Digital Marketing Plan – Sport Franchises

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How … to hit a home run with your brand? Or to dunk your way into the industry? Or to score a hat trick your way to the top? Or whichever sport you resonate with…

The main focus of sports marketing is generating brand loyalty. It is an industry that has been constantly changing. Organizations are fluctuating on the league boards, some are having the perfect season while others are facing a drought. One team may win a tournament while many other teams are to lose. Therefore you need to build a strong community, a community that will stay in the good as well as the bad times because it is always beyond the game.

It is more focused on the shared experience of a real-time event that becomes a memory unique to the fanbase. How you digitally market your franchise plays a role in representing the face of the brand and the unique message behind each team. It is mostly about what your brand has to offer and the reason why a fan should become a member of the community. Those who choose to become a part of the community are the ones that will form your target audience. Your audience can range from fans to publicists, to sponsors, to players, and allow for future opportunities.

The first most important step is branding. Without a brand, the audience cannot recognize the franchise, and the fanbase can’t associate themselves with the community. The brand is the organization, without the Yankee logo, there would be no team to identify with. Therefore the first step in branding is the logo.

(Can you spot the yankee logo above? Aka. successful branding)

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: LOGO – SYMBOLISM

Your team needs a unique logo that reflects what your franchise represents, 

whether it is symbolic to its geographical location, an iconic animal of the area, or even just stereotypes. These symbolizations create unity and a deeper connection to the local fanbase. Examples next page: 

The New York Islanders logo and the name represent the geographical area of Long Island, New York. It was created to differentiate themselves from the New York Rangers who inhabit New York City.


The Dallas Cowboys logo and name are based on stereotypes about the state of Texas being associated with the wild west and cowboys.

The New Orleans Pelicans logo and the name is based on the state of Louisiana’s bird, the brown Pelican.

Other symbolism examples include historical moments & monuments (Golden State Warriors), weather trends (Miami Heat, Thunder Bay Lightning), etc. The key is to find symbols that are easily recognized as a characteristic of the team’s hometown. 

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: LOGO – COLOURS

The colors of the logo help to form the brand identity and may comply with what the logo symbolizes. Such as the New England Patriots using red, blue, and white to represent the patriotism of America which is highly associated with the brand as well as the team name.

Furthermore, different colours can aid in the development of the brand personality, use the table below to aid your designing process by matching colours with their associated appeals:

ColoursAppeal
RedFierce, strong, loud, playful, and  positive
OrangeExcitement, energy, and playful 
YellowYouthful, playful, energy, and happiness
GreenBalance, calm, easy on the eye, nature, and free
BlueProfessionalism, loyalty, wisdom, sophisticated, and respectable
PurpleBold, authentic, luxury, down to earth, and creative
PinkCheerful, fun, and physical tranquility
BlackModern, luxury, bold, glamour, strength, and authority
WhiteCleanness, exclusivity, sophisticated, and innocence
Dull Tones (grey/brown)Sophisticated, serious, classic, and confidence

(Source: Tailor Brands) 

Try to use different colour combinations that are different from the teams in the same league in order to build an easily differentiable brand identity that is unique to your fanbase! 

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: LOGO – DESIGN

In logo designs today minimalism is encouraged, where the simpler the colour scheme and fewer shapes the better.

  • By combining shapes 
  • Using negative and positive space
  • Max 4 colour scheme

Further shapes and lines develop an appeal. Shapes can be used to represent the symbolism your brand evokes, once again try combining shapes to ensure minimalism. Lines can depend on curvature and rigidity, having sharp lines such as the making of triangles, squares, and octagons provides a fierce, sophisticated, and bold impression. When creating circles and curved paths, it elicits a free, calm, elegant, and gentle appearance. 

Shapes, lines, and colour can work together in a contrasting or a complementary manner to help build the overall brand identity.

Now that your organization is recognizable and has an identity that fans can resonate with, it is finally time for your team to get off the bench and step up to the plate! It is time to develop a high fan base by reaching out to your target audience and generating traffic. 

