Is sports marketing being side-lined by digital technology?

There is no denying that digital technology is disrupting the sports industry. Yet the capabilities of many sporting organisation’s digital marketing teams are in danger of losing the race to meet consumer expectations.

The new age of digital sporting fans

As digital media becomes more sophisticated, sports fans continually evolve their attitudes towards the role of digital media as a standard part of their sporting experience, demanding a more connected, mobile and shareable experience than ever before.

The recent Australian Sports Commission report on digital and technology in sport highlights the digital divide faced by the industry in keeping up with consumer preferences. The report cites the Australian sporting industry as comparatively underinvested in the digital space, spending on average a quarter of the rate of charities and non-profit organisations on digital and technology.

Focus on talent

While investment in digital spending is clearly required to bring the sporting industry in line with current consumer expectations and prepare to meet the needs of the next generation of digital natives in sport, the report casts a spotlight on the resourcing required to transform the industry.

The opportunity to upskill and recruit people with digital capability is highlighted alongside the difficulties faced by sports organisations in attracting and retaining talent.  The Executive Director of the Australian Sports Technology Network is quoted as saying, “Our brightest sport tech talent go overseas, and we struggle to attract digital talent “The best people are designing solutions to chase the big dollars in the U.S. As soon as they get a bite, they’re gone.”

At Six Degrees, we partner with a number of different sports organisations including AFL, Cricket Australia, Hockey Australia, Netball Australia, and Western Bulldogs, supporting the development of senior and mid-level digital and marketing roles to increase capacity to deliver connected digital campaigns for the digital generation of supporters.

Hockey Australia General Manager of Commercial & Communications, Vibeke Stisen says of the current environment, “Like so many other National Sporting Organisations, we want to deliver better, more engaging content to the right people at the right time. We know that our ability to deliver on our ambitious plans are hugely important in our journey to grow our game and deliver commercial success of our sport.”

“We also know that we have a very small team and limited resources to deliver. We have to be very strategic about how we resource our business. Our success will depend on our ability to constantly grow the capabilities of our team while accessing short term expertise,” says Vibeke.

Game on for marketing

Across all sporting codes, small and large, low or high-profile, there is a compelling argument to increase in house digital marketing capabilities to respond to consumer expectations and deliver a competitive edge over rival clubs and codes. However, the smarter use of digital technology within sporting organisations will also act to free up the time of small marketing teams often consumed by manual processes and fragmented systems, helping achieve improved outcomes in the longer term.

As sporting codes feel the challenges of creating a consistent user experience across disparate digital systems and driving compelling engagement with their audience, some sports marketing teams are starting to respond to the challenge. The recent This Girl Can campaign from VicHealth demonstrates how digital media can be used to promote participation in physical activity for women, working in partnership with several key sporting clubs and codes.

The use of digital analytics also broadens the scope to measure, evaluate and improve the experience of sports fans. We are seeing organisations starting to increase their investment in digital marketing as they equip their internal marketing teams with the right technical skills to produce more engaging content for fans and participants.