Mike Golub is the president of SlamBall, a groundbreaking global sports and entertainment phenomenon, merging the finest aspects of basketball, football, and hockey, all seamlessly interwoven with cutting-edge technology. Within this article, Mike Golub delves into the paramount significance of cultivating unwavering loyalty and fostering a vibrant community of fervent fans within the electrifying realm of sports.
Sports have existed for thousands of years – and so have their devotees. From gladiator fights to modern-day soccer matches, fan support is paramount to athletes, teams, and sporting goods companies.
But sports goes beyond selling products and buying tickets in the name of business and fan entertainment.
Mike Golub says that to most fans, sports also epitomize representation, culture, and identity.
Mike Golub on the Profitability of Developing Community
The sports industry generates billions of dollars in revenue. According to the Business Research Company, “the global sports market size grew from $486.61 billion in 2022 to $512.14 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2%,”
Mike Golub says that to some athletes, sports teams, and sporting goods companies, the fans’ dedication seems to be a feasible market to profit from – and many of them execute various marketing strategies to earn more money.
Some common marketing strategies include:
Developing a Target Audience
A great number of sports teams that represent a nation sometimes appear in commercials – and other types of media – to rally their countrymen for support in an upcoming match, fight, or game.
Mike Golub reports that while the goal of this type of marketing strategy is for the sports team to gain a loyal following, having fans identify with the team – as fellow citizens of the nation they represent – makes it more engaging and it often appears to be more sincere to the audience.
Other athletes, on the other hand, sometimes focus on younger fans to be their target audience. These athletes might share stories related to their childhood and upbringing. And many of them do it with the intent of inspiring more children – and to gain support from them.
Mike Golub also notes that when athletes have younger fans as their target audience, chances are, that the professionals can earn more money when the fans ask their parents – or guardians – to purchase tickets to see the athlete, buy their autographed merchandise, or purchase products and services they endorse.
However, a nation’s citizens and younger fanbase are only some of the most common target audiences. Other companies and promoters focus on female athletes, persons with disabilities, and enthusiasts for particular sports.
The target market of each sport, sports team, and athlete largely depends on the marketing strategy implemented by their marketing team – and the feasibility of its success.
Sponsorships and Endorsements
Mike Golub explains that sporting goods companies’ target market is typically aspiring athletes. Depending on the trends and currently successful athletes, sporting goods manufacturers collaborate with some of the famous sports professionals. Most of these companies also specialize in specific sports.
This type of collaboration is often seen in successful brands like Nike, Adidas, Fila, Under Armour, Reebok, New Balance, and many more. For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo recommends Nike, Conor McGregor endorses Reebok, Tom Brady promotes Under Armour, etc.
These athletes can often be seen wearing the brand. And the professionals might also appear in commercials advertising the products’ effectiveness, comfort, or durability. These endorsements can drive more sales since the athletes display that they wear or use the products themselves.
Mike Golub notes that more often than not, the athletes and sports teams also profit from the product purchases (made by the fans) from the sporting goods companies.
Promoting Contests for Fans
The sports industry also utilizes the demand for tickets, athletes, and products as a form of marketing strategy. In FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, FIFA estimates that around 3.4 million soccer fans attended the event.
Mike Golub says that whether the attendees watched the soccer match (or matches) to support their favorite player or country, or they are simply fans of the sport, it’s clear that FIFA World Cup tickets are sought after – and that’s just one event in a single sport; other sports also have their anticipated events.
To some companies – sports-related or not – these ticket demands can be an excellent way to market their products and services. And many of them do it in various unique and creative ways.
Companies might promote a chance to win tickets for certain sports events, an opportunity to meet the athletes, or free – and sometimes, limited-edition – products. Some of these products might even have autographs signed by certain sports professionals.
These types of promotions and the mechanics of it, however, are up to the company’s discretion – as well as their set of rules and regulations.
Self-Identity and Continuous Fan Loyalty
Mike Golub says that watching sports has long been considered as a form of entertainment. In a 2007 research paper by Jason Mays (University of Nevada Las Vegas), it states that “many cultural, social, and psychological needs are met by attending or watching sporting events.”
“Die-hard [fans] see those needs as something special and unique to them. Fan motivation literature proposes that an adage of sport fandom is the fanatical nature of some fans helps to re-create their self-identity,” they added.
The continuous fan support is perhaps the reason why most companies in the sports world prioritize “identity,” in general – be it the identity of the brand, athlete, or fans.
As sports fans are the primary consumers, the sports industry often formulates marketing tactics that focus on “relatability.”
Sports professionals and businesses might sometimes highlight a nation – and their citizens’ – core values and traditions, an athlete’s humble beginnings, or a sports team’s seemingly familiar struggle for success.
These traits and experiences can easily be recognized by those who aspire to be like their favorite athletes. As a result, the familiar background and core values can drive fans to support the team, athlete, or sport – as a whole.
Mike Golub says that the reason for this is most likely due to the similar beliefs and ethics shared by sports professionals and their supporters.
An athlete’s early struggles – and subsequent success – may also sometimes motivate a fan to engage in the same sport. And if they do already engage in the sport, the sports professional can also spark the fan’s passion to improve or train harder.
And a child who’s passionate and inspired to further their career in sports can ensure another generation of athletes.
Watching sports may primarily be a form of entertainment. But to many sports companies and professionals, fan loyalty and community building are some of the best foundations that can boost a brand’s success.
To fans, sports isn’t just a pastime – it can be a significant event that promotes solidarity, a game that preserves cultural distinction, or a momentous experience that they can draw inspiration from.