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Does Your Sports Strategy Rely Too Much on GameDay Tactics?

March 15, 2019

Sam Richardson

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“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu, Art of War

Since starting with Nepa Global Sports, I’ve been fortunate to attend many great professional sports conferences and seminars around the country. I’ve met great leaders, representing the best-known professional sports leagues and teams in the world, and had the pleasure of engaging with some really smart, cool and talented folks.

Sports is fun but it’s a business too, and leagues and teams are like everybody else trying to come to grips with rapidly changing business demands and consumer needs.  So, whether it’s trying to accurately evaluate the value of their sponsorships, monetize social media, engage more fully with their sponsors or better understand their fan bases there’s a need to know more.

Sports business professionals get it. They understand that they need to know what motivates their fans in order to guide the strategic direction and to bring value to their partners, but they have got to put in the time, effort and most importantly, the resources needed to capture this critical information and drive consumer insight.

This may be due to the seasonal nature of sports; all too often, short-term tactical needs seem to take the priority over longer-term objectives. In baseball you would call that an error.

How many sports marketers look at their budgets based on long-term and short-term objectives? Consider:  what resources have you put aside for development, research, insight and understanding, and how much of that is being directed at tactics such as digital advertising or social media? To be really successful you have to measure, and not just once every five years, but constantly and in real time.

It’s all very well finding new fans to come through the turnstiles, but if you don’t know who they are or what your offer means to them, that turnstile effectively becomes a revolving door, churning revenues that have to be constantly replaced.

The sports success franchise that is riding high on the back of a winning streak and great attendance today is a potential headache tomorrow if the team’s management isn’t working to uncover how it can continue to get better by understanding and serving its customers.

In order to be successful over time, it’s estimated that marketers should be investing at least 60% of their resources in long-term brand building, with the remainder in short-term sales activation to achieve the best returns on their marketing investment.

I would guess that most sports marketing teams are probably putting less than 20% of their budgets aside for long-term strategy while fighting the weekly fires of life in seasonal sports by throwing the rest of the budget at short-term tactics.

A recent study from McKinsey on short-term vs long-term resourcing in business, reported the following:

“Among the firms we identified as focused on the long term, average revenue and earnings growth were 47 percent and 36 percent higher, respectively, … Companies that were managed for the long-term added nearly 12,000 more jobs on average than their peers from 2001 to 2015.”

Too many sports business professionals rely on on-field performance or worse still, their instinct or what they have done in the past, to gauge what their fans are thinking and feeling.

“Winning cures everything,” is the mantra. And it’s true, but only in the short term.

Sponsors have a different approach – they’re now looking for better ways to measure investment by analyzing specific KPIs, and they want to know the ‘true’ value – in dollars – of their sponsorship.

So how do you continue to grow your brands, provide value to partners and guard against complacency? The answer is surprisingly simple. Do the research!

Longer term sports organizations need to identify and optimize their fans’ path to purchase. And they also need to provide sponsors with a true valuation of what their sponsorship is worth in the eyes of consumers.

Fan Experience (FX) is the new battleground in sport and every sports organization needs actionable Fan Intelligence to compete. If you’re curious about how your organization’s fan experience measurement stacks up and how to take it to the next level, I’d love to talk with you.

We can start with a simple assessment.  It just takes a few minutes and you’ll receive an immediate analysis and a free copy of Nepa Sports “Cultivating FX measurement” eBook, based on decades of experience working with teams at all stages of maturity.

Click here to start your assessment.