Sports Marketing: Social Media Strategies for Professional Teams and Leagues

Expand your social reach, engagement and revenue with digital sports marketing strategies. Greenfly empowers sports marketers to drive more fan engagement, reach and awareness for associations, teams and leagues.

sports marketing soccer team

The term “sports marketing” is used in many different situations that even industry insiders aren’t sure when it’s appropriate to use it. What is sports marketing today? It’s now the practice of driving merch and ticket sales through fan engagement on digital channels and social media platforms.

Of course, it involves advertising for sporting events, as well as advertising at sporting events, which influences the purchasing decisions of sports fans in attendance and helps the brand capture the public’s imagination.  But now, sports marketing is much more comprehensive. It means marketing to fans and building fan loyalty continuously — even in the off-season.

The point is for audiences to automatically think of a product when they think about sports. But what exactly is sports marketing, and what does it entail? What is today’s definition of sports marketing?

marketing in sports baseball game

What Is Sports Marketing?

Sports marketing in its most basic form is simply promoting sports events, equipment, or products and services. Good sports marketing employs an athlete or a team or a corporate sponsor as third-party validation that the event, the team, or the tournament is going to be worth it for fans.

Sports marketing today is the practice of advertising products and services via sporting events through player and sports team endorsements. It is both physical (billboards, newspaper ads) and digital (organic and paid social media, banner ads, emails, etc).

Athletes and teams can promote a specific product or simply a brand image. For example, they can promote anything from a charitable cause to a sportswear company. And sports marketing isn’t just for marketers – in today’s world of social media, everyone in the organization is a marketer, promoter or influencer and can contribute to the growth of the sport, the league or a specific team.

Examples of Sports Marketing

There are several prime examples of marketing in sports:


During the Superbowl, this beer company spends a lot of money on television advertising. The funny new commercials are almost as popular as the game itself among viewers.


The firm spent millions of dollars for the naming rights to Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.


The sneaker company devised a fictional rivalry between decathletes Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson, which became one of the most iconic marketing campaigns of all time.

Coca Cola

The phrase “Have a Coke and a Smile” was first used in a memorable ad portraying football player Joe Green offering an autograph for a young youngster.


Kasey Kahne, a NASCAR driver, is sponsored by Allstate Insurance. His car is adorned with prominent Allstate advertisements. And he features in the company’s print and television advertisements.


At the end of their advertising, the ticket agents used a famous sports sound, the buzzer signifying the end of a period. Fans immediately thought of StubHub when they heard the sound during a game.

sponsor staff at table for sports marketing plan meeting

Why Does Sports Marketing Matter?

A sports organization’s most valuable asset is its brand – it is the most recognizable part of the organization, and the marketing department is solely responsible for its creation and fan affinity.

Today’s brand is more than simply a name, symbol, or design; it’s also the business-consumer relationship. 

Competition is everywhere, and sometimes all it takes is a strong communication plan to set major sports brands apart. 

New communication channels, including the internet, smart devices, and social media, have paved the way for new and more targeted communication methods, increasing conversions.

Impacts on Companies and Organizations

If it weren’t for marketing, sports would not have such an enormous impact on the world today. Many sporting events rely substantially on a ‘no marketing is good marketing’ strategy to succeed. Why not? Fans have always come on their own.

It’s different today. Fans are glued to their phones 24/7 – and sports marketers have the opportunity to stay in front of them 24/7, not just around game day. Can anyone really follow their favorite football team or attend games if no one promotes these groups or activities? It would be difficult for sports properties to fill stadiums without putting a huge emphasis on “free” marketing using social media as a way to directly communicate with fans. 

Football clubs have turned to social media as a helpful resource for brand promotion, an example of sports marketing. 

They’ve pushed their sports marketing strategy to the next level by using social media to attract a new fan base, promote upcoming matches, and run campaigns.

marketing for sports teams sports fans

Sports Marketing Benefits for Sports Brands

Sports marketing benefits athletes, professional sports leagues, and associations, along with sports clubs, sports teams, sports organizations, and companies that sponsor and promote sports.

Create Loyal Customers From Casual Sports Fans

Repeat customers account for an average of 65% of a company’s revenue. You can increase fan loyalty and generate more revenue per fan by linking your brand with things that matter to them.

When an ad showcasing your support for your local team appears, fans may become more anxious to make a purchase from your brand. This increases their likelihood of returning to your store or placing an order before games.

Sports Marketing… Increases Sales

Connecting your organization with sports can help you grow your sales dramatically. Sports are important to consumers. They can’t wait to return to the sports season, and their purchasing decisions will reflect that. You may capitalize on this enthusiasm by partnering with local sports teams. 

Builds Brand Awareness

When you associate your company with a sports team, you help to raise brand awareness. Clients who support that team will become more familiar with your brand. Customers can’t choose to buy from you if they don’t know who you are. On the other hand, increasing your entire brand recognition might significantly enhance your sales. This is why brand management is so important.

Reaches New Customers

When you associate your business with local sports teams, you’ll find that you can reach out to new people who might not otherwise be aware of you. Over the course of a season, the average NFL fan will spend more than 24 hours watching ads. This activity provides you with numerous opportunities to engage with customers who may have never heard of your company before. 

Social Media sports marketing

Social Media Now Defines Sports Marketing

Social media has evolved into the ideal companion to the sports marketing industry for a few reasons. As a channel, it arguably offers the most access to your current and future fans’ attention.

Of course, excitement and interest in your team are driven first and foremost by key moments on the field of play. Hail Mary touchdown passes, hat trick hockey shots, head-butt soccer scores, and more combine with your team’s history to create the narratives and connection fans crave. But outside of the few hours a week fans might spend watching sporting events, fans are spending an additional two and a half hours on social media.

