9 Sports Marketing Trends to Include in Your Marketing Playbook

Intelligent Relations
By Intelligent Relations Team

Having an effective sports marketing strategy in place should be more than a goal. It should be your ultimate touchdown. 

But where do you start?   

First, consider that the rapid evolution of technology has transformed the way fans and potential customers consume sports content. While this offers fresh opportunities, it also presents challenges. Platforms are flooded with so much sports content, it makes standing out hard. 

You must also learn how to strike a balance between fan-centric initiatives and commercial interests. Overemphasis on either aspect can alienate fans or hinder revenue growth. 

Adopting innovative sports marketing strategies helps you stay ahead of the curve. It helps make your brand more relevant among fans and consumers. Plus, it ensures that you get a better return on investment (ROI) for your marketing efforts.

To create an innovative strategy, it’s important to stay up on current sports marketing trends. Adopting fresh trends helps you stand out, stay balanced, and make some noise in your space.

Below, you’ll find 9 of the most relevant sports marketing trends of 2024. Plus, you’ll learn how to adopt these trends and make them part of your sports marketing playbook. 

Not sure how to add these trends to your PR and marketing mix?

Let us help. Book a free consultation with one of our PR and marketing experts. We will take a look at your current strategy to see where it could benefit from a refresh.

Our 9 Top Sports Marketing Trends 2024

  • Sports PR
  • Esports Growth
  • Athlete Influencer Marketing
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences
  • Sustainability and Social Responsibility Initiatives
  • Growth in Women’s Sports
  • Mobile-first Approach
  • Data-driven Campaigns
  • Live Streaming and OTT

1. Sports PR

We’re living in an era of heightened media scrutiny around athletes and sports. An effective sports public relations (PR) strategy is one of the top sports marketing trends that is a direct answer to that scrutiny. 

PR shapes the public image of sports organizations, brands, and athletes. It also helps address crises and foster positive fan engagement. 

Want to make PR part of your sports marketing strategy? 

Cultivate positive relationships with sports journalists and media outlets. Understand their needs, preferences, and deadlines. Provide them with timely and relevant information that’s tailored to them. 

Also, be proactive in identifying potential issues and have a crisis communication plan in place. It should outline key roles and responsibilities for different stakeholders, key messaging, and key communication channels. 

When a crisis arises, respond quickly, transparently, and empathetically. Address the issue and share steps you’re taking to resolve it.

Here are a few reasons why PR is one of the most important sports marketing trends: 

  • Enhanced Brand Reputation and Image: You can manage communication with the media and the public. This allows you to highlight your strengths, achievements, and values. This can help attract fans, customers, sponsors, and investment opportunities.
  • Increased Fan Loyalty: You can use media coverage, social media interactions, and community initiatives to foster a sense of loyalty among fans and customers. This can create emotional connections and keep your audience engaged year-round.
  • Business and Sponsorship Opportunities: Sports PR can open doors to business partnerships and sponsorship deals. These sponsorship deals can provide essential financial support for teams and individuals.

Pro Tip: Embrace social media platforms to amplify your sports PR efforts. Engage with fans, customers, and stakeholders often. Also, create compelling content to foster a deeper audience connection. This can include videos, interviews, and behind-the-scenes glimpses.

Learn how to use PR for your sports marketing efforts by reading our comprehensive guide: How to Write an Effective PR Plan [Tips + Examples]

2. Growth of Esports

For sports marketers, esports is on a winning streak. In 2021, there were about 234 million esports enthusiasts. That number is expected to grow to over 285 million by 2024, making it one of the top sports marketing trends.

That’s because esports events offer attractive sponsorship opportunities and a global reach. This makes it an appealing avenue for tapping into a new audience base.

Esports is a diverse ecosystem with various games and communities. To use it for sports marketing, you have to understand the nuances of different games. Also, tailor your approach to resonate with the specific audience you want to reach.

Esports relies on digital platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming. It helps to collaborate with popular streamers and influencers within the gaming community. They can promote your brand or event and help you gain credibility.

