Marketing sports in the digital age, and using data (Blog 4)

23 November 2022 | Written by Andy Nutting

How sport is using data in a digital world: Blog 4 from our series by Andy Nutting

In a series of blogs, our Information Governance Manager Andy explores how sports organisations are using data, drawing on our work with national sports governing bodies.

His fourth blog explores the use of data in sports marketing.

Pick up any newspaper or magazine, watch any sport programme on television, walk down any street across the world, and it is likely that you will be exposed to some aspect of sport marketing.

Messi, Neymar, Djokovic, Adidas, Red Bull, Barcelona are names that call out to consumers from billboards, adverts, social media, computer games, television, and other tools of marketing communication.

The big names and the big money they are associated with have become synonymous with sport marketing. The logic amongst some in the commercial world is that, if sports and its personalities can be packaged and sold, why not do it?

But this is only one view of sport marketing because for every Messi, there are hundreds of other individuals, teams, clubs, businesses, and organisations for whom survival or scratching enough funds to compete is an important part of what they do.

So marketing is an ever present and essential tool in sport. But have you ever thought that there are two types of sports marketing?

On the one hand there is marketing of sport, i.e. a set of activities and competences intended for the promotion and improvement of sports enjoyment and consumption.

On the other, there is marketing with sport or marketing in sport, which is the use of sport as an efficient tool for businesses.

Whilst email marketing and product promotion is still prevalent, this may not be enough in the new digital world.

The rise of social media, smart gadgets, and sports apps have created more expectations for growing number of people getting involved in sports and connecting with sports fans around the globe. This trend is likely to last for years.

Data-driven marketing has made its way into being a crucial part of business growth, particularly with larger sports clubs, who develop strategies supported by data insights and knowledge gathered from customer data to predict future behaviours.

In turn, this allow clubs and organisations to tailor communications and connect with their customers in hyper-personalised ways using social media to connect with fans and customers.

So, what do we mean by ‘data-driven marketing’?

Well, it’s a way for a club/organisation to optimise brand communications based on customer information, so that it can predict a customer’s needs, desires, and future behaviours.

Such insight helps develop personalised marketing strategies for the highest possible return on investment (ROI), which is what’s spiking so much interest, particularly amongst big sports clubs.

With the advancement of technology, sports organisations are using data-driven marketing to reach their fans and members on any channel at any time and to develop personalised content that speaks to individual interests.

They are transforming their fan data into insights that reveal who their fans really are and target marketing of interest at an individual level.

This is becoming known as a fan journey – mapping a journey a fan can make from casual supporter to super fan who is aware of a team or organisation brand and is likely to purchase something again, and again.

Using data, sports marketers can predict the behaviour of their fans and connect with them when it matter most. In turn teams can guide fans through what is called a customised journey and all of this is driven by data.

One of the fastest start up sports has been the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Introduced in 2007, it became the most-attended cricket league in the world.

In 2014 it was ranked 6th by the average attendance among all sports leagues. By 2019 the brand value of the IPL was US$5.9billion.

Digital marketing has helped the IPL to connect with fans and the public by offering teams, clubs, and players a chance to connect and engage seamlessly with their fans at all times, making it one of the leading marketing strategies.

The IPL uses digital marketing to influence fans in six key ways:

Focus on engaging sports fans

Data suggests that about 85% of sports enthusiasts keep using social platforms while watching TV, and about 60% use these platforms even while watching the game in the stadium. This has offered up new opportunities, such as providing fans with regular updates, competitions, promos, polls and social media content to engage brand and marketing opportunities.


This is an excellent way in which the players and clubs have been able to interact with the informal side with their fans and spectators. Equally fans produce independent blogs of their own, some of which provide a significant alternative voice about the clubs.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

SEO entails techniques that assist visibility of your website and blogs, allowing it to appear as a top search result. Clubs compete to be the most popular and such marketing strategies are providing to be advantageous in targeting new markets and fanbases.

Live feed

Many fans are attached to their smartphones while watching the match, and clubs are using this time to connect with their audience by creating engaging and real-time content in line with the live game. This can be displaying the team line-up, live scores from other matches, and match results.

Content and video marketing on apps

Short clips, memes and GIFs are helping clubs improve marketing efforts and help attract more followers, boost interaction and engagement with every post. This particularly appeals to younger audiences through the likes of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short video platforms.

Trigger marketing

IPL continues to be a flagship for brands to generate results and provides an opportunity to reach out to a diverse audience. Trigger marketing consists of sending notifications or showing ads at a specific moment, in answer to a specific event. Reaching out to the audience at the perfect moment increases the likelihood of conversion. This can be complemented by automated marketing, where fans receive communications in response to particular actions e.g. signing up to a newsletter.

The sports industry is advancing in multiple ways, and digital marketing is at the centre of every transformation.

Social networks are transforming the way sports news and matches are reported. Popular sporting media channels like BBC, Sky and BT, share their content with the audience regularly throughout the day by using these platforms.

These transformative ways of marketing sports will continue to progress with the application of new and improved technologies, and marketing departments will need to keep adapting and keep pace with the digital revolution.

If you’d like support managing your organisation’s data, our team can help.

We have experience with Basketball England and British Taekwondo on their data protection compliance.

You can keep up to date with Andy’s blogs on his LinkedIn profile.

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