This is a massive amount of potential time and attention sports marketers can access that wasn’t available two decades ago. Today, however, reaching fans via social has become table stakes in competing for their loyalty and engagement. On top of the amount of attention you potentially have access to, additional fan engagement is a key advantage of social media as a sports marketing channel as well. For example, after seeing a brand or product in ‘Stories,’ 58% of Instagram users say they became more interested in it. 

Just by showing up in their social media feeds, you’re increasing the likelihood that fans will engage — consume more of your media, buy more memorabilia, and attend more events. Beyond theorizing, there’s data to back that up as another 50% of Instagram users say they go to an official site to buy a product or service after seeing a Story.

Sports Marketing With Athletes on Social Media

Perhaps one of the most powerful features of social media as a sports marketing channel is the leverage created by advocacy marketing. Advocacy marketing is a word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) strategy driven by your brand’s closest, most passionate and valuable circle of supporters. This includes your fans and professionals who work for your organization, but your most powerful group of advocates is almost certainly your athletes. Fans have fallen in love with their favorite athletes for generations, of course, but the rise of social media has given them unprecedented access to the lives and stories of their sports heroes.

There’s something to be said for the massive anticipation that can be built around the release of a new Sports Illustrated feature or behind-the-scenes documentaries. But the depth of connection fans can form from smaller snippets of your athletes’ lives shared on social media is just as massive when it comes to generating engagement. Your athletes know this; that’s why they’re building their personal brands on social and often have much greater reach and influence than your brand’s social channels. Your sponsors know this, too; that’s why they’re partnering with your athletes as brand ambassadors to create sponsored social media content.

And we know this; which is why we’ve built products and services like our content distribution hub to make it easy for sports marketers like you to share media with your athletes — so you can leverage their reach and brand equity to expand yours!

Sports Marketing Strategies for track and racing events

Challenges in Sports Event Marketing

Even though sports marketing is the golden ticket, it doesn’t come without its challenges:

The Millennial Generation

Sports have been popular for a very long time. However, with increased popularity comes increased problems and adversity. The sports industry is fighting an uphill struggle to convince millennials to watch matches now more than ever. 

Negative News

The hyper-focus on negative news surrounding sportspeople will always burden the sports industry. For whatever reason, news organizations (such as TMZ) have turned their focus toward being the first to report on the latest scandal. These negative headlines remain in high demand.

Technology Advancements

Another issue confronting the sports sector is staying up with technology changes. Many fans interact with their favorite sports teams on social media. Similarly, venues must stay up with the times. The lack of wifi can be a significant turnoff for fans who want to remain connected throughout the game. 

Sports marketing - brain storming

How Are Sports Marketing Plans Created?

Having a sports marketing plan is vital. But to create one, you need to choose the right approach.

Make Interesting Content

Developing high-quality content with the assistance of celebrity athletes is one way that sports marketers may utilize to attract more customers.  Sports enthusiasts tend to share content with their friends, allowing you to get into the social networks of your target audience. 

Consider the Timing

Pre-game content excites 72% of spectators throughout and after most sports events; therefore, most fans like to have entertaining content before the game starts. 

Choose Your Target

The group of people you will be directly marketing to is called a target audience. Consider audience characteristics such as geography, age, interests and income. By initially considering your target market, you can choose how to contact them and which consumers to target.

Host Sports Contests

Contests are an indicator of effective promotion. Even if they are not athletic, a contest can feed into fans’ passion for the game by motivating them to feel like victors. 

Share Photos and Content

The majority of today’s sports enthusiasts like exchanging information. They enjoy sharing material so much because it allows them to connect with other like-minded sports fans. As a result, your content must be easily shared and appealing for your material to be effective.

Work With a Sports Marketing Firm

Some people choose to deal with sports marketing agencies for all of their sports and entertainment commercialization of new products.  People want to be closer to the action and their favorite athletes; therefore, they want greater authenticity. 

sports marketing strategies tips

Sports Marketing Strategies and Tips

Sports bring people together and excite them, making them ideal for marketing efforts. As you develop a sports marketing strategy, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Define whom you want to reach. You must target a specific audience to market effectively. Fans of a Los Angeles squad will require different methods than those of a New York City team. 
  • Count on the support of your fan base. Fans of successful sports groups develop a strong sense of loyalty. Marketers can leverage that sense of dedication by forming partnerships with people’s favorite athletes and teams. 
  • Provide opportunities for promotion. Fans can benefit from sports-related promotions offered by marketing teams inside and outside of sports organizations. Individual team employees may be able to give discounts on jerseys and other products. 
  • Strategize around major sports events. Sports marketers and event managers can take advantage of how many significant sporting events there are in the sporting world. For example, the Olympic games. 
  • Make use of social media. Whether you’re selling your company through a sports team or you’re a sports team advertising yourself, use a mixture of traditional media (like billboards) and online marketing. 

Leverage Your Athlete Influencers’ Reach

One of the top marketing opportunities in sports is admittedly a favorite of ours; we believe there’s so much potential in it that we’ve built a whole platform around this strategy!

What strategy is that?

Leveraging your athlete’s brands and followings to support and grow your own. As much as your fans love your team, many of the most exciting, engaging stories come from moments created by your top players during and outside of team events. By helping your players promote themselves and grow their personal brands through and around these moments, you can create enormous value for them as well as your team.

Greenfly automates digital media delivery to athletes to enable them to quickly and easily share your best moments on their social channels. This empowers you to expand your brand’s social reach, engagement and profitability by leveraging your existing resources to make the most of your sports marketing efforts.

Curious to know exactly how YOU can do that?

Talk to an advisor to learn how Greenfly can help you build more brand awareness in sports.

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