10 Lessons on Sports Marketing From My Conversation with Oli Shawyer

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I mean, I usually do five lessons from my podcasts, but there was so much good information in my chat with Oli Shawyer, I figured I’d do 10 today.

So here are 10 takeaways from my talk with Oli:

1. If you don’t emphasize strategy, you’ll do yourself harm because you are always reacting:

This is true. It goes without saying that there are so many inputs coming at us in today’s world that catching our breath can feeel close to impossible.

That’s the situation most sports marketers find themselves in, struggling to catch up and always having to react to the world around them.

Oli talks about the need to put strategy first and not be driven by wins and losses and I couldn’t agree more. If you are just selling based on your record, you are losing.

2. Marketing is a profit center:

I don’t want to bury the lede here.

Too often organizations approach marketing like it is a box to check or an expense to manage.

Neither is correct.

Marketing is a profit center and you should work with it in that manner.

3. Fundamentals of marketing are important and they haven’t changed:

  • Marketing is to make money.
  • Marketing is to get people to take action.
  • Marketing is about building a connection in a customers’ mind so that when they want to make a purchase, your name pops to mind.

4. You are not your brand:

Oli mentioned this and I missed it.

But it is true.

When you start working on something, you stop being a fan or customer and you become something else.

5. Digital can hurt you as much as it helps you:

You can’t rely on digital alone to achieve your goals. You need a multi-channel approach.

In many cases, relying too much on digital can cause you to make poor decisions because you can easily end up measuring the wrong things.

6. Customers are all on different journeys:

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all fan.

I’ve mentioned it before and I talked about it with Oli, but fans have lifecycles and they can hit the same point in their journey many times depending on where they are in life.

You have to market to fans at all stages in their fan journey…not just the membership buyers.

7. We didn’t discuss it, but Oli mentioned it in notes he shared with me: your attendance is a direct reflection of your team’s brand health:

In Oli’s words, a packed stadium means:

  1. More engaged members
  2. More casual fans
  3. Better engaged corporate consumers
  4. Improves sponsorship opportunities

What more do you need to hear?

8. Don’t rely on wins and losses: 

Oli shared a number with me that if you market based on wins and losses, you are likely to miss your budget numbers for the next game about 90% of the time if the team loses the game before.

That should make you take notice.

90% of the time if you lose, you don’t hit your numbers if you are selling on wins and losses.

9. The iron law of market leadership means that a challenger brand in a market is always going to be fighting an uphill battle.

The Power is one of two AFL teams in the Adelaide market.

The big club has about 550,000 supporters and the power around 260,000. Other AFL clubs are supported at about half of that number.

What does that mean?

If you are the Power and you can grow new AFL fans, or if new AFL fans are born, it is likely you’ll only win over 1 out of 4 of those fans…meaning you have to constantly work to grow the top of the funnel. To get more people involved in your sport.

10. Branding isn’t BS, it is powerful:

Next year is the Power’s 150th birthday! (You don’t look a day over 20!)

And, this is an opportunity to pull together the stories that the brand has carried over the years into a coherent narrative that engages an audience of old and new fans.

One of the challenges is when your history is complicated, like the Power.

But your brand is also powerful, it is a signal to the world.

In the case of the Power, it is a signal of excellence and success. But over the last few years as parity has become greater in the AFL, that story has been lost or convoluted…and that is the challenge and the opportunity because making sure the brand connects with Power fans can slingshot the club into the next 150 years.

Did you listen to the podcast yet?

Let me know what you think below.



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