Sports Marketing Draws a Crowd

By Manly, Lorne | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, August 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

Sports Marketing Draws a Crowd


Manly, Lorne, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


As publishing companies increasingly attempt to turn their titles into marketing-driven vehicles to spur revenue growth, a growing number of non-sports magazines are getting into the sports-marketing game.

U.S. News & World Report recently signed on as the presenting sponsor of the fledgling Champions Tour for professional tennis players over 35. Out will be the official magazine of next year's Gay Games in New York City. In the next few months, Fitness is likely to sponsor a volleyball tour, joining New York Times Co. Women's Magazines siblings Family Circle and McCall's in the sports marketing field. Newsweek, already a major player in tennis and golf, is expanding its marketing program with the National Football League and eyeing a cycling sponsorship. And Playboy hopes to boost the visibility of its Playmate teams in events such as a prospective volleyball tour and Rollerblading and motorcycle races.

All these publishers are expecting the events to be more than high-profile schmooze-fests. The sponsorships should help attract new advertisers, solidify relationships with existing clients, break into marketers' promotion budgets, and pick up new readers for the magazines--all of which contributes to the bottom line even if the events themselves may only break even. To cite one example, Playboy, which has run winter ski-fests for four years and spring-break events since 1976, can directly attribute 15 pages of new and incremental advertising in the past two years to its sports-marketing efforts.

The sports lure--and its dangers

The infatuation of American business with sports marketing has intensified during these years of recession. A $1.4 billion market in 1989 has mushroomed to a projected $2.4 billion this year, according to IEG Sponsorship Report of Chicago. While no figures are available for magazine spending, publishing executives are not immune to the sports bug.

"You have to figure out a way to stand out from your competitors, and sports continues to be a growing industry," says Dede Patterson, director of women's sports marketing at The New York Times Co. Women's Magazines.

But pitfalls await those who rush in without a clear rationale and detailed business plan, caution magazine executives already involved in sports marketing.

"Sports marketing is an extremely time-intensive and detail-oriented undertaking where you're only as good as your last show," says Rick Becker, publisher of Yachting, which runs seven regattas each year and was the official magazine of last year's Americas Cup. "Once you sour someone, it's very difficult to woo them back," warns Becker.

The advice for neophytes? "First and foremost, the event should fit in with your brand strategy," says Peter Bonani, publishing director of Golf, which is in its fourth year of sponsorship of the JAL Big Apple Classic women's golf event.

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