Driving participation to the heart of the marketing mix through digital

Quantifying / Elevating / Distributing

Its easy to just say that brands should move their marketing spend to participation sport, in fact I did on Twitter last week! But on reflection I was perhaps a little flippant so thought I’d explain why a little more.

Solid Foundation

Participation sport continues to grow, the number of events, the number of apps, the number of wearables all continue to show an increase around the world.  Not just an increase but also a shift away from the traditional club structures to a more social, personal challenge and experience lead market – a challenge for governing bodies but a huge opportunity for commercial providers and for brands.

Not only is it a growing audience but it is an engaged one. Participants actively choose to be part of these experiences, prepare for these experiences over long periods of time, enjoy the experiences and take pride in celebrating their achievements.

Digital provides the tools to enhance all of this, and will make it impossible for CMOs to ignore participation sport as a key part of their Marketing Playbook.

Quantifying: Rich, Relevant Data

Participants’ deep engagement with their participation goals actively provide rich data about themselves every time they register, interact and/or train for the chosen experience.  They provide this data willingly providing they can see the relevance to their experience – this gives the brand legitimacy in the space.

The data provided can help shape key insights into consumers and can ensure a brand is getting a relevant and personal message to their target audience.

Elevating: Turning Events into Experiences

There will always be a place for the traditional participation sport events, such as runs for a few hundred people away from the big towns and cities (in fact I thoroughly recommend the Cliveden XC every January) and long may they continue, but there is also a strong and growing demand for events with that elevated experience.

Digital and its constant development is transforming participation sports events into interactive Brand experiences. Examples of how include:

·         Tracking apps for races such as the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

·         Interactive wayfinders

·         Apps such as Kahuna driving mobile engagement on-site; primarily for fans but it can be transferred to participation

·         Clever use of mobile location data to serve sponsor information and offers such as by LEMON for New York Marathon

·         Localised internet that serves rich media without the need for the internet through Wi-5

Distributing: Share & Care

Participation sport has inherent highs such as PBs, the views, the elevated experiences outlined above and achievement recognition through physical objects like medals.

An individual’s pride in their achievements means they desperately want to tell someone, social lets them tell everyone, lets them feedback or even better lets their friends tell everyone too.  This level of engagement and reach can provide brand experiences with a relatively low number of participants taking part to have an impact on a huge audience.

A great example of this is Nike’s Football Academy.  The Academy contains twenty-two footballing hopefuls, not household names, yet if it was compared in terms of Facebook followers to the Premier League teams and their galaxy of stars it would rank in the top 10!

In Short

Participation Sport allows brands to be legitimate, relevant and personal.

Or in English… Experiences should be owned by the participant; but they know that without the brand it would never have been possible.  This level of engagement makes participation sport a very attractive proposition when developing a brands’ marketing strategy.


Steve Dews // Head of Technology