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: PLATFORMS – WEBSITE

As of October 2020, over 59% of the global population are active internet users (Statista, 2020). The online community is the trending networked system to reach large audiences. How individuals become users is by creating profiles on various platforms the internet has to offer, depending on their interests and or industry. Therefore it is key to have a foot into the popular platforms associated with the sports industry to reach potential fans and keep up with the competition. Further, the greater involvement in various platforms broadens and strengthen traffic being able to attract audiences beyond those commonly found within the sports hubs. Keeping up with both direct and indirect competition.

The primary platform, the home base for your brand is creating a website, where audiences can find key information, updates, and news on the organization. Ranging from buying tickets, merchandise, promotions, schedule, league table, rosters, team and player updates, etc. Further, a section explaining the team’s history and owners is strongly encouraged to build a reputable and descriptive meaning behind the organization’s journey and development.

Websites can be effortless and low cost using WordPress, an industry-standard that allows you to develop and maintain your website using templates also known as plugins.

Below are the best WordPress plugins as of 2021 according to iTheme, that are dedicated to a wide variety of sports organizations, some of the features are listed below:

  • SportsPressPro – Cost depends on the license
    • Profiles: player list and statistics and staff
    • Stadium information and map 
    • Event Calendar
  • Team Rosters – FREE
    • Coordinate roster for various teams
    • Classification of team members and positions
    • Player gallery 
  • JoomSport – Cost depends on the license
    • Player profiles
    • Stadium information and map
    • Track round-robin and knockout stages
  • WP Club Manager – FREE
    • Profiles: player and staff
    • Coordinate sponsors
    • League tables automatically updated 

Source: iTheme (List Of Top 7 Best WordPress Sports Plugin In 2021)

The increasing technological trend is towards stronger usage of mobile phones over desktop computers, with over 55.7% of mobile users in comparison to computers as of December 2020 (StatCounter, 2021). Therefore it is important to ensure your website is mobile-friendly, this is a common feature found on WordPress templates.

Here are further tips to manually improve your sites mobile experience (Hicks, 2020): 

  • Larger buttons and font size, to ensure content is easy to read and navigate through.
  • Faster page loading, average users wait no more than 5 seconds for loading before leaving a page. This can be improved with:
  • Don’t use Flash, it prevents features for mobile devices such as Android and IOS. 

To determine if your website is mobile-friendly using the link below, it is an official Google testing tool:  https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

You paste your website’s URL, and it tells you if it is mobile-friendly, it also provides a mobile view of the site, and tips to improve its mobile experience.

Overall your website portrays what your brand entails, by containing information on the organization and what it has to offer as a team. It further evokes a brand identity by being consistent with branding colours and or fonts throughout the site and including the logo. This is your organization’s home plate, everything revolves around reaching this site in order for fans to maintain commitment with purchases and staying up to date on the season. Even though information on the organization will eventually be found on other platforms and third-party websites, it is vital for your organization’s official website to be complete, as no other platform or website will ever be as in-depth as the official website.

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: PLATFORMS – SEO

93% of online experiences start with a search query and this is exactly how fans reach their team’s website. As of January 2020, there are over 1.74 billion websites on the internet, and each site is ranked. 

The goal is for your site to compete for the top spot, just like in your league. 

This is done by gaining dominance and high search rankings on Google with search engine optimization (SEO).

Your first step would be to gather terms and phrases that fit your target audience’s needs and trends; along with describing your organization’s services to generate traffic and raise brand awareness. Your list of words and website content should go hand in hand, often these terms are gathered from your site because it is considered your home base and all essential information needed for your target audience. These words can be found in the:

  • Website Headers

H1s – Header on the main title page for the site

H2s – Subheaders on sections of the site 

H3s – Further subheadings 

Etc.

Example Toronto Blue Jays Site: https://www.mlb.com/bluejays

H1s – Toronto Blue Jays

H2s – Tickets

H3s – Single Game Tickets

  • Title Tags – The title for your site displayed as a clickable headline on search engine results. Around 50–60 characters.
  • Meta Description – Summary description of your website displayed under the title tags on search engine results. Around 50-160 characters.

Example: Toronto Blue Jays baseball team website on the search engine.

