Trends & Features

How content marketing can help sports brands engage with customers

By Fiona Bugler

Content marketing has revolutionised the way brands sell their products and services, with the hard sell of advert and promotional bombardment being replaced by subtle, engaging content in the form of blogs, videos, podcasts and imagery.

Research by marketing company Smart Insights asked top marketers to offer their digital marketing predictions. The study revealed content marketing topped the poll for the third year running and was even further ahead compared to previous years, since mobile marketing and social media marketing have declined in importance.

Use of video and images
One of the biggest shifts in the world of content marketing over the last three years has been the growing use of video and images to deliver a marketing message.

55 per cent of people who use Pinterest use images on the platform to find and shop for products. And video is what online guide Social Media Examiner calls ‘the social media content format of choice to drive social engagement and other marketing goals’.

In April 2016 the Content Marketing Association reported on research by PwC and the Internet Advertising Bureau that showed video advertising spend had increased by 50.7 per cent to £711 million. In its own research, the CMA found that, on average, 78 per cent of content marketers spend up to a quarter of marketing budgets on video content.

But a word of warning – things are always changing. At this year’s Code Conference Mary Meeker, a star of Silicone Valley, made her internet trend predictions for 2016. Acknowledging that video and live video were of growing importance for content marketing, she did however point out 81 per cent of Americans mute video adverts.

Live video
One of the key trends Meeker identified for 2016 was live video. The digital world continues to evolve at pace and the platforms on which we deliver this live content are giving more choice in terms of what a creative marketer can offer.

Periscope (on Twitter), Snapchat (which in June 2016 overtook Twitter in daily usage), Blab and Facebook Live all offer ways to broadcast live video content that can make your brand more real, friendly and authentic.

In an article for the website Business 2 Community, Alisa Meredith looked at how each channel offers different benefits. She wrote: ‘Periscope is great for content creators looking for feedback on new products and services before they are created. Think of it as your preview channel for your products.

‘Blab can be integrated with Twitter, embedded into a blog, turned into a podcast or uploaded to YouTube. In other words, you can deliver your content in a number of different ways and it’s great for any business.’

As for Facebook Live, Meredith stated: ‘If you want to be seen, consider adding Facebook Live to your content marketing mix. You can take questions on the topic of your latest blog post, ebook, upcoming webinar, course or anything else.’

Not surprisingly, one area where live streaming has had a big impact is sport. One of Meeker’s presentation slides gave a hypothetical mock-up of the complete sports viewing platform that included a live broadcast, plus analysis, scores, replays and notifications/social media tools.

iSportsAnalysis is a company that provides this kind of information for amateur sports teams. Founder, Anadi Taylor, explains: “We’ve created a place where teams can analyse their game and keep up to date with live streaming to see how their team is performing.”

Taylor, an experienced developer, has created a sophisticated platform that also integrates detailed analysis of useful data derived from GPS devices, offering a service with opportunities to engage targeted sporting consumers. It’s companies such as iSportsAnalysis that offer sports brands who are creatively challenged content marketing opportunities.

Research has found that consumers prefer brands who they perceive as innovative. Partnering with innovators that have already put time and effort into groundbreaking technology and intelligence can help you extend your company’s marketing reach direct to your target market and at the same time help it continue to grow.

Mobile devices
Given that over 50 per cent of smartphone users look at their smartphones immediately after waking up, it’s vital brands using content marketing consider how their video will look on a mobile device.

Messages need to be succinct and grab people’s attention, so use words and images that will incite emotion and be shareable. Over half of those surveyed for the Video Content for Engagement study cited mobile – which includes tablets, watches and in-car devices – as their primary channel for branded video content, with a third also putting mobile as the biggest growth area for video.

And in the aforementioned PwC/Internet Advertising Bureau research, video spending on mobile grew 98 per cent to £353 million, as more people chose to watch video, TV and film on their smartphones.

Customer role is changing
Whatever your advertising spend or marketing budget, it’s foolhardy to ignore the power of digital and in particular video. Your customers now not only buy your brand, but also actively help you sell it.

Andrew Weston from video production company Fly Creative sums it up: “We are at the beginning of social amplification for businesses and brands, but what is evident is that with the analysis and demographic understanding online offers compared to the traditions of television and radio advertising, the future of user generated content for business is looking incredibly exciting.”

4 proven ways to create fresh visual content

1. Don’t underestimate the power of user generated content. What online videos do you remember? It could be the one showing someone face planting while skiing or Candace Payne’s video of her in a Chewbacca mask, which was viewed by over 150 million people in one day.

2. Time it right. Make your live video last for at least 20 minutes, which gives viewers time to tune in and get a feel for what you’re offering.

3. For maximum impact, keep other videos short and target specific age groups. For millennials, a 10 second video; for those aged 35-54, 30 seconds. Preferably on a tablet works best.

4. Don’t just upload a video online, create a social campaign that encourages users to take action.

Andrew Weston from video production company Fly Creative explains: “There are no rules to what videos go viral, but there is a common thread – emotional engagement and the innate ability to transcend the sum of their parts.

“Take the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association’s ice bucket challenge. It had a genuine, worthwhile cause at the heart of it, actively encouraged people to physically participate and share, but also the master stroke was users were asked to nominate friends.”

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