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The Challenges of Personalisation in Sports Marketing

What Is Sports Marketing?

Sports marketing refers to marketing activities that look to promote sports events and sports brands. Often sports marketing can be confused with sports-related marketing communications, such as when a football team bears the logo of a brand on its shirt. True sports marketing refers solely to the act of promoting for the benefit of a sports brand or event.

The essence of sports marketing has long been identified as paradigmatically different from other strains of marketing, although it should be noted that these differences are often reinforced through lexical ambiguity. Consumers are “fans” and the product comes in multiple forms, from live games to replica kits and merchandise. The unquestioned and uniform nomenclature should not muddy the waters more than with any other brand-consumer relationship.

What successful sports marketers have done fantastically over the years is conceal the sales funnel to the point that some marketers are wont to claim that sports marketing is unlike any other. The real difference lies in the nature of the relationship between the consumer and the product.  

The Problem With Personalisation In Sports Marketing

For many companies, personalisation is employed as a means of engaging on a more personable level with its consumers. Leveraging distinctive assets that resonate with the individual or creating streamlined pathways are both recognised means of aiding the process through the sales funnel, particularly when utilising a digital platform.

The interesting dilemma for many sports brands – and they are brands in spite of the stock suffix “club” that sits abreast the logo – is that a significant connection has already been forged by the time the consumer engages with the brand. The question then becomes how to personalise communications to a consumer who already places the brand on a pantheon above other brands in their mind. The oft-obsessive nature of sports fans also means that brands feel personalisation is redundant as many consumers will wade through any communications the brand releases.

So How Can Marketers Use Personalisation To Sports Fans?

Breaking down the notion that all fans are the same is the first step in creating an appropriate system of personalisation in sports marketing. As the customer is often inherently invested in a sports brand or event, on the surface it may seem tricky to differentiate one from another. What is important to remember is that all customers will behave differently.

Personalisation should aim to deliver the right product or service at the right time and understanding the customer’s behaviour will facilitate this process. Part of what makes personalisation difficult in other forms of marketing is that consumers are often reluctant to give away personal data; however, sports brands are in a good position from this perspective as the interactions with the brand can be tracked with greater consistency due to the event-driven nature of sport.

The primary aim in sports marketing should be to create distinct profiles for those who attend events and those who purchase products away from the events. These segments represent the two main types of customer, and although there will inevitably be some overlap between the two, generating an understanding of a customer’s intentions will allow sports marketers to generate personalised communications.

Beyond this, understanding where a consumer is within the sales funnel is also important. Once an event has finished, consumers are right back at the start again, and the mistake is to assume that because a consumer has attended an event they are already past the stages of awareness and interest. Whilst a consumer may be “aware” that an event is due to take place, the challenge from the marketer’s perspective is to break down the barriers to the sale.

In this sense, sports marketers should look to challenge consumer behaviour with personalised communications. The message that the majority of sports brands purvey is that by simply liking the brand, you are already a fan, and by allowing this self-edifying definition to manifest into consumer behaviour, the opportunity to drive awareness and sales is missed. Personalisation could be an invaluable tool for sports marketers as it could allow them to acknowledge a current level of engagement and act as a catalyst for movement through the sales funnel of which the consumer was previously unaware.


The main challenge comes in breaking down the silos and agreeing that all consumers are not the same. The majority of brands accept that there are a series of marked segments that make up the overall consumer base, and sports marketing should approach the problem with the same mentality. No two consumers are the same, and as much as the promulgating message of all sporting brands is about being part of a wider community, sports marketers are presently at risk of double thinking themselves into extinction.


Do you have any experience in sports marketing? Did personalisation play a role in your strategy? Tweet @mporiumgroup or start the conversation below.

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