The Leaders Summit always succeeds in making you think about what is coming next in the world of sport and sports marketing.
Often led by the influx of thought leaders from the US - still the frontier market when it comes to the unashamed promotion of sports, leagues, teams and players.
A highlight for me was Maverick Carter and Uninterrupted, further recognition of the power of the individual athlete when it comes to fan reach and engagement.
Granted, the US leagues abound with players willing to tell their story in highly personal and open ways, a trait still very uncommon to athletes on this side of the globe.
It was, however, interesting to see Manchester United and Adidas come together in the presentation of Paul Pogba as a United player this past August - player-centric, stylised and creative, a departure from the jersey over shirt, scarf-holding press conference we are all so familiar with. Recognition, that even for a goliath like Manchester United, player power is only getting bigger.
Why invest in player marketing?
Fans don’t care about ads, slogans or commercial initiatives at their chosen club. They care about players, performances, results and the tribe they are part of!
Where it is impossible to control on field performance and results… one thing you can control is the presentation of your star players. The more you as a club invest in that presentation, the bigger the return from engaged fans.
A prominent rugby head coach once confided to me that he considered it vital that the club ‘generate superstars’, because superstars, and not marketing campaigns and aggressive ticket selling, generate interest and ticket sales!
Lessons for Club Marketers
From first hand experience of working closely with clubs, I’m well aware of the difficulty in getting access to players before, during and after long playing seasons. Access is important, but it isn’t everything, and a lot can be done with some forward planning and creative thinking.
Lesson 1 - Player access is worth fighting for
Plan it as far in advance as possible. Invest a little money, but a lot of time and energy in securing it. Start planning next seasons access in January of the preceding season - at the very latest! Engage the player leader group that exists at most clubs with the reasons and plans for working with players, they are the gateway to good relations with the playing side.
Lesson 2 - Stockpile your assets
When you succeed in getting access to players, future proof your marketing activity by capturing as much photography, video and content as possible.
Lesson 3 - Prep your players
Professional sportspeople live a very regimented life and typically don’t like a curveball. Let them know exactly what is expected of them ahead of time and stick to that plan.
Lesson 4 - All content counts
Movie quality video is great, and you can shoot quality content on your smart phone these days, but beyond that, get creative with stock imagery of your players in action, consider audio clips, copy quotes and infographics. There are many ways you can deliver content that no other sources have access to. Experiment with, and find, those ways.
Lesson 5 - Think BIG
Your club may already harbour a player or players who actually want to tell a story and want to be part of that storytelling process. Look to the US leagues, look to the content that Uninterrupted are producing - plan, pitch and invest time in informing the playing side at your club what you are trying to do in moving the club forward.