Methods To Improve Ranking

  • Google My Business – Free
    • Google’s online business directory, appearing on the left side of the search page once googled. Provides a summary of the organization some topics include: players, mascot, parent organization etc.
      • Easily update information 
      • Including ‘keywords’ can aid SEO
      • The brief description section can be linked to wikipedia or other preferred sites explaining your organization. By linking other sources may improve your relevancy. 
      • Advantage to local SEO + marketing towards local fanbase
  • By including stadium location, that can further be linked on Google Maps.
  • Google Trends & Google Keyword Planner – Free
    • Both platforms go hand in hand. The keyword planner allows you to determine the volume of searches on a particular term, in order to determine what keywords to use for audiences seeking a particular service. While Google Trends determines if the term is popular, this opens opportunities for you to capture moments when a particular keyword is trending in order to generate traffic to your site (Fisher, 2019).

Overall SEO generates traffic to your site, your home plate, and where the majority of your team’s information can be found to meet all of your target audience’s needs. Improving search ranking is like hitting a home run, that drives the audience back to home plate. The three other bases symbolize social media platforms that use the content as a guide towards your website, in order to make final decisions and seek further information. Such as using Facebook to promote tickets, that further displays a link to your website where the tickets can be officially booked.

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: PLATFORMS – SOCIAL MEDIA

As of October 2020, the topmost social media platforms that consist of active users are Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter (Statista, 2020). Being active on various social media platforms helps broaden the chances of more audience reach and keep up with both direct and indirect competition as all platforms listed above are commonly used by many of the sports organizations. Another benefit of Google My Business is that you can link your social media accounts together.

Instagram

Instagram is one of the most active social media platforms with almost a billion active users. It is another social media platform used by various sports franchises in order to post sporting highlights, live videos as well as breaking news. One of the most fascinating parts among Instagram’s community is sport. Various users follow in order to know about the trending news and current highlights while many users follow to keep up with the current news about their favorite players.

Facebook

Facebook is the most famous social media platform. Sports content is one of the most trending contents found on Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with an estimated user base of over 300 million (Lin, 2020). This social media platform consists of all the tools that are essential for any brand, especially a sports franchise, to interact with their current fans and reach any potential fans. The beauty of Twitter is the diversity that can be found in the interactions, especially on the “Sports” side of Twitter. Friendly banter can be found between the different franchises. For example, when FC Barcelona and Juventus exchanged tweets about Ronaldo and Messi’s rivalry. Whenever breaking news in the sports world is announced, it is usually announced first on Twitter. Communities of fans are connected by using hashtags, the social media tool that initially became famous through Twitter. 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a more user focused platform, where people can take

pictures and videos to send to others. Although sports franchises are using it’s filter tools to create a pre-developed photograph design, fans can use it during a match and or post to demonstrate their support.

Example: Edmonton Oilers have a filter available during a game, where fans can take pictures and include the brand designs shown on the right.

Youtube

Youtube is a video posting and streaming platform. One of the most common strategies is to create a youtube channel for the team where fans can interact with training sessions, players, or sweepstakes that are performed by the same team. 

It also allows the possibility of monetizing the channel through premium content giving the fans the option to click on the join option and get exclusive content from the same channel through membership, it is something very new yet but opens the possibility of expansion as the English team Liverpool FC is a pioneer in this option, which allows great expansion in a market still new in this area. 

BUILDING YOUR BRAND: METHODS – SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Stories – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Youtube all have story options. Where you can display quick videos and or moving pictures. Further stories are interactive, you can add polls, Q and A features, and Rankings. Stories can display live game announcements, new players, team partnerships, etc.

Example (above): Tottenham Spurs used story features to depict live game action, such as goal scoring and interactive selecting of the man of the match by the audience.

