Marketing Of Sport Versus Marketing Through Sport: They Are Not The Same

Sports marketing is a powerful tool that is successfully used to promote not only sports, for example, football and hockey teams, boxers, but it also works in various business sectors. When dealing with sports, it is worth distinguishing between pure sports marketing versus marketing through sport. These are two completely different approaches and sets of tools, each of which is good in a certain situation.

Anyone involved in initiatives aimed at bringing a sport product closer to end consumers has to do with the “marketing of sport”. This includes marketing operators of sports businesses and organisers of events, leagues, championships, and so on. For instance when you find a promotion entitling you to go to the stadium with a friend free of charge, you are exposed to “marketing of sport”.

“Marketing through sport”, on the other hand, involves players who use sport as a booster to grow a business that is not directly connected to sports. Players who use marketing through sport include sports marketing agencies, brands resorting to testimonials, and so on. An example of marketing through sport is the Opel brand using Valentino Rossi to promote their car model Opel Adam.

“Pure” sports marketing

Experts believe that sports marketing is very different from marketing through sports. In the first case, we are dealing with pure sports, that is, teams and athletes. In the second, with conventional marketing in sports, when traditional marketing tools are used in areas related to sports, and not very closely.

Actually, sports marketing can be divided into two more categories, which are closely related to each other. This is the marketing of sports organizations — clubs, brands, teams, as well as the marketing of products and services that are related to the sports activities of these organizations, the so-called sports merch (from the English merchandise — “goods”).

Sports marketing has several very specific tasks.

  • Make an impression on the fans, give them a “spectacle” in one form or another, in order to provoke the expression of emotions, empathy, and interest in certain events.
  • Increase loyalty to a specific sports club or athlete, as well as demonstrate the sponsor’s belonging to “ours”, that is, to a club and a sports brand.
  • Encourage journalists to write emotional articles where the reader is encouraged to side with a particular club.
  • Encourage the fan to be like your sports idol, such as the captain of the soccer team.

These tasks allow achieving results that are important for the sports club and its sponsors.

The viewer begins not only to rejoice at the team’s victories, but also to experience its defeats, the level of empathy and loyalty rises. The club gets a “target audience”, that is, a skeleton of loyal fans, who, in turn, attract their friends, relatives, and so on to the community.

The sponsor gets the opportunity to effectively influence the fans of his club, which means that the number of potential consumers of the sponsor’s product is growing.

The media, seeing the growing popularity of the sports club, willingly write articles and notes about it, which become more and more emotional. The result is that the media readers, including both potential fans and sponsors, will learn about the club.

One of the most important features of sports marketing is also that it must take into account many features of the sport where marketing tools are involved. A professional must know the features of various sports and operate them in order to obtain the most effective result.

Sports Marketing Cases

Advertising concept for the hockey club “Salavat Yulaev” for the season 2017–2018.

The agency was tasked with developing and implementing a communication strategy for the 2017–2018 season, decorating matches at the Ufa Arena, creating an image video and developing a logo for the club for the playoff period.

Green has become the main element of the campaign. Here, so to speak, all the stars converged — the fact is that the team has a green uniform, green is one of the symbols of the region, plus most people perceive this color positively.

The team itself is popular in its native region, so it was decided to let the fans feel involved in their native team. For this, the fans of the team were invited to upload their photos in green clothes, decorating themselves with the symbols of the club. According to the results of the weekly voting, the authors of the most successful concepts were awarded prizes. In addition, people in green were shown on the big screen during matches.


  • We attracted new fans (by the way, the age of fans is from 15 to 90 years old).
  • Increased the recognition of the team.
  • Merchandise sales increased by 15% compared to the previous year.

Marketing through sport

As stated above, sports marketing represents traditional marketing tools that are used in or around the sports field. The goal is to promote products and services of a wide variety of companies.

Marketing through sport cases

The Turkish Airlines is a sponsor and partner of such football clubs as Barcelona and Manchester United, as well as Euroleague basketball. It is clear that the company does not just support sports companies — it gets the attention of fans of various sports clubs for this, some of which become Turkish Airlines customers.

In 2015, the company signed contracts with Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi, making them the heroes of its new video. The essence of the video is not so important now, the main thing is that it received millions of views. Messi, among other things, became the “brand ambassador” of the company. Without a doubt, Turkish Airlines has received many new customers from the huge army of Messi and Bryant fans.

Summing up, marketing tools can be very effective both for promoting a particular sports club and for promoting goods and services of companies that are directly or indirectly related to sports.

As shown above, the approach to promotion is fundamentally different. With the right tools and strategy, both approaches can give measurable results. But for this you need to carefully study each specific case, analyze the nuances of the task at hand and collect data. Only after the factual base is ready, it is possible to begin to solve the problem itself.

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