Esports sponsorships can provide significant exposure. Consider partnerships with esports teams, leagues, or tournaments. Ensure your brand’s alignment with the values and interests of the esports audience.

Here are some other reasons why esports is one of the top sports marketing trends of 2024: 

  • Younger Demographic: Esports’ younger audience may be harder to reach through traditional sports marketing. Engaging with esports helps you connect with this valuable demographic.
  • Global Reach: Esports events have a global audience. This provides you with an opportunity to expand your reach beyond geographical boundaries.
  • Diverse Sponsorship Opportunities: Esports offers a wide range of sponsorship opportunities. These include everything from team sponsorships to in-game branding. This allows you to align with specific games or teams that match your target audience.

Partnerships are newsworthy events. Want to learn how to write a press release for a partnership? Learn more here: How to Write Press Releases for New Partnerships

3. Athlete Influencer Marketing

When they’re not scoring goals, athlete influencers are winning the hearts and minds of sports fans. 

Influencer marketing on its own has grown in recent years. In fact, 72% of Gen Z and Millennials follow influencers. That’s why influencer marketing isn’t just one of the top sports marketing trends, it’s a top digital marketing trend for 2024.

Sports influencers are usually athletes who have a substantial following on social media. Working with them allows you to leverage their credibility and reach a targeted audience. Additionally, you can use influencer strategies on social media to elevate your sports marketing efforts. 

When working with athlete influencers, seek partnerships that align with your brand values and target audience. Encourage athlete influencers to co-create content that showcases your sports brand. 

Why is athlete influencer marketing one of the leading sports marketing trends? Here are a few reasons to consider: 

  • Credibility and Trust: Athlete influencer marketing helps you create a high level of credibility and trust among fans. This makes fans more likely to become brand advocates.
  • Direct Fan Connection: Athlete influencer marketing provides a direct and personal connection to fans through social media. This direct interaction can lead to increased fan engagement.
  • Authenticity: Athlete influencer influencer marketing allows athletes to endorse products they believe in and use. This enhances the effectiveness of your sports marketing campaigns.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to go with an athlete to do influencer marketing. Consider the recent impact Taylor Swift had on Kansas City Chiefs jersey sales after appearing at a game. True, celebrity endorsements like Henry Caville for MuscleTech may be out of reach, but consider working with similar fitness nano or micro influencers instead.

To learn more about how this works, see our article: 9 Top Influencer Marketing Trends Shaping the Industry in 2023

4. Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences

Why are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) among the go-to sports marketing trends? 

They enable fans and customers to have immersive experiences. For example, fans can virtually attend games or try on merchandise. This can create memorable interactions and boost brand loyalty.

Plus, you can use VR and AR to provide virtual tours, interactive training sessions, or scavenger hunts at live events. These experiences can deepen the emotional connection with fans and customers.

Be sure to use interactive VR and AR applications that enable your audience to participate. Try creating AR filters or gamified VR experiences related to your sports brand or team. 

Also, consider using VR to provide customers with a taste of what it’s like to be an athlete. This includes behind-the-scenes tours of your sports brand or organization. 

Here’s why VR and AR are among the top sports marketing trends of 2024: 

  • Immersive Engagement: VR and AR experiences provide audiences with immersive interactions with sports and brands. This enhances engagement and leaves a lasting impression.
  • Differentiation: Implementing VR and AR sets you apart from competitors. This can be particularly attractive to tech-savvy customers.
  • Merchandise and Sales: VR and AR allow customers to see products in action before making purchases, This can potentially boost merchandise sales.

Pro Tip: Leverage data analytics to tailor VR and AR experiences to individual preferences. Understand your audience’s interests and behaviors. You can use this to deliver personalized content, offers, and experiences. 

Want to learn how to leverage audience analytics? Read our comprehensive guide: 7 Step Guide to PR Analytics: Unveiling Insights for Strategy Enhancement

5. Sustainability and Social Responsibility Initiatives

Sports organizations and brands across the board are incorporating sustainability practices and social responsibility initiatives. This helps them align with audience values and show their commitment to making a positive impact.