  • The Power of the Hashtag

In 2021, hashtags can be found all over any social media platform. What started on Twitter eventually spread to Instagram and even found its way onto YouTube and then Facebook. By using a hashtag, users are able to connect unique digital content to a specific topic. When more and more users begin tweeting or posting about a certain topic using the same hashtag, the hashtag begins to trend. Once trending, the hashtag travels all across the platform and various users become aware of the topic. For example, if there is a big MMA fight and fans watching the fight begin tweeting using the hashtag #DiazVSMcGregor. If enough users tweet about it, it will surely trend. Once it begins to trend, on Twitter, there is a “Trending” section that lists the current most popular hashtags. Which then allows anyone to click on that hashtag and get access to countless tweets, photos, and videos all about the fight. Becoming a one-stop shop for everything related to the fight. Not only does this spread information about the event but also spreads awareness, encouraging users to check out the event. Bringing more eyes to the accounts associated with the fight. Such as the fighters, and the company hosting the fight.

Every sports franchise on social media has a unique hashtag related to them. For example, the Boston Celtics use #BleedGreen, an ode to their iconic logo and team colour. Sacramento Kings use #SacramentoProud. These hashtags build an identity for the franchise. So, when millions of users tweet about the Celtics, they make sure to let everyone know they #BleedGreen. Creating this community and unity among fans. All while differentiating themselves from the other teams. These hashtags become mottos for the franchises. Win or lose Boston Celtic fans proudly #BleedGreen.

One franchise in the mid-2010s used the power of their hashtag to completely change their brand identity. The Toronto Raptors in the early 2010s were a team with virtually no brand identity. However, after reaching the playoffs in the 2013-2014 season for the first time in 5 seasons, the franchise launched the #WeTheNorth hashtag on Twitter to support the team on their upcoming playoff run. 7 years later, #WeTheNorth is still running strong. What started off as a simple hashtag became the brand identity not only for the Toronto Raptors but for all of Canada. Raptors fans used #WeTheNorth to let everyone in the NBA know exactly who they were. It became a motto, a slogan, a brand identity. It became a lifestyle. As the years went on the hashtag gained so much prominence it ended up on Raptors’ official merchandise, on the Raptors jerseys, and even on the Toronto Raptors home court. Now 7 years later the 2019 NBA Champions are known as the team from the North, now the fans at Raptors games proudly chant “WE THE NORTH” at the opposing team, and it all began with a simple hashtag, it all began with the franchise ending their tweets with #WeTheNorth. It became their brand identity.

  • Organize Team Events

It is advisable that when organizing events, you start small if you are new to the sports niche. You can visit local businesses to find out who might be interested in co-sponsoring your team events.  

  • Multi-streaming events: If your athletes and influencers collaborate and interact with each other on a regular basis, your team will get more viewership.  
  • Podcasts/webinars: Make a weekly or bi-weekly show where you invite your team members to share secrets and tips with viewers. Podcasts can be conducted on youtube. 
  • Live Streams: Where athletes can answer questions live and engage with fans. This can be done on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter
  • Team meetings: Make your team page an active space by organizing regular team meetings where team members exchange ideas with the goal of improving outreach. You can create a Discord server to better connect with your team. Team members can post questions and exchange notes using this same server. 

Here are some types of events you can organize on Social media with the help of your team:  

  • Giveaways

It is always good to have a detail with your club members and followers by rewarding them with a raffle. What can you raffle? We suggest you to raffle tickets for the next match, team’s kits, balls and even matches of higher categories. 

A formula that works very well for raffles is that those who want to participate have to follow the following steps:  

  1. Be followers of the page or profile.  
  2. Like the publication in which the sweepstakes takes place.  
  3. Tag two (or more friends) in a comment.  

With these basic rules (you can add more), you will reach new audiences and generate brand loyalty. 

  • Fan Interaction 

This is one of the most important parts in the whole communication plan. You should always remain close and courteous to your audience, even if you have to deal with offensive comments.  

Remember also that speed matters, so you should try to give answers in less than an hour, although it is understandable that not all of them can be answered.   

  • Scheduling Posts

Sport is a real-time event, a live moment that can be captured and shared by all fans at once. Therefore, focusing on that specific moment, that specific GAME is the main key to ensure an increase in engagement and encourage loyalty where fans are willing to re-experience what they believe and share the same with the community. Over 72% of fans are more engaged and excited about pre-game content (Writer, 2020). Timing is crucial when posting content. Can’t miss that!

