Quality photos, narrative storytelling, and engaging videos are keys to a successful sports marketing strategy heading into 2022, according to several tourism experts.
Getting fans in the bleachers is goal number one, and to complete the task, a marketing plan which encourages visitors to stay in the region and enjoy local attractions is crucial.
“It’s incredibly important and why we spend about one-third of our time working on our marketing plan and activations,” said Rob Wells, executive director of the Savannah Sports Council in Georgia.
Even though two of the events they run-the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run and the Savannah Hockey Classic-are more than 20 years old, the Sports Council still spends an “incredible amount of time and resources toward each of their marketing plans,” Wells said. Savannah also supports the Publix Savannah Women’s Half & 5K.
For events the Savannah Sports Council organizes and manages, the team focuses on digital media channels with most efforts put toward Facebook, Instagram, and email marketing.
“For both of our races, we try to post no less than three times per week,” Wells said. “The goal for emails is to average one broadcast every 10 days per event.”
Wells also suggests to, “consider spending a considerable amount of budget on sponsored and boosted posts. We use those options for price increases and other high conversion times.”
A small amount of their budget is also allocated towards local radio, highway billboards, and the Council’s ambassador program where bloggers can like and follow the official event page, make frequent mentions/retweets, and write posts promoting the event.
Regarding media influencers and bloggers, Wells says, “it’s paramount to ensure a marketing strategy reflects your diverse audience.”
This way of thinking is also needed when it comes to collateral materials for marketing usage. “From the start, we have been very intentional with photo selection to ensure that we are celebrating our diverse community of runners,” Wells said.
While changes to Facebook’s privacy settings have made it more complex to target specific audiences, it’s still possible. Wells mentions how the council also tries to focus more efforts on posts to engage and uplift the community rather than specific calls to action.
Samantha Cole, associate director of public relations for the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board, said for events relying on spectators to generate revenue, quality marketing is critical for success.
“This is what sets our destination apart from others when it comes to hosting events here in Valley Forge & Montgomery County, Pa.,” Cole said. “We have a professional marketing team on staff ready to assist incoming groups with promotion across a variety of platforms, and we have a history of success in obtaining coverage for incoming events to help drive attendance.”
The Valley Force Tourism & Convention Board assists events by sharing details on social media, through press releases, and by using digital welcome billboards on the area’s major interstate.
“We find success in creating short-form video content created specifically for social media,” Cole said. “We also welcome the tournament attendees on our social media pages and share things to do while they’re in town.”
Shores & Islands Ohio is also trending toward using more videos with digital ads and social media to tell its story. “Videos are quick and engaging to the viewer, ranging from 15 seconds to one minute,” said Christopher Lewis, marketing and sales director for Shores & Islands Ohio.
“The videos help identify the destination’s strongest and most competitively appealing assets in the eyes of its prospective visitors,” Lewis said. “We want to build a story from these that makes Shores & Islands Ohio stand out above other possible locations and run this narrative consistently through all marketing communications and with our community partners.”
Shores & Islands Ohio is always working on developing and implementing marketing for its sporting events and uses an array of tools to convey information.
“Sporting events are listed on shoresandislands.com for visitor information and how to register for the events,” Lewis said. “Our website is a great resource to register for an event at a venue or with an organizer, but also information on where to stay, play, and eat while in Shores & Islands Ohio.”
As with other regions, social media plays an important role.
“For example, the Shores & Islands Facebook page as over 260,000 followers and we will use the platform to promote events with our partners,” Lewis said. “We serve as a marketing arm for our partners and communities.”
Sports organizers can also take advantage of the Shores & Islands Ohio’s conference and event grant when hosting competitions.
“It was created to increase new conference and sports bookings within the Shores & Islands Ohio destination,” Lewis said. “The intent is to assist businesses and organizations in attracting quality conferences and sporting events that generate overnight stays, create media exposure, increase area economic impact, and/or generate awareness that Shores & Islands Ohio is a year-round destination.”
A love of sports brings communities across the region together to showcase all there is to do in the Shores & Islands region, Lewis said.
“Whether it is the Cedar Point Sports Center hosting a winter volleyball tournament, a summer baseball tournament at Sports Force Parks, or a spring fishing tournament in one of our coastal communities, the goal is guests discover something new with each adventure,” Lewis said. “We want to market ourselves as a way to reconnect with friends and family.”
“Focusing on the family-friendly vibe and beauty of the Lake George region in upstate New York is a hallmark in its marketing efforts,” said Megan Seeley, marketing coordinator for Lake George Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.
After all, the region is a natural playground and gateway to a six-million-acre park of wilderness and adventure, boasting two ski mountains, a 32-mile-long pristine lake, and over 2000 miles of groomed hiking, skiing, and mountain-biking trails.
In addition to natural venues, its indoor facilities are sprinkled throughout the area for weatherproof sports events; from ice rinks and arenas to sports domes, bowling centers, and courts, Lake George Regional CVB features those assets in its marketing.
“Most of the content we share highlights the many attractions and recreational activities visitors can engage in with family, teammates, and coaches,” Seeley said. “The Lake George area is a year-round destination with nonstop events and things to do for people of all ages.”
The CVB’s team communicates those attributes with its four-season guidebook, website, and social media posts. As previously mentioned, finding the perfect photo for marketing collateral is key.
“The images that make the most impact is those that are up close, interactive, and involve athletes engaging in their physical environment,” Seeley said. “Many of our sports facilities are immersed in the natural landscape and beauty of the Adirondacks, so those images that bring together the athlete and the natural wonders of the region are shared and loved by our audience.”