Want to show your commitment to sustainability and social responsibility? Partner with environmental organizations. You can also support community initiatives. Or, you can implement eco-friendly practices into product development or sporting events. 

Also, use your platform to educate fans and customers about sustainability issues. Encourage eco-conscious behavior among your audience. This can include reducing single-use plastics at events or promoting public transportation. 

Here are a few reasons why sustainability and social responsibility are among the current sports marketing trends: 

  • Positive Brand Image: Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and social responsibility helps build a positive brand image. It particularly attracts socially conscious consumers and fans.
  • Fan Alignment: Many consumers today align themselves with brands that share their values. Engaging in sustainability and social responsibility initiatives can foster a deeper connection with customers or fans who share those values.
  • Long-term Viability: Sustainable practices can contribute to the long-term viability of your organization. This ensures that you remain relevant and resilient in the face of environmental and societal challenges.

Pro Tip: Create a sense of community by involving fans in sustainability discussions. Seek their input on eco-friendly initiatives. Also, showcase their contributions on social media (with their permission). Remember actions are stronger than words. Your audience will respond better if you put your money where your mouth is. 

6. Women’s Sports Marketing

Since the passage of Title IX, we have seen an increase in gender equality in sports. And women’s sports have gained significant attention and investment in recent years. 

Diversity and inclusion are both big trends in digital marketing and PR for 2024. That’s why focusing on women is one of the top sports marketing trends for the year.

Sports brands are just now recognizing the potential of women’s sports to reach diverse and engaged audiences.

To promote women’s sports, invest in better visibility through advertising, media coverage, and sponsorship opportunities. Showcase women athletes and their stories to create role models for aspiring athletes.

Also, ensure that women’s sports receive equal treatment in terms of marketing budgets and resources. This includes promoting women’s events as vigorously as men’s. Or including marketing materials that show women as much as men. Plus, you should offer equitable opportunities for growth and development.

Here’s why women’s sports has become one of the leading sports marketing trends: 

  • Diverse Audience: Women’s sports attract a diverse fan base, including female and male fans, broadening the reach of sports marketing efforts.
  • Gender Equality: Promoting women’s sports aligns with societal movements for gender equality, showing that sports organizations and brands support and value female athletes.
  • Market Potential: With the growth of women’s sports, there’s untapped market potential. Brands that invest early can establish solid partnerships. You can also establish connections with emerging female sports stars.

Pro Tip: Engage with women’s sports communities and fan bases. Leverage social media and digital platforms to foster a sense of belonging. Also, create content that resonates with female sports enthusiasts. Just remember, you’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. You need to be authentically inclusive. Otherwise, it will backfire.

7. Adopting a Mobile-First Strategy

Around 60% of Internet users around the globe use mobile phones. With the prevalence of smartphones, a mobile-first approach is one of the most essential sports marketing trends for 2024. 

When creating your sports brand’s website, make it responsive and optimized for mobile devices. Ensure that your website loads quickly and is easy to navigate on smartphones and tablets.

Also, consider creating a dedicated mobile app for your sports brand. Apps can provide personalized experiences. This includes push notifications for live events, news updates, and exclusive content.

Want to know what makes mobile-first one of the most crucial sports marketing trends? Here are a few key reasons: 

  • Accessibility: Mobile devices make content and services accessible to fans and consumers wherever they are. This increases the chances of engagement.
  • User Experience: Prioritizing mobile ensures a seamless and user-friendly experience. This is essential for retaining audiences.
  • Marketing Reach: Mobile advertising and apps provide an efficient way to reach your audience. That’s because people spend a significant amount of time on social media and apps.

Pro Tip: To make your website or app responsive for mobile, work with a development program that offers responsive design options. You can also hire an experienced developer and collaborate closely with clear design guidelines.

To learn more about how to optimize your sports marketing efforts for mobile, see our article: 8 Mobile Marketing Trends to Upgrade Your Strategy in 2023

8. Data-driven Sports Marketing Campaigns

Want to score big with your audience? Data-driven marketing is the way to go. It helps you understand user behavior and preferences. 