During the game, around 52% of fans use tablets or smartphones in order to access content while watching the sport on TV. Therefore it is important to keep fans engaged in quality content before and throughout the game, to ensure greater audience loyalty, for future games  (Writer, 2020).  Therefore they are more likely to stay interacted in the live twitter feeds to see any behind-the-scenes updates and what other community members have to say. Further watching from TV can become laggy and people want to make sure they are a part of the “live experience” by staying connected so they know they are not behind and following in real-time. This can be done with social media stories features, to keep up with game stats both pre-game and during. Further a hashtag can be generated beforehand to generate traffic and encourage consumer engagement by posting on the game using that hashtag.

  • Social Media Image

Although each social network is different, you have to maintain parity in the design thus enhancing the image of your brand, that is, the team.  It is very essential to take care of the quality of the images you upload to the networks, especially the profile picture. One should also pay attention to the sizes when uploading photos. To achieve harmony across all platforms, always use your team’s colors in the images you share either through the club crest, filters, or lettering. 

  • Profile picture: It is most important that you consistently use the same profile picture on all social media platforms. We recommend that you use the most identifying feature of the club aka. the logo. It is essential that the quality of your team’s logo the best as it would be the first thing users will notice when they access the account.  
  • Cover photo: The cover photo always needs to be updated on Facebook with the most current as well as relevant news of the moment. For example, if you are in the middle of a membership recruitment campaign, you must post something related to it. If you have won the final of a championship, something relevant to it needs to be updated. It is the first image that users have of the team once they enter the profile, so you have to know how to take advantage of it and offer them the most important information.

Tip: when writing your brief description in your account, useless industry words and in the voice of fans over the organization. This develops a community atmosphere where fans can relate to the team on a deeper level (Barnhart, 2020).

HOW TO BE DIFFERENT FROM COMPETITORS?

Ironically, despite being the richest and most powerful league on the planet, the teams of the English Premier League such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, etc., are far behind the teams of the Spanish League such as FC Barcelona or Real Madrid. They are far behind the teams of the Spanish League such as FC Barcelona or Real Madrid.  All this has a logical explanation. One of the factors that makes FC Barcelona have more followers day by day is that it has in its ranks the Argentinean star Lionel Messi, being a constant competitor to the league championships or the fact that Barcelona is one of the main tourist destinations in Spain, but these are not all the factors.   

What makes FC Barcelona different? The reality is that FC Barcelona works quite well on social media, just to mention that on Instagram every week they have more than 200,000 followers, according to the club’s data. Barça is a multisport club: they have soccer, basketball, handball, roller field hockey, and indoor soccer. But apart from these professional disciplines and women’s teams, they also have different categories (U-20 and U-18). 

To be as diverse as they are, you have to treat all the teams individually and of course, give them space and time they need. The Cules have a team of four people working exclusively for the first team in social networks, generating texts, videos, audios, images, etc. They are responsible for the content they receive from the press officers of each of the sections and the academy. They post every day, 2 to 3 posts on Facebook and 2 to 3 tweets daily, a good formula to be constant without being heavy. 

With the continuous evolution of the strategy that they manage in social networks, they have also been incorporating different languages and channels. Barça is currently present on 15 platforms worldwide: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Line, Google+, Viber, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Sina (Chinese Twitter), WeChat, Miaopai (Chinese Vimeo), Daily Motion, TuneIn (for radios), Pinterest and Periscope.  

The use of WhatsApp has also become part of the daily routine of press officers to communicate with the media that follow the team’s activities on a daily basis. A good practice is to create a one-way WhatsApp group through which the club can inform journalists directly and receive their feedback, albeit with individual responses. Some smaller clubs have also started to use this channel to communicate with the fans.  

As for languages, the list is endless. FC Barcelona uses Spanish, Catalan and English as its ‘official’ languages, but also uses geolocation to post in French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. And if he happens to sign a player from some other corner of the planet, he will also be sure that his followers will receive a message or two in that new language.  

Overall, driving your sports marketing home requires various online platforms working together to generate traffic and ensure brand loyalty. Further branding is a key process to provide the audience with a team to identify their community.

For more blogs: https://blog.aleph-technologies.com/

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