2023 /2024


Some of the biggest sports trends and key marketing plays to watch out for!

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    With the overall North American sports market projected to surpass $83 billion in value this year, the sports industry is showing little sign of slowing down.

    If anything, digitization is shaking up every aspect of sports, transforming fan engagement with the advent of second-screen experiences, sports betting, NFTs, mixed reality and metaverse activations. There is a plethora of options that fans now have for consuming and interacting with sports content, that include streaming, broadcast, owned mobile apps, virtual worlds, online gaming, and, of course, social media. In this evolving space, sports organizations are reinventing themselves as multi-channel media companies, delivering always-on, platform-based experiences to their audiences – prompting sports marketers to become ever more sophisticated in how they approach fandom and the business of sport. How do brands navigate through this digitally supercharged sports world? We’ve put together a primer on some of the biggest sports trends and key marketing plays to watch out for in 2024. See also our new post on 11 Examples of Sports Marketing.

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    Sports programming

    Sports programming has the highest viewership: Fans watched sports in record numbers in 2022, with sports programs accounting for 94 of the 100 most-watched telecasts for the year.

    The 2023 Superbowl was the most watched program in both USA and Canada.

    Sports Marketing Viewership

    Digital viewership is set to explode: 80% of sports fans have regularly or sometimes watched sports on streaming/online channels in 2022, with figures projected to rise to over 90m by 2025

    Sports Marketing : Fifa

    Soccer is gaining ground in the U.S: The 64 matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup were watched by an average of almost 3.6 million viewers -- an increase of around 30% from 2018 viewership levels.


    Football dominates U.S sports: Football remains Number 1 in the US, with 52% of sports fans following the NFL, compared to 42% for the NBA and 31% for MLB.


    Younger viewers choose basketball: The NBA leads the pack among 16 to 25-year-olds, reaching 40% of Gen Z fans. 

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    Foster Digital Fan Engagement – Year-Round

    In the past, even the most diehard fans had to rest during off-seasons.

    Digital marketing allows fans to participate in their favorite sports all year long, strengthening their connections to teams and fan communities. The Nielsen Sports Report found that sports viewership has become a multi-screen experience, with 47% of sports watchers simultaneously interacting with other live content -- with much of the second-screen activity relating to social media engagement. Marketing teams need to focus beyond single events or seasons and create intriguing content that will thrill fans and keep them digitally coming back year-round.


    Enhance Matchday Engagement:

    The matchday experience has evolved in recent years thanks to social media. From tweets to short-form video and highlight reels before, during, and after a match, the matchday experience has become a vital content-creation opportunity to keep fans engaged. These digital exchanges also appear to be shaping expectations around the live broadcasts, as 55% of Gen Zers expect to see and interact with live statistics during play.

    Sports Marketing Trends : Social Media

    Curate Consistent Non-Matchday Content:

    Sports fans have increased appetites for non-live content related to sports events, teams, and leagues. Social feeds and brand interactions that regularly update fans with non-matchday content including “On This Day” throwbacks, interviews with athletes, training highlights, draft updates, behind the scenes clips etc. are now the expectation – not the exception.


    Sports Marketing Trends :Major League Soccer (MLS)

    Major League Soccer (MLS) is tying up with TikTok via a multi-year partnership covering 29 clubs across the U.S. and Canada, with plans for in-app programming, exclusive content, and in-stadium activations. TikTok will introduce a Club Creator Network to pair content creators with various teams to generate content during the regular and off seasons, including behind-the-scenes access with MLS athletes. 

    Sports Marketing Trends : Tito’s Tasters” program, Snipp

    Tito’s wanted to stay top of mind with golfers throughout the year, not just during golf championships. Building on their “Tito’s Tasters” program, Snipp built a turnkey sweepstakes microsite where consumers could watch a pre-roll video and register to win one of thousands of Tito’s branded, golf related prizes. Consumers could also earn extra sweepstakes entries by voting for their favorite Tito’s cocktail. To keep fans consistently engaged, Snipp displayed an updated interactive map showing each state’s favorite cocktail choice.

    Use AI and Personalization to Surprise and Delight

    Personalization can make all the difference in an individual fan’s experience of sports, turning a passive viewer into an active, engaged follower. Artificial Intelligence is being used to great effect by sports brands to generate this kind of personalization, via customized highlight reels and tailored promotions and offers. Generative AI can take such personalization to another level, allowing fans to request certain packages or sponsors to ensure their branding is always in sight. It will even be possible to create customized NFTs as part of marketing promotions.