Marketers often use data to create better customer experiences. They also use it for personalization, omnichannel marketing, paid advertising, and much more.

Analyzing data allows you to create targeted campaigns across various digital channels. You can also measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. This helps you make data-driven decisions to optimize your sports marketing strategies.

To best use data, try segmenting your audience based on demographics, behavior, and preferences. Tailor your marketing campaigns to each segment. Be sure to deliver personalized content that resonates with specific groups.

Also, implement predictive analytics to forecast trends and behavior. This can help you stay ahead of the curve in identifying emerging marketing opportunities. Plus, it can help you optimize your marketing strategies accordingly.

Here are a few reasons why data-driven campaigns are one of the most important sports marketing trends: 

  • Precise Targeting: Data-driven campaigns allow for precise targeting. This ensures that your sports marketing efforts reach the most receptive audience segments.
  • Measurable Results: Data enables you to measure the success of your campaigns. This can help you allocate resources, resulting in a better return on investment.
  • Personalization: Data-driven insights enable personalization. You can tailor your content and offers to individual preferences, enhancing the overall fan experience and loyalty.

Pro Tip: Track the performance of your data-driven campaigns in real time and be prepared to make rapid adjustments. Data-driven marketing is an ongoing process. The ability to adapt and refine your strategies based on data insights is crucial to success.

Want to know which data points to track to measure the success of sports PR campaigns? Learn more here: 10 Key PR Metrics You Must Measure to Gauge Success 

9. Use of Live Streaming and OTT Platforms

Live streaming and OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms are all the rage when it comes to sports marketing trends. They offer real-time, accessible, and personalized content delivery. This enhances sports fans’ viewing experiences. 

In fact, about 63% of sports fans prefer to pay for live streaming and OTT platforms than traditional cable TV. 

These platforms enable you to reach a global audience and engage with fans. This aligns with the evolving preferences of modern consumers. Many of them seek convenient and flexible ways to consume sports content.

If you’re going to stream content yourself, try investing in high-quality production for your live streams and OTT content. This includes professional camera work, commentary, and reliable streaming technology.

Leverage the interactive capabilities of live streaming and OTT platforms to engage fans in real time. Incorporate live polls, chat, and social media integration to keep viewers participating.

Sports brands can also look for partnerships with live streaming channels and events instead of creating their own content.

Here’s why live streaming is one of the best sports marketing trends to consider: 

  • Live Event Coverage and Exclusive Content: You can use live streaming and OTT platforms to provide extensive coverage of live sporting events. This includes pre-game shows, behind-the-scenes access, post-game analysis, and interviews. 
  • Fan Engagement and Interaction: Live streaming and OTT platforms allow you to foster a sense of community among sports enthusiasts. You can run contests, Q&A sessions with players, or even virtual watch parties to enhance the fan experience.
  • Monetization Opportunities: Sports organizations can generate revenue through live streaming. This includes subscription models, pay-per-view events, and in-stream advertising. 

Pro Tip: Promote your live streams in advance through various marketing channels and PR efforts. Also, build anticipation and provide incentives for viewers to tune in. This can include exclusive content or giveaways.

Key Takeaways on the Sports Marketing Trends of 2024

Technology has reshaped the way sports organizations and businesses market their brands. You must adapt to new digital platforms and methods of fan and audience engagement. The volume of sports content makes standing out a challenge. But you can make an impact with the right strategies in place.

Innovative sports marketing strategies are your ticket to staying ahead of the curve. These sports marketing trends help you stand out and ensure a better return on investment for your efforts. 

To be successful, stay updated on current sports marketing trends and adopt them into your playbook to make some noise in your space. Strike a balance between fan-centric initiatives and commercial interests. Focus on strategies that enhance the fan and customer experience while also driving business growth.

Not sure how to implement these sports marketing trends into your mix? Let us help! Simply book a free consultation to get expert insight into where your strategy could use a boost.