Having run communications and marketing programs for such major players in the sports world as the University of Kansas Athletic Department, the NBA's Sacramento Kings and Nike's Jordan Brand, FleishmanHillard global managing director of retail, sports and lifestyle Mitch Germann has had an up-close view of what makes sports marketing and communications tick.
One big change he's seen: "the definition of sport and athlete have really expanded to match the view of the younger generation," with things like yoga and dance and rock climbing taking their place alongide traditional competitive team sports. Also, sports culture now includes "things like fashion, sneakers, music, gaming, art, design."
These changes have come along with the transformation of the sports world into "a very issues rich environment," which makes the need for "real preparation" all the more central to sports marketing campaigns. "Brands need to really know their thresholds."
To get the most out a sports-related partnership, Germann says, brands need to make sure that "the strategy for entering into the partnership is rooted in real, tangible business objectives. It’s not just about raising profile and raising awareness; it's actually about growing business."
The media consumption habits of younger audiences are also a key factor shaping sports marketing, he tells Simon. "They go wherever the conversation is about the topics they're most interested in. It's critical for us as communicators to pay attention to where the conversations are taking place and who is driving them."
To snag earned media coverage, communications pros "need to be cultural connectors for our clients to help them connect to the right media creators, influencers and events to help tell their stories."
And while Germann's extensive sports background gives him a leg up in the sports field, he says that communicators in any field need to have a deep, thorough knowledge of the sector they work in. "It's no different from any other sector. Just really immersing yourself in that world I think helps bring a better perspective to clients."
Now that he's on the agency side, Germann also has some advice for how brand can more effectively work with their agency partners to get the best results:
"We talked about how brands can make the most of their sports sponsorship, and that's a good example of where a brand thinks really critically about what specific business action they want to drive, what objective they have, what audiences they want to reach. Giving all of that goodness as inputs to the agency can help the agency turn around a much sharper and better plan for them."
Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]