When a brand wants to reach kids, teens, or parents in a meaningful manner there are few ways better than youth, high school and college sports. The market has scale (with over 20 million participants and over 40 million supporters), a passionate audience (with screaming parents on every sideline) and a national reach – with every corner of this country hosting youth, high school and college sporting events. Youth and high school sports are a brand manager’s dream. However, identifying the market is easy; creating a successful branding campaign within the market is where many struggle. Here are our three keys to a successful marketing campaign in youth and high school sports:
1) Don’t target the entire market
Many brands feel the need to make their product or service appealing for everyone. Many times we hear “I want the players to love my product, I want the coaches to recommend my product, and I want the parents to buy my product”. Very few products are able to deliver for all audiences; it just doesn’t work that way. In order to be successful, brands must narrow their focus and decide who they really wish to target. Just look at Gatorade. In 2012 they executed a record-setting campaign primarily because they focused solely on the “players” segment which allowed them to influence other audience segments. Yes, parents generally make the purchasing decisions, but Gatorade understood they couldn’t win over every segment. With players in mind, they created fun and relevant sport-specific content, and located the best distribution channels for that content. Which leads us to #2…
2) Find the right distribution channels
Once you’ve picked the segment you wish to target, make sure you do the homework to identify the proper distribution channels. Often what might seem like the major website in the space (maybe because it has a brand name you recognize), is a façade devoid of real content and a true following within that sport. Keep in mind that each sport has a unique culture with different events, websites and social media hubs. Your distribution channels should have an authentic trusted voice within your sports community. We recommend, for a truly effective campaign, that you do your research and ask some insiders. Go to a tournament and ask parents what websites they frequent, or ask players what social media platforms they prefer. An hour out of your day could make a huge difference. If you take the easy way out you run the risk of not only wasting money, but hurting your brand.
3) Use multiple platforms
Players, parents and coaches are not just on-field anymore. While activating your brand on-field is important, your audience is spending even more time online. Each sport has major websites, social media accounts, message boards and blogs. Make sure your brand is omnipresent because having a strong on-field presence nationwide is nearly impossible. Digital media also allows you to engage with your audience before on-field events occur increasing your exposure and helping build authenticity within the sport.