How can retailers take advantage of major sporting events?

The sporting industry is worth billions, and can be a great opportunity for retailers. Retail Gazette discovers how they're assembling their social media strategies and offering consumers incentives to boost sales as well as help them stand out from the competition.

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Sport retail

As the sporting industry remains on such a prominent scale, with games and races watched by millions, it’s inevitable that retailers would capitalise on the events.

However, sporting events don’t always mean well for retailers. As more people head to watch games, it could ultimately lead to reduced footfall. The demand for sporting events is ever-growing, and although the outcome of what it means for retailers seems black and white, many brands are getting involved on a more practical level in order to appear more appealing to sportswear fans.

“Major sporting events inspire excitement across the country, which offers retailers significant opportunities to drive consumer spending,” said Mike Austin, co-founder and chief executive of marketing firm Fresh Relevance.

Although sporting events can create a buzz, it could result in consumers spending more time at home rather than on the high street – which causes a downfall for retailers.

“Whilst sporting events tend to be good news for pubs and bars, it often means a drop in footfall for high street retailers”

It could be argued that online shopping could deliver sales during this time, and more and more retailers, especially those in ecommerce, are opting for free delivery options to lure customers in.

“Whilst sporting events tend to be good news for pubs and bars, it often means a drop in footfall for high street retailers,” Austin told Retail Gazette.

“Marketers should build this into their campaigns and drive consumers online rather than to physical stores during these periods.

“Incentives such as free delivery is likely to help generate sales as customers will look to make their shopping experience as convenient as possible.”

Simon Dent, managing director of marketing agency Dark Horses, believes retailers should upgrade their social media strategy by taking advantage of consumers’ attention while the games are on.

“A lot of sports fans will consume content on second screens whilst watching major sporting events at home,” he said.

“This gives brands the opportunity to become part of the conversation on social media.

“With a clever social strategy and an authentic role, this can be a very smart way to become part of the fans consideration.”

Austin, on the other hand, argues that themed offers could benefit retailers on a massive scale because promotions are notably used by retailers to drive sales, especially during special events.

“Themed offers counting down to the start of the sporting event are particularly effective to create urgency,” he said.

“Marketers could run promotions on items that will help consumers prepare for an opening ceremony or key games in the tournament.

“These recommendations could even be weather-based. For example: suggesting products for a barbecue with friends if the weather is good.

“Equally, running a flash promotion online following a home nation win is another way to tap into the positive spirit.”

“On event days, some 35 per cent of visitors to Wembley Stadium and The SSE Arena, Wembley visit, and buy, in the shops and restaurants of LDO”

Chief analytics officer at sale-based software firm Ecrebo, Michael Poyser, argues that promotions and offers are futile if customers aren’t shopping in-store during sporting events.

“Getting customers in-store with those offers is just one part of the journey; once in store, customers should be offered the most relevant offers, coupons and discounts which can be delivered at the point of sale, and will relate to what is in the basket or historical purchases,” he said.

“And so the cycle continues, and the customer feels valued with offers that are relevant to them.”

Poyser argues that personalisation will help attract shoppers, and retailers don’t even need to just target individual shoppers, they can use seasonal data to apply promotions specific to geography, individual stores and even certain times of day.

“Again, this can be useful in getting customers into store in the first place through digital offers,” he added.

“For example, and then ensuring they return through personalised messages, offers and coupons delivered at the till.”

“The warm glow that big sports events bring can, of course, create a very positive association for a brand”

Meanwhile, the world-famous Wembley Stadium and SSE Arena are both situated next to the London Designer Outlet (LDO), which means retailers can take significant advantage of arenas’ diverse, year-round programme of sporting events such as the FA Cup and the Rugby League Promotion Final.

LDO centre manager Sue Shepherd said: “On event days, some 35 per cent of visitors to Wembley Stadium and The SSE Arena, Wembley visit, and buy, in the shops and restaurants of LDO.

“This means retailers benefit from the footfall, the defined demographics and the festive atmosphere of an event enhanced by the experiential events that we organise.

“Sports and athleisure brands at LDO such as Converse, Nike, Adidas and Björn Borg, for example, are popular with our guests attending sporting events.

“However, the best retailers will embrace the opportunity, tailor their offer accordingly and merchandise to match the event.”

Many brands can also leverage marketing benefits from a sports team, athlete, or event through sponsorships.

Sponsorships offer brands exposure to millions of consumers and can drive sales by getting the brand name, logo, and mission in consumers when most engaged in sports.

Dent said retailers should always look to make the experience better for sports fans and play an authentic role in the consumer experience.

“It can’t just look like something tacked on,” he added.

Dent also argued that they should make sure that any endorsement, sponsorship or partnership has longevity and isn’t just focused on a quick win, as this will build authenticity and engagement.

“If retailers are tying sporting events into their campaigns, it must be the right fit for their brand”

“The warm glow that big sports events bring can, of course, create a very positive association for a brand,” he said.

“Sport events generate conversation, increased emotion and during a defined period are always on.”

Nevertheless, Austin believes that major sporting events aren’t just for sport retailers. In fact, it’s an opportunity for fashion retailers to run promotions on “what to wear for the Wimbledon fortnight or the Grand National”, using user-generated content alongside professional campaign shots for an extra layer of authenticity.

“Marketers should use these occasions to provide inspiration for engaging campaigns and content that capture consumers’ attention,” he said.

“However, if retailers are tying sporting events into their campaigns, it must be the right fit for their brand and consistent with the expectations of the target customer base.”

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