    Sports Marketing Trends : NBA League Pass

    The NBA launched a new membership service in 2022, with the goal of delivering tailored and unique content to fans based on their individual interests. NBA ID links an individual fan’s experience across all NBA products – including its app, NBA League Pass – to serve personalized features, including behind the scenes footage of their favorite teams and players, as well as access to new mini-series.

    Focus on First-party Data Collection

    The key to personalized fan engagement is primary data. The more granular the fan data, the better brands and sports marketers can understand fan preferences – and the more valuable their interactions will be. This is a high priority for sports organizations, venues, and platforms, for whom the goal is now to convert millions of followers and users into defined data segments, each with unique opportunities for engagement and monetization. But fans are increasingly wary when it comes to handing over their personal information, which is why sports brands need to offer a compelling value exchange -- like exclusive access and rewards.

    Contests, Sweeps and Promotions:

    Enter-to-win promotions, digital giveaways, and contests that unlock exclusive content are great ways to collect customer data in exchange for meaningful rewards.

    Sports Marketing Trends: Danone Snack to Win" campaign

    Danone was looking to develop an exciting promotion in partnership with the NHL to drive sales and promote their partnership. By adding a fresh take to their annual "Snack to Win" campaign, Danone developed a purchase-based sweepstakes where consumers who purchased any qualifying Danone Oikos yogurt product could enter for a chance to win $25,000 in total prizes, including a trip for 2 to the Stanley Cup finals in 2023. For additional incentive, Snipp added an instant-win component where consumers could instantly win prizes including NHL Shop Gift Cards, Pre-Paid Visas, and Danone Coupons.

    Loyalty Membership:

    With the pandemic having inhibited live event attendance, sports organizations began to rely more on loyalty programs to maintain contact with fans. Many teams have already started to consider how collectible NFTs and tokens could be evolutions and enhancements of traditional loyalty programs. For example, virtual ‘loyalty’ tokens could allow special access during games, collective input on non-strategic team decisions, and one-of-a-kind opportunities to engage with teams, athletes, and other fans – even within the metaverse.

    Sports Marketing Trends: NASCAR’s free Fan Rewards

    NASCAR’s free Fan Rewards takes an innovative approach to loyalty within its program. Since most NASCAR fans never attend races, attendance or money spent couldn’t be the foundations of an engaging program, so the sports organization identified other ways that fans could earn points. These include watching races from home, attending NASCAR races, playing NASCAR Fantasy Live, participating in weekly trivia contests, or visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, VIP experiences, autographed merchandise, and gift cards.

    Sports Marketing Trends : Brooklyn Nets season

    Brooklyn Nets season ticket holders can take part in a new fan loyalty program with gamified rewards. Season ticket holders can register as ‘Next Level Members’ to compete in real-time trivia and prediction contests hosted on the Nets’ app and website during stoppages of play, earning points that can be redeemed for merchandise, game tickets, Barclay Center shows, and autographed memorabilia. Other points-earning activities include attending games, reading web articles, and watching highlight videos.

    Foster Brand-Platform Marketing Collaborations:

    Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Facebook are becoming key OTT channels for sports marketing campaigns. Such collaborations offer vital opportunities for marketers to engage with wider audiences and collect customer data, as most subscribers create personalized profiles that can help brands know exactly who sees their content and when. Having a partner with first-party customer data is only going to grow in importance as the consumers become more complex.

    Sports Marketing Trends : NetflixSports Marketing Trends : Amazon PrimeSports Marketing Trends : FacebookThursday Night Football : Sports Marketing trendsSports Marketing Trends : Mercedes-Benz

    Mercedes-Benz opted to tie-up with Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” programming for its electric car advertising push. Amazon’s stream proved highly popular with people between the ages of 18 and 45, accounting for 24% of the audience, compared to just 14% of the NFL’s TV audience. The young audience is what drew Mercedes-Benz to Amazon, encouraging the brand to sponsor the first half-time show.


    Explore Purpose-Driven Marketing

    Issue-based campaigns that promote worthy causes and raise nationwide awareness around topical social concerns are impactful ways to foster emotional connections with fans. But the key to any values-driven marketing campaign is that it should resonate as authentic – which means that there needs to be a natural connection between the cause and the brand.

