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GUEST COMMENT How marketers can hit their targets during the big summer of sport

On 15th May, sports fans exhaled as football finally came home when 21,000 spectators lined the stands at Wembley stadium for the 2021 FA Cup Final. And, prompting a further sigh of relief for sports fans, after over a year of cancelled events and closed venues, pubs and indoor venues then successfully reopened in the UK on 17th May. 

With the lifting of lockdown coinciding with major sports events – such as Euro 2020, The Olympics and Wimbledon – getting back on track, it seems that we’re set for the kickoff of a summer of sporting fever. And, for brands, this presents an immense opportunity to capitalise on the nation’s sporting zeal. 

However, by no means will this sporting summer be business as usual – and marketers will need to recognise that people’s attitudes may have changed during the pandemic – and may still continue to fluctuate this summer. In fact, our latest research found that while over 1 in 3 Brits (35%) are looking to buy tickets for live sporting events at indoor and outdoor venues this summer, many are still feeling cautious – with 27% saying they’d like to watch sports in these venues, but crowds and social distancing measures are still a concern.

Indeed, with consumers and circumstances still as unpredictable as ever, if brands are to get ahead and make the most of this summer of sport, it’s imperative that they prepare to engage with audiences with varied plans and priorities – from fans supporting from the sidelines of their sofa, to those lining up to watch the action happen in-person. And, to do this effectively, brands need to take a smart approach to targeting and engaging sports fans this summer…

Ensure all shots are on target

Whilst budgets are beginning to show cautious signs of bounceback from the lows we saw last year, the pressure is still on for marketers to prove ROI – and they simply can’t afford to waste spend targeting consumers who aren’t interested in their products.   

Instead of taking a scattergun approach to marketing, brands need to embrace the mindset of a striker as they approach the net and strive for laser-sharp, precision marketing which reaches the desired target with relevant content every time.

After all, relevance is what gets results. We all know how it feels to be shown ads which at best are slightly off the mark, and at worst infuriatingly irrelevant. But, if marketers can make sure they deliver content that is meaningful and interesting, they have a better chance of not only engaging consumers, but of building a trusting and respectful relationship too.

Harness fresh data and go for gold 

And for this, fresh data is crucial.

With consumers’ interests and habits constantly fluctuating, marketers can’t rely on last year’s data insights to help them effectively target today’s consumers. Indeed, someone who was interested in the great game last year might no longer be as enthralled. Equally, someone who paid scant attention to tournaments last season may have since changed their tune. 

But, by harnessing fresh, real-time data and tapping into in-the-moment intent signals, brands can guarantee they are engaging with people who are interested and in-market, right here, right now – and reach audiences often previously missed when relying on historical behavioural data.

Be agile like an athlete

Finally, if the last year has taught us anything it’s to expect the unexpected around every corner and, just because lockdown is lifting this doesn’t mean brands can be complacent. Marketers need to remain agile and be prepared to flex their campaigns and strategies as needed in the event of any unforeseen scenarios – whether that’s an early exit for the home favourite or events being cancelled due to an upsurge in infections. 

But whether events get cancelled or not, all is not lost – some of our latest insights show how people remain passionate about sports and events, even when they’re called off. On 12th July 2020 – and what was supposed to be the day of the Wimbledon men’s final – searches for ‘tennis shoes’ on increased by 36% compared to the day before. This same date was also set to be the Euro 2020 final, and despite that also being cancelled, searches for ‘goal net’ soared by a whopping 131% compared to the day before.

All signs point towards this summer being a great opportunity for brands to engage sports fans as they celebrate and spectate – whether they’re enjoying their newfound freedoms or cautiously hanging onto lockdown habits. And as the starting gun sounds, it will be those brands that harness the freshest data, and prepare to flex as needed, that will be best placed to stave off the competition and get their place on the podium.


Harmony Murphy, GM Advertising UK at eBay

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