COVID-19 Era

Sports Marketing During the COVID-19 Era

Not gonna lie, it was easier for me to write tips for my ReThinc clients than it was for me to come up with guidance or suggestions for the problems sports leagues are currently facing. I’m going to stay on theme here and say that extraordinary times require extraordinary action. If you’re a team or a station that sells sports here in the Valley, this is not the time to be sitting on your hands.

First things first … enough doom and gloom. Sports represents a conduit to escape our problems, not wallow in them. I don’t care to hear who the next millionaire athlete is to contract the virus. I want to hear what professional athletes are doing to make the world a better place when we need it most. Instead of spending an entire segment on who’s coughing, let’s spend more time on how sports teams are responding to the communities that support them in so many ways.

SOME GOOD NEWS

Locally, the Phoenix Suns and the NBA seem to be leading on the issue of staying front and center even though there are not any games being played. As I was writing this blog, it was announced that Devin Booker is donating $100K for coronavirus relief and was working toward getting others to donate as well. Talking Stick Arena and Levy restaurants are donating food to people in need. I’m also hearing that a number of NBA players are taking time to do PSA’s for their community. That’s exactly what I’m talking about and kudos to them for being leaders in a time of need.

Let’s also not dismiss the creativity we’re seeing from teams and leagues that are using gaming platforms to simulate games. Definitely creative but challenged by limited distribution. I would keep this kind of thing up for the time being and do what I could to enhance distribution.

IDEAS TO FOR TEAMS AND STATIONS

Again, extraordinary times require extraordinary action. If I’m a professional sports team here in the market, I’m getting my athletes to spend time calling each and every season ticket holder to thank them for their support and patience during this time. Not an email blast, not a social media post … a phone call. The fans will never forget that and your renewals will be positively impacted by an easy step like that.

I’d also be making my athletes more available to do endorsements for corporate sponsors with messages that reinforce their need for support or their messages of encouragement.

Sponsorship sales … You need to start thinking of how you can help your clients through this difficult time. For example, if Coca-Cola is your client, use your digital assets to inform your constituency on where and how they can get bottled water. Remind them of the benefits of Powerade when you aren’t feeling well. Use your website and social media assets to make this happen. Muscle Milk is your client? Produce podcasts or videos with at-home workouts you can do while you are shut in and have them brought to you by this client. Use your strength and conditioning coach or maybe one of your players to make it even more impactful.

Beer and spirits sponsors? That’s easy … encourage your fans to have virtual happy hours (our team held one through Google Hangouts last Friday but Instagram Live or Facebook Live are best to get your fans involved). If I’m a sports team then I have a coach or a player at that happy hour. Shoot the shit… talk sports, talk about the team, involve the fans who are viewing, and keep it positive. Get one of your media rights holders involved so you can enhance how you execute this.

Teams need to be aggressive and forward thinking … Do you have a credit union or a bank on the roster? OK, use your assets to speak to your fans on how easy it is to use online banking, give refinancing tips or provide information on new government assistance programs. I guarantee sponsors and fans will appreciate your involvement in getting the word out.

In difficult times, we want to hear from sports heroes and teams. We need the distraction. Hell, I’d even entertain watching fun things like a Dback’s HR Derby for charity with a pitching coach and few of their best hitters. Every home run results in a donation to a worthy cause and it’s brought to you by (insert sponsor here). What about online instruction for young players? A player, coach and a camera can help a kid who is sitting at home right now not doing anything to learn how to be a better player … brought to you by your local (insert sponsor here).

Increase your website visits by giving away a pair of season tickets every week until this situation gets better. Host a virtual town hall with your coach and a couple of select players that allow fans the ability to ask questions regarding the past season or the one that’s forthcoming. THESE ARE ALL SPONSORABLE ASSETS BY THE WAY.

NEED AN IDEA?

There’s an idea for every sponsor. Need one? Email me or call me and let’s talk. I will gladly brainstorm with any rep from any team in any market.

The lack of creativity in response to this “unprecedented” time in our history is disappointing. I was selling advertising on 9/11 and I vividly remember 2007 when the recession started. Extraordinary times require extraordinary action … be bold, decisive and creative with how you respond. You might fail but at least you are doing something and sponsors will appreciate that.

At LineDrive, we have a plan of action in place for every client … do you? And what are your employees doing? Sharpening their skills or sitting at home wondering if they are going to get a paycheck? There are a wide array of on-line training courses to help your reps with all aspects of sales, including digital and social fine tuning that will make them better at their jobs when things return to normal. If that doesn’t work, hold your own training using a video share platform.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR GREAT LEADERSHIP AND INNOVATIVE THINKING.

Lastly and maybe most importantly…I get plenty of COVID-19 updates. I don’t need them on my sports stations. I need a distraction, something else to think about. And sponsors, they need you to start getting creative. I understand we are living in “unprecedented” times … how about we get “unprecedented” with how we respond?


About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is an adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.

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