How Do You Market to Spectators and Participants?

not_a_spectator_sportlThere are two main consumption activities in sport: spectators and participants. When deciding how to market your product or event, you have to pay special attention to the similarities and differences between these groups. Our Sports Marketing students commented on this topic during their discussion this past week. Here are a few examples.

By: Erica Hayworth

Sports have a tendency to bring people together. Whether someone participates or spectates, they are a part of something bigger than themselves. First and foremost, as a participant or spectator, you have to have some sort of love for the game. As a participant, the chance of you once being a spectator is likely. There was something about a sport that you saw that ultimately sparked an interest in playing. It could have been a player, a certain game, or even uniforms that struck an interest. The same holds true for a spectator. There was something that caught an eye which, in turn, caused the spectator to be a fan.

The biggest difference between a participant and spectator of sport is the active participation. Sports marketers can sell fan gear to either party. Marketers will have a difficult time selling equipment to spectators simply because there is no need. Marketers need to recognize this and continue to create new equipment or enhance existing equipment in order for participants to continue purchasing items and turn a profit. At the same time, marketers want to keep fan gear and other sports related items such as, video games, new and improved. We live in a society where people want to have the latest and up to date trends. So if marketers keep feeding that want/need then the sports marketing industry will continue to profit.

The Special Olympics of Michigan thrives off of and is successful because of their participants and spectators. Marketers can reach out to participants in the sense they are giving them a place to compete. Unfortunately, there are not a ton of opportunities for special need and disabled children and adults to actively participate in sports. Providing these participants with a chance to compete in an environment where they will be successful is huge. On the flip side, the Special Olympics of Michigan would not survive without spectator support. A marketer of this event needs to make spectators feel just as important as the athletes participating. There needs to be swag available and an entertaining environment to make spectators join the event, as well as potentially provide sponsorship/donations. The marketers need to acknowledge this as a special event and make both participants and spectators feel like a part of the sports community.

By: Lucas Rains

Sports have two primary consumers: participants and spectators. There are several connections and differences between these two groups of consumers and being able to identify them will help your marketing strategy, and in turn, your success. Participants are obviously those individuals that are actively taking part in the sport, while spectators could be fans, parents, media members, etc. That is the first obvious difference — the fact that participants are playing and that spectators are watching.

The primary connection between the two groups of consumers is their interest level in sports. They wouldn’t be attending or participating in athletic activities if they didn’t have something motivating them to do so. The athletes themselves love the competition dealing with sports, or the fans in the stands love rooting on their favorite teams, or there are parents in the stands supporting their child.

In order to effectively market sports to both groups of consumers, you have to be able to identify these similarities and differences. As the article in our related readings discusses, the MLS tries to market its sport to get more fans in the stands by marketing directly to the participants. In order to gain more interest and awareness of the league in the United States, you have to build you spectator base.

For Legacy Global Sports’ Nations Cup Hockey Tournament, a similar marketing strategy can be established and utilized. The consumers interested in this event are a very specific group, so being able to identify these individuals on both the participant and spectator categories is important. Since this is a youth sports event, advertising the event as an exciting opportunity to play for your country in a tournament against participants from other countries. I do believe that the majority of the spectators will be either parents, or related in some way to the participants, so there is already a solid base of people that will be attending. However, in order to maximize the people that attend, which will in turn maximize revenue off of apparel, concessions, etc. the company will have to show that that tournament is worth seeing, even for people that don’t have a personal attachment to the participants. Marketing youth sports can be difficult for this reason, but the best way to do so is to say something along the lines of “come support your country’s best and brightest young athletes as they face off in a national tournament against Canada.”

By: Alexander Linsenmeyer

There are many motivations that draw participants and consumers on track to enjoy the same experiences. One of the crucial motives that tend to interest consumers is the social experience of participating, and spectator’s, making it exciting for both groups to have similar influences that allow them to continue making sports a number one priority in their lives. The feeling of belonging to a certain sporting community can be found in both as a similarity, generating a high involvement. One may to decide to take a more aggressive approach to one community (participants), then spectators. Opportunities will be different from group to group, those who watch sports tend to socialize and get involved in multiple ways, in contrast to those who already play this particular sport. When you see big time athletes, such as a Stephen Curry, who currently plays for the Golden State Warriors, and reigning most valuable player in the NBA, showcasing basketball games with the best of the best in prime time television, early on the west and later on the east coasts so the entire country is able to tune in, draws the attention of many consumers. The consumers will watch because Curry happens to be one of the most electrifying players of the current basketball generation. Every major broadcasting network that has contracts with the NBA wants to provide their viewers with the most popular athletes, in the most highly competitive match ups on a daily basis, in turn, drawing higher ratings and enjoyment for its fans. Simultaneously, youth players, upcoming stars in their respective sport will also be allowed to follow not just as a spectator, but as an individual basketball athlete as well because to them it’s engaging them to strive to achieve a better performance.

The Quicken Loans Bowl can attract a significant market of fans to view and visit its contest (Big Ten/ACC). It’s imperative to focus on both groups, participants and spectators, participants primarily here because location of the game has much to do with the promotion of the event. The goal I would demonstrate is how to engage both groups to participate with the attractions within the surrounding areas of Ford Field in Detroit and focusing on activities that provide a high quality fan experience leading up prior to the day of the game.


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