Adapting to the Game: Cutting-Edge Strategies for Brands and Agencies in the Changing Landscape of Sports Media

How Sports Sponsorships are Shaping the Future of Brand Engagement

By Nicole McCormack, SVP/General Manager of Brand Solutions at TeamSnap

In today’s rapidly evolving sports media landscape, marked by an insatiable consumer demand for diverse sports content, programming, and events, brands and agencies are faced with the challenge of capturing and retaining increasingly divided consumer attention. To stand out amidst this fragmentation, brands must diversify their strategy and follow consumer attention as it expands beyond traditional sports media.

Here are three key areas where brands and agencies can enhance their sports marketing strategy to capture more focused consumer attention:

Go Local to Forge Deeper Connections:

The passion for sports often burns brightest at the local level. It’s where communities come together, where rivalries ignite, and where lifelong bonds are formed. Brands seeking deeper connections should consider focusing on local sports teams, regional athletes, and youth sports.

The implementation of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals with collegiate athletes offers brands a new frontier for personalized, local-level marketing. This strategy allows brands to align with athletes and leagues who have strong ties to their communities, resonating deeply with local fans.

Youth sports also present a compelling opportunity for brands to engage with passionate communities. Every weekend game can feel like ‘the big game’ to participants and fans alike, offering brands the chance to become an integral part of the community’s fabric. According to TeamSnap, 95% of parents who use the platform say that watching their kids play sports is their favorite thing to do. This underscores the undivided attention that youth sports command and the potential for brands to build strong connections with parents and young athletes alike.

By engaging with local sports, brands can tap into the burning passion that exists at the grassroots level, building brand affinity from the ground up.

Embrace Emerging Sports and Diverse Audiences:

As sports consumption patterns evolve, brands must recognize the growing interest in diverse sports and audiences. While traditional professional leagues continue to thrive, there is a noticeable shift in attention towards emerging sports and non-traditional demographics.

Women’s sports have seen a remarkable surge in popularity. A Deloitte study predicts that in 2024, elite women’s sports will generate revenue exceeding one billion dollars for the first time ever. This trend reflects a broader cultural shift towards greater inclusivity and recognition of female athletes’ achievements.

Additionally, non-traditional sports like pickleball and flag football are capturing consumers’ attention, presenting new opportunities for brands to differentiate themselves. SponsorUnited reports that over 150 brands have partnered with pickleball in some capacity, signaling the growing appeal of niche sports among audiences. Also, according to SponsorUnited, across the broader flag football landscape, 134 brands are actively buying sponsorships/media, with categories like apparel and accessories, leisure and recreation, and technology taking center stage. Taking this approach can help brands expand their reach and connect with passionate fan bases that may have been overlooked in the past.

Harnessing Social Media for Amplified Brand Engagement:

Brands are increasingly turning to digital platforms and social media to amplify their reach and engage with the sports community on a deeper level. By leveraging the power of social media, brands can create authentic connections and resonate with consumers on a personal level.

Through compelling narratives and interactive content, brands can capture the attention of sports enthusiasts and foster meaningful engagement. Platforms like Instagram, X, and TikTok offer unique opportunities to showcase behind-the-scenes moments, highlight community initiatives, and connect with fans in real-time.

A notable example of this comes from Tim Ellis, EVP Chief Marketing Officer of the NFL. He has implemented a strategy to humanize the brand through a “helmets-off” approach that puts players at the forefront. This involves supporting the causes players care about and matching these passion points with fans. By getting behind the things that players and fans are passionate about, the NFL creates deeper, more personal connections, exemplifying how brands can use social media and digital platforms to engage authentically with their audiences.

Navigating the evolving sports media landscape requires brands and agencies to adopt strategic approaches that align with changing consumer behaviors and preferences. By going local, embracing emerging sports, and diversifying their engagement strategies, brands can transcend traditional sports marketing tactics and create meaningful, lasting connections with their target audiences.

About the Author

Nicole McCormack is SVP/General Manager of Brand Solutions at TeamSnap. TeamSnap is the #1 youth sports management app in North America, offering brands the opportunity to reach millions of families in the happiest moments of their week through digital media on the TeamSnap app and on-field sponsorships with local youth sports leagues across the country.