Between sessions at State of Play: the 2023 Clio Sports Marketing Summit, held in NYC this week, execs were buzzing about topics ranging from A.I. to mobile-first experiences. Here, we gather some of their thoughts and insights.
MUSE: What do you see as the most notable trends in sports marketing right now?
"The lines are crossing between advertising and entertainment more than ever. I think that's what people are trying to do, get to a place that you lose track. Is this from a brand? Is this from ESPN? Is this from a team? It doesn't really matter anymore." — Danilo Boer, global creative partner, FCB Global
"I think that women's sports is a trend for some right now, and I don’t think it should be a trend. Women's sports should be a permanent fixture in our society. I recognize that there are more brands that are spending money with women's sports, which I think is great. But I hope it's sustainable. I hope that it's genuine." — Shana Stephenson, chief brand officer, New York Liberty
“I think it's just being fun and really tying in with consumers, the fan base, making sure it's something that they actually enjoy. The stuff that we're making for sports and the teams and the leagues is fan first, not industry first." — Chris Bellinger, VP of creative and digital at PepsiCo Foods North America
"Marketers look at what the culture is telling them, particularly on a region-by-region basis. That's the best way to appeal to your fan base. For instance, we're in Washington, D.C. So, we tap into the culture of Washington. That may include certain things like music culture, go-go music. Go-go is a cross between hip-hop and house music. It's been synonymous with Washington, D.C., and the DMV [District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia] area. So, that's something we try to evoke with what we do." — Stevland Wilson, VP of postproduction and creative services, Monumental Sports & Entertainment
"Everything needs to feel premium. Going to a sporting event does cost some money. It's a big deal for people to go out, and I think you need to feel that level of polish for everything—the game, the screens, just the experience of walking in [a stadium or arena]." — Stefan Woronko, senior creative director, Nice Shoes
Are mobile-first experiences essential in reaching sports fans these days?
"Yes and no. In the past few years, since moving to Brooklyn [the New York Liberty play at Brooklyn's Barclays Center], it's really been a priority for me to attract a younger fan base. We've been successful at that. We see significant growth in our social media platforms. But we do recognize that there are some fans that have been with us for 27 seasons who still have flip phones. And that's the reality of it. So, we are trying to figure out ways in which we can continue to grow and evolve and connect with a more youthful fan base, but also stay connected to those who have been with us since the very beginning." — Shana Stephenson, chief brand officer, New York Liberty
"If you're not thinking about mobile as part of the experience, then you're not thinking about it correctly. Even if they're watching in linear media, like on TV in a bar—they're all on phones. So, the conversation is about how to do it holistically and create an experience that deepens the fan engagement?" — Jason Campbell, chief creative officer of Translation/UnitedMasters
"We always have 360 extensions that are mobile-first. With the content we make, we want to make sure it's showing up really nicely on small screens as well as big screens." — Chris Bellinger, VP of creative and digital at PepsiCo Foods North America
What are your thoughts on how A.I. will impact sports marketing?
"As a designer, I need to figure out how I can use these tools to enhance my job, or maybe take care of something so that I can focus on something else, but in such a way that I still have control over the image." — Stefan Woronko, senior creative director, Nice Shoes
"We're thinking about how A.I. is going to affect the creative process and therefore the storytelling about athletes or brands. So, we've been exploring that idea and trying to figure out what's going to happen and how we can use it as a tool versus being afraid of what it can do." — Jason Campbell, chief creative officer, Translation/UnitedMasters
"I see value in it if you’re brainstorming a new concept, or you need a name for a web series, or something like that. But A.I. actually scares me. It makes me worried about humans being replaced. I do see value in it. But I do worry about the impact that it could have on employment overall." — Shana Stephenson, chief brand officer, New York Liberty
"I see it as an amazing tool. We used it for 'McEnroe vs. McEnroe,' [the tennis match in which today's John McEnroe played past versions of himself]. Just learn so you can use it." — Danilo Boer, global creative partner, FCB Global
Is it necessary to keep sports fans engaged in the off-season?
"The engagement around being a fan is year-long, and I think more and more brands are trying to figure out how to crack that, especially during the summer [for hoops, hockey and football], especially during half-times, and especially with the fragmentation of media. You have way more tools at your disposal to reach people." — Jason Campbell, chief creative officer of Translation/UnitedMasters
"Absolutely. That's where social media plays a big part. How do you keep your audience tied in? What are you doing socially? Are you being active in the community? Are you still having initiatives and campaigns throughout the sporty year, or in the off-season that tie into your fan base, to your team, to your organization?" — Stevland Wilson, VP of postproduction and creative services, Monumental Sports & Entertainment
"Our free agency season this January/February was great. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to have live press conferences with our free agents. They were able to attend in person, and that's something unique in the WNBA. Those touchpoints and milestones, so to speak, within the WNBA 12-month calendar season, give us an opportunity to continue to produce news and keep our fans engaged. Then there’s WNBA draft parties we host for our fans. We're being more intentional and thoughtful about ways to avoid having a lull. And we have a content series called Libs Abroad, reporting weekly on how our players are performing overseas." — Shana Stephenson, chief brand officer, New York Liberty
Why do you enjoy working in the sports world?
"Everybody likes sports—the hardcore fans to the ones who from time-to-time kind of like it. It's something that's so ingrained in people's lives. Something that we all played growing up. Something we all have an opinion about. So, being able to work with that and create things that are relevant, that people will talk about within that world, is really special." — Alex Abrantes, group creative director, FCB New York
"There's so many similarities between the emotion that comes with sports and then the emotion that comes with enjoying some of your favorite snacks and your favorite foods. If you think about how you're usually enjoying sports, it's around other people. You’re gathered around great food, great drinks, and then there’s the passion that comes with your family being together, rooting either for their team, or rivalries, etc. There's such a link there.” — Tina Mahal, SVP of brand marketing at PepsiCo Foods North America
"I get to tell stories, and what better thing to tell stories about? There are very few things that connect people globally across demographics than sports or music. And with sports, you tap into something that is sometimes geographically powerful, demographically powerful. And if you can tell the right story, you have the power to unite people." — Jason Campbell, chief creative officer of Translation/UnitedMasters
"I played football. It's been part of my life. It's my passion. It's what I love. I'm so happy to be here at a marketing event because you get a chance to see how sports isn't simply what happens on a court, on a field, on the ice. If you're a professional who wants to come into the sports world, you could do so through marketing. You could do so in promotion. You could do so in PR. For me, it's having the opportunity to do something that's been part of my entire life, that's helped shape me." — Stevland Wilson, VP of postproduction and creative services, Monumental Sports & Entertainment