SportzConsult: Demystifying the Experiential Sports Marketing Framework

Engaging with consumers in a more meaningful and personal manner is a key directive for most brand managers today. The exciting new developments in Indian amateur sports market are opening up one big opportunity for brand managers to engage their prized consumers through a topic that they are passionate about.

India Playing. Would like to play more.

The total amateur sports market in India’s top 8 Indian cities is estimated to be INR 1200 Cr. More and more people are taking to sports as a recreational and fitness activity. The growing awareness on health, availability of venues offering pay and play model, newer and exciting mass participation events, emergence of coach entrepreneurs is making India play. The trend is only going to get better with 90% of the respondents indicating that they would like to play more than they currently do according to a recent survey.

A golden opportunity for brands

A 14 year old young Ankit in a distant town of Kolhapur sprints past his opponents in classic Usian Bolt style, cheered on by his batchmates and proud parents. He walks up to the podium and is awarded the “Hero Grameen Khel Utsav Trophy”.

A shy Lalita is encouraged by her husband to take up the challenge of running a marathon. She takes to the starting line and starts off the race by breaking a temporary wall with issues facing women and a big message of “Stayfree – Break the wall of Irritation”

The emotional connect that the respective brands created with Ankit and Lalita is tangential. The associated brands are seen as enablers of memorable happy moments for the participants and likely to have made a big upside in their Customer Lifetime Value.

How to create a highly impactful Experiential Sports Program?

The ESM Framework lays down 7 key steps for brand managers to consider.

First, like any other marketing program, is to have complete control over the brand objectives. The objectives will then translate into more tangible aspects of the marketing strategy. Who are the target customers? Where do they reside? What is the timeframe? What is the scale of investment? What is the targeted reach?

Second important step is to understand which sports fit well with the brand personality. It is imperative to learn a little more about these sports in order for the brand managers to progress in an informed manner. Understand the gaps, what’s at play and where the opportunities lie for the brand to make an intervention. In the Indian sporting context, opportunities exist across the sports development framework to make an impact.

The next question to answer is how to make the program attractive and aspirational for the participants. What will be the participant journey? How will I engage the spectators? A great experiential program is relevant as well as enjoyable to the participants. The event’s ability to create a memorable and potentially behaviour changing experience is critical for the effectiveness of an experiential platform. Every participant must feel excited to attend and go back asking for the next edition.

Next is the critical step of making the brand come alive. Hijacking the limelight from the sport will defeat the entire positivity offering. On the other hand, in the absence of any effort, the brand’s association with the sport may go unnoticed. In the subtle context of sports, innovation and creativity can make sure that the brand values are communicated to the participants and leave a lasting impression on the minds of the consumers.

Efficient program execution can make or break the entire program. Just like building an airport requires specialized expertise of security, check-in, congestion, crowd management, sports expertise is required to execute a quality sports program. Informed decisions need to be made on the manpower, time and resource requirements.

Brand’s reach through an experiential sports program goes beyond the participants. Using the subtle background of sports, brands have the opportunity to market themselves and communicate their brand values in the market. Brand managers must think through their amplification/ promotion strategy to draw the maximum out of their investment. Who else would I like to know about the sports IP and my brand’s association with it? Which communication mediums are the best to reach them?

The final step is to measure the effectiveness of the program. What are my measurable outcomes and goals against the defined brand objectives? What are the KPIs to monitor these outcomes? How will I measure the performance of the IP against the set KPIs?

With more Indians taking up sports as a means to be healthy and happy, amateur sports provide a fantastic opportunity for the brands to build an emotional, personal and authentic connect with the consumers. The trends show that marketeers have started exploring this powerful medium to differentiate their brand from competitors. Experiential sports marketing is set to become an integral part of the brands’ marketing mix. The future is all about engaging. The future is exciting. The future is experiential!

A White Paper Report on Experiential Sports Marketing is available on SportzConsult’s website:
The writer (Jitendra Joshi) of the article is founder, director at SportzConsult. He also happens to be a active blogger and pens down on topics related to grassroots sports, lifestyle, sports parenting, sports sponsorships, experiential sports, women empowerment, etc.