    Sports Marketing Trends: Gatorade’s Fuel Tomorrow

    Gatorade’s Fuel Tomorrow campaign is partnering with national youth groups to develop activities that promote equity in sports by using their grassroots networks and expertise. The multi-year effort comprises a $10 million initial investment in these groups, as well as additional funding to help them advance their missions. The platform will also provide access to sports facilities, equipment, and transportation, while also training coaches on how to be champions of equity and inclusion.

    Sports Marketing Trends: Buick's #SeeHerGreatness

    Buick is running a 2023 campaign to promote women’s basketball with their #SeeHerGreatness campaign across all streaming options. Gender inequality is a hot topic in the basketball world, and as the automotive brand with the highest percentage of female buyers, Buick hoped to raise the profile of the WNBA and elevate the conversation around this matter. This kind of cause marketing worked in its favor - In 2022, Buick ran the same campaign during March Madness and saw its viewership skyrocket from 1,500 views on TikTok in February to over 20 million views in March!

    Take GEN Z Off the Sidelines

    Gen Z’s overall interest in sports remains significantly below that of older generations. Their enthusiasm for attending live games and watching them on TV is also accordingly lower. Engaging and building fandom with Gen Z is a top priority for sports marketing, but it’s not an easy task Marketers will have to meet them where they are – on social platforms and in virtual worlds. TikTok in particular is rapidly becoming the social platform of choice for sports marketers to showcase their products, services, and activities to Gen Z.

    Sports Marketing Trends: Gen Z trends

    Sports Marketing Trends : NBA

    The NBA prioritized the relaunch of its flagship app in 2022 to mimic the functionality of Gen Z’s favorite social apps, with the use of vertical video and an individualized “For You” feed that will show highlights and live feeds from NBA games. With other fan-favorite content like behind-the-scenes access to players and teams, NBA-related shows and influencer tie-ups, the new app has seen a 200% increase in engagement compared with 2021.

    Sports Marketing Trends : Nissan’s “Road 2 The Final Four

    Nissan’s “Road 2 The Final Four” campaign is the first major brand to use TikTok’s new Now feature, encouraging fans to post live videos during the college basketball tournament. Like the more recent BeReal app, TikTok Now prompts users to post their current environment or activity at a random time each day. During March Madness, TikTok Now will align its daily posting prompts with the “key moments” of March Madness to amplify authentic college basketball content on the platform. Fans who then upload those photos or short videos to Instagram will be entered for a chance to win tickets to the Final Four of next year’s tournament.

    Showcase Athlete-Centric Influencers

    Sports marketing is increasingly relying on content distributed and/or created by athletes, as athletes are more central than ever in fandom. Access to sports personalities is becoming a key entry point for new fans, and sports campaigns that spotlight athletes as individuals – highlighting their personalities, fashion interests and lives beyond their roles on the field -- are on the rise, with athletes themselves at the helm. With this growth in user-generated content, sports influencers are also becoming powerful content creators, connecting brands with fans. 61% of Gen Z sports viewers trust product recommendations from influencers they follow, and 45% have purchased clothing because of an influencer or celebrity sponsor.

    Sports Marketing trends : ESPN

    ESPN announced its first Creator Network in 2022, billed as a four-month program to provide 10 emerging creators across Instagram and TikTok with access to ESPN’s properties to create content and build awareness for the network.

    Sports Marketing Trends: Adidas

    Adidas is creating a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) network that is open to more than 50,000 student athletes, essentially making them paid affiliate brand ambassadors. Adidas is rolling out the program by starting with its partners at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with the goal of enhancing inclusivity, equality, and entrepreneurialism in the athletics space, regardless of race or gender.
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    There’s no doubt that the sports world is changing drastically to meet enhanced fan expectations. Fans have made it clear that they want more choice in how they engage with their favorite sports, and in what manner. ‘Anywhere, Anytime, Anyplace’ – those are becoming the dictums of sports content, and with it, sports marketing. In addition, increasingly personalized fan interactions, new models of investment, immersive virtual environments, and purpose-driven marketing are leading some of the key sports marketing trends for 2023-2024.

    For brands and marketers seeking sure footing in the face of these digitally-driven headwinds, first-party data collection will become a major priority as advances in AI and web3 will offer new ways to enrich the fan experience (see sports marketing examples here). As these technologies continue to enter the mainstream, we can expect their further integration into the sports marketing environment, enabling viewers to become enthusiastic fans – and, potentially, collective investors in the teams and athletes they support.



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