3 Trends in Sports Marketing for Youth Sports

3 Trends in Sports Marketing for Youth Sports

The power of sports marketing is rooted in fans.  And marketers are after fans. Whether your business sells TV’s, pizzas  or plumbing services, I bet you would love to have more fans. Fans buy more, they talk more, they care more. Fans are worth more.

And fans change.

In this post, I highlight 3 trends that are impacting sports fans and the sports marketing industry, and share what it means for youth sports.

Technology will drive sponsorship

Gone are the days of static, traditional sports sponsorships. Brands want engagement, and they want to engage where fans consume and live. This is leading to increased brand involvement through technology, digital channels and social media. In the past, technology has been a nice add-on for sponsorship campaigns, but this is quickly evolving and technology will increasingly drive the backbone of sponsorship strategy. A few quick reads from IEG, or the 10 Leading Digital Sports Sponsorship Activations offer inspiration on where this is leading. In our recent interview with a Cleveland Browns corporate sales team member, this trend was echoed, especially the value of repurposing sponsor content that can be shared across different social channels. Overall, the real question lies not in whether technology will play a key role in sports sponsorship, but in how well marketers and sports properties can keep up with and leverage emerging technologies to improve their business and enhance the fan experience.

What it means for youth sports?  Youth sports should be a great benefactor of emerging technologies in sports sponsorship. This trend should result in more corporate dollars flowing to local levels, governing bodies and sports organizations. New technology will allow sponsoring brands to reach the youth levels at scale, and it will be interesting to see how marketers build campaigns as technologies continue to improve.

 Sponsors will buy jersey rights

What was once speculation and wishful thinking is fast-becoming reality, as professional sports leagues in the U.S. are beginning to take action with the most prized sponsorship real estate in sports. There is arguable no more viewed area in sports marketing than on the competitors themselves. European soccer and NASCAR have capitalized on this for years (could you imagine a sponsorless nascar uniform?) and the major sports leagues in the U.S. are finally starting to act. The NBA is on board and generated a lot of headlines last month with this release, and the NFL has inched forward with practice jerseys. I would be shocked if all major U.S. leagues do not address this in the next five years.

What it means for youth sports?  Ironically, youth sports has been ahead of the curve with jersey sponsorships compared to the big leagues. Walk up to any little league diamond, and you are sure to see the local auto dealer and home builder on the backs of the baseball jerseys. The future with youth jersey sponsorships lies in aggregation and integrating with uniform suppliers in a way that saves time and hassles for the local organizations. How neat would it be for a national brand to say “I want to be the official uniform sponsor of 10,000 local sports teams” and could do it? I think that day will come. And Jersey Watch, might be a part of it.

Athlete influence will increase

Athlete influence over sports fans and their purchasing decisions is nothing new. Millions were shaped by the famous Larry Bird & Michael Jordan McDonald’s commercials decades ago and brands continue to invest serious dollars to align with superstars. (did you see the $14B mistake that Nike made with Steph Curry?) Athlete superstars hold tremendous influence. And this influence is increasing at an alarming rate thanks to social media. Check out this piece highlighting “Income Per Tweet” research for the world’s biggest athletes. 

But where is this headed? 

I believe you will see an increased number of regional endorsements and niche-market deals that align brands with social media savvy athletes. Athlete endorsements will no longer be reserved for the mega-stars, and the value of a “long tail” athlete endorsement market will rise significantly. Vendors and third-party firms are already taking notice to build services that support this segment of the sports industry. OpenDorse has a neat concept that is worth a look.

What it means for youth sports?  It seems logical to expect this trend will reach the high-school and youth levels of sports, with the increased exposure of athlete recruiting and elite youth sports. It would not surprise me to see marketers pursuing formal relationships with athletes as young as they can. The fundamentals are the same: high-profile athlete (relatively) influencing followers (social media). There is marketing value to this. Now whether you agree with it, or not, is an entirely different matter.

Where we go from here?

Overall, it will be exciting to see how quickly these trends mature in the sports industry and their trickle-down effect on the youth sports market. The fundamentals are fairly straightforward: 1.) Athletes have influence  2.) Brands want to piggy-back on this influence 3.) New technology offers creative assets and channels with real business value. Stay tuned on the road ahead, and if you think I missed a key trend, or two, please drop me a note (david@jerseywatch.com).

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