As brands and teams combine to capitalize on their awareness, we sat down with industry leaders and talked opportunities and strategies in sports marketing.

What follows is a broad-strokes overview of the discussion that took place during a panel hosted at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Our experts:

Dr. Cheri Bradish, Loretta Rogers research chair in sport marketing, Ryerson University,

Mark Palmer, director of corporate partnership sales, Toronto Blue Jays,

Wim Stocks, GM/CEO at WorldGaming and Collegiate Starleague, a division of Cineplex,

Sports and e-sports marketing are aligning

The two are more alike than we think. Observers might not know how to play League of Legends, but when they understand the structure and the rules, which are similar to traditional sports, they’ve already come half way.

For millennials and Gen Z, watching other people playing video games online is the same as watching traditional sports on TV. Having said that, marketers need to understand their target audience and the platforms used to interact with personalities, games and leagues.

Once that’s in place, methods and strategies from traditional sports marketing can be applied to e-sports marketing, and vice versa.

New audiences and platforms are pushing traditional sports marketers to think differently

Marketers are having a difficult time connecting with millennials and Gen Z consumers because they refuse to be sold products and brands directly. For sports marketing specifically, marketers are struggling to connect with this audience because it cares less about attending live events, often preferring to play video games or watch streamers. Many of them do not subscribe to cable.

With e-sports and platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, traditional marketing platforms are playing a smaller role. Wim Stocks emphasized that any marketing ideas for millennials and Gen Z need to be a part of an immersive experience and be authentic.

Traditional sports teams are working with e-sports teams

As traditional sports organizations have a harder time attracting younger generations to their stadiums and arenas, organizations such as MLSE and the New York Mets are starting to acquire e-sports teams and leagues. Both Mark Palmer and Wim Stocks mentioned that, primarily, they are attractive investments from a bottom-line perspective, but they also provide an incredible amount of insight into younger audiences that organizations may not have effectively captured.

They are examining e-sports’ successes and bringing those learnings into the traditional sports arena, including how they engage with fans.

Brands and sports teams need to align on core objectives before collaborating

Why does a particular brand want to include a sports team in their messaging? Are they doing it for the right reasons or are they looking to partner up because of a certain superstar player?

If your brand wants to invest in and work with sports teams, make sure you are doing it because you understand and can capitalize on the passion of the fans, to ultimately change their purchasing behaviours.

Students that sports teams hired a decade ago are completely different than who they hire now

Cheri Bradish mentioned that educators have evolved how they prepare students. Schools used to focus on basic training such as running events and now they are more about advanced strategies like incorporating new technologies and examining sports teams as brands.

The sports marketing industry is changing rapidly and teams are looking for business students who understand the core of how an operation is run as well as the unique aspects of the Canadian market.

It is vital that students understand the landscape of partnerships in sports marketing in Canada, such as how banks play a big role, as well as the impact of new technologies and analytical methods such as player performance, fan engagement and partnership ROI.

Published by Karen Ahn

Analytics Lead at Globe Content Studio, The Globe and Mail

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