What are some challenges facing the sports marketing industry, considering the heavy use of social media?

Although the new wave of sports marketers rely on social media to help market their clients and products, there are various challenges confronting this shift in a marketing strategy. We turned to our panel of Zintro experts and asked them to share their opinions. Here’s what they had to say:

Carlos Acebey, president of ACB Sports Marketing & Management, feels that the sports marketing industry needs to embrace social media as part of the implementation stage of the strategic marketing process. However, challenges arise because companies need to devote meaningful resources to social media. Acebey recommends that organizations identify a social media champion to fight for funding and relevance. In addition, they should “develop a social media strategy that aligns with the overall marketing plan is essential to leveraging social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the benefit of the organization.” It is also important to hire and train individuals who understand marketing principles, rather than just employ people who know how to use social. Acebey says that it is critical to stay away from the “mentality that social media is a free platform used to broadcast messages about the organization.” Businesses need to understand that social media is primarily “social,” and focus on the consumer who is seeking engaging content or feedback.

Warren Donian, with experience in companies ranging from small businesses to those on the Fortune 100, says that social media presents both opportunities and challenges for sports marketers. In order to successfully use these tools, companies must begin with a strategy and a social media business plan to define objectives – sales, marketing, awareness – and measure results against these objectives. Successful marketers understand that first and foremost, social media is a tool that builds relationships, and then as a sales platform. Therefore, Donian reveals that, “90% of social media communication should be devoted to relationship enhancement, while only 10% should focus on commercial activities.” This opens the door to a two-way relationship with fans so that companies must actively “court customers” before getting them to purchase tickets or merchandise. Fiona Green, a sports marketing professional with over 20 years of international experience, agrees with Donian that the increased use of social media will only assist the sports marketing industry. Green believes that while the universal challenge to all businesses is to transfer a consumer’s use of social media from cyber-space to the real world, the opportunities far outweigh the challenges. When a company does this successfully, the use of social media “can help the consumer be a part of the excitement, experience the atmosphere, and stay abreast of what’s happening from wherever they are.”

Jason Wolfe, an expert in sports marketing consultation, strategy development and overall economics of the sports landscape, believes that social media must be leveraged as part of a larger strategy, and it must remain consistent. Otherwise, businesses may “jump into the next best thing” before thinking about whether it is the best option. Wolfe says that the biggest challenge is showing the true value of social media, because there is a “knowledge gap on the power of social media between Gen X and Y sports executives and the constant battle is over monetization.” Steven Buckner, a sports photojournalist working to promote, market and cover sports in the Carolina’s since 2003, explains some of the other problems that confront the sports marketing industry in regards to social media. Presently, there is not as much money available in advertising for websites or print media. Using Facebook and Twitter to market their products and services, companies do not have the same marketing needs as they did before. On a separate note, Buckner notes that social with the advent of emails, text messages and notes via chat, there is less time for meetings and personal interactions. Businesses spend less time forging relationships in person, when in reality they need to understand that “the biggest thing we all have to sell is ourselves.”

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