Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Is Using the Fanbase a Good Way for Brands to Associate with Sport?

Marketing, October 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Is Using the Fanbase a Good Way for Brands to Associate with Sport?


A raft of brands, ranging from Shredded Wheat and Sega to Betfair, have taken the opportunity to forge links with unofficial fan groups as a cost-effective means of targeting a sporting audience.

MAYBE - PAUL VAUGHAN, BUSINESS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION

Fans are a market. A group of people with common interests in the support of something they hold dear. It could be a club or a country. It could be sport, music, charity or a pastime. Wearing the badge is something that motivates and drives a set of behaviours. Deeply tribal at one end and passive at the other.

Brands that want to reach a fanbase have to find the right way of doing it and pass the fan-cynicism test. Fans are smart and can see through brands that are out to exploit. However, research also shows that fans have a greater propensity to buy a brand if that brand invests in their passion.

Brands that invest only in the fanbase, don't necessarily make the experience better for the fan. Does the brand offer the fan better access to tickets, players, performers? Does it make the facilities at venues better? If the answer to these questions is no, going to the fanbase is not an effective route.

Vertical investment in a sport or club and the fanbase, gives a brand the best chance of a decent ROI.

MAYBE - RICHARD MOORE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CAPITALIZE

The success of sponsorship rests on brands engaging with something stakeholders are passionate about - and there is no one more passionate than a fan. Sponsorship provides the content for regular dialogue with consumers, it's up to the brands to use that well.

Brands must understand that they are talking to people about the things that are closest to their heart. They must act with integrity, genuinely have something to say and value to add. They must not consider this as an advertising-replacement strategy.

I often hear people saying 'Let's set up a Facebook page to talk about our sponsorship' or 'Twitter will help promote our brand sponsorship' This is crass, and brands that use social media and fan forums merely to promote a sponsorship deserve to be found out.

If you are going to play in this space do it with conviction and integrity. Make sure you have something powerful to say and be prepared to enter into a real debate with fans. If you have strong views, you will be respected for them; if not, you won't. …

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