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Written By Courtney Maggs-Jones
8 minute read

As an avid sports fan, like many, I’ve been starved of live, in-the-flesh sports action for the last 18 months. And whilst we are gradually entering back into the stadia and arenas of the world, if we’re honest we’re still a long way off being able to fully enjoy unfiltered live action in the way we did pre-Covid. 

In a strange way, and I know it perhaps shouldn’t, this makes me excited. 

Because these next few months pose a major opportunity for teams, broadcasters and brands to go that extra mile in replicating that same visceral experience and engagement that live sport gives. 

As it stands, The Euros, Tokyo’s Olympics and Paralympics and The British & Irish Lions Tour are all going ahead, with all four major events crossing over within 9 weeks of one another. Should all of the events go ahead, this is a true aligning of the stars for every sports team and sports fan all over the World. Add in an action-packed season for Motorsport, tennis, cricket… you name it… it’s a massive summer of sport - even if there are inevitable cancellations and, even if we won’t all be able to be there in person. 

It’s a major opportunity to engage with consumers and leverage that excitement if brands get clever with their sports marketing promotion ideas. With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about how you could use promotions to add to that consumer experience and also to take advantage of it — here are some of our ideas on how to market around the summer of sport.

Rugby player catching the ball

Retail and hospitality must do more to take advantage of sport

When bars and restaurants opened in April for outdoor seating, we clambered to book tables for 6 and endure the frankly absurd low temperatures - as we were afforded the opportunity to enjoy new surroundings and experiences. How very British. Now that winter has all but left us, and we’re (sort of) on track with the roadmap to opening up, I really hope that same level of enthusiasm will drive into the summer. As annoying as it is for the less organised, I really hope to see pubs, bars and restaurants fully booked for all of the fixtures and sports events available this summer. And yet… whilst demand will inevitably drive bookings, I think that hospitality marketing around the sport can be doing so much more, creating even more buzz and making it more of a two way street. 

Uniqodo HQ overlooks Boxpark Croydon. If you remember the football World Cup in 2018, there was that now infamous video moment when England scored and the place quite literally erupted with people and drinks spilling everywhere. As we sat with some of our clients at EE for lunch in BoxPark last week, I saw small A4 laminated TimesNewRoman signs stating that they were now taking table bookings for the football. Sure, I’ve had 1-2 emails encouraging bookings, with the odd social post, but I’ve not seen anything yet that drives my FOMO or urgency to think WE HAVE TO BOOK THIS NOW. And it’s not just Boxpark, but across bars, pubs and restaurants. When you consider the deficit the hospitality industry has had to endure in the last year. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that it’s just all a little too… quiet? 

And yet, right in front of us, with eye-opening scale like walking into the stands of The Olympic Stadium, or Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, is just a huge opportunity to plug all of these gaps in sales and then some. 

I think it’s clear that on-trade can be doing so much more to appeal to their target audience right now, and I hope that there’s more that’s stuffed up the sleeves of the on-trade marketing teams to really tap into this potentially special Summer. Let’s see.  

Man watching football on tv

Tapping into the at-home audiences

Whilst I am 100% behind the on-trade hospitality industry and helping it bounce back, there also lies an opportunity for F&B and FMCG brands to tap into the summer of sport and enhance the experience at home. 

I’m really excited to see what the likes of Deliveroo, Dominos or Just Eat will do, both in the partnerships they’ll have forged for this summer, but also in how they’ll add to the experiences of this summer of sport, with little nudges and discounts to promote certain types of cuisine, or creating limited editions to drive urgency and FOMO around certain fixtures or nations playing. 

Then there’s brands tapping into the subscription experience -  in the absence of being poured from the taps of stadia around the world. Imagine Guinness, Heineken, Carlsberg (or perhaps even a more disruptive brand like Brew Dog), providing unique codes so that customers can let them know which games they’re locked into watching, or the team you’re following? And the code providing you with discounted drinks at certain bars, or delivered to your home for those fixtures? 

What if it went a step further? What if that unique code could be redeemed across a number of different alcohol brands AND be used to get food from Domino’s, Deliveroo or Just Eat at the same time for each of these fixtures! Many online gifting companies believe that if you replace ordering a physical greetings card by ordering an online gift card, and you do so 10 times, you’ll forge a habit that this is the way gift cards are now ordered. Imagine alcohol brands AND food delivery brands being able to create the same advocacy from their customers in choosing them as the ‘beer/food of sport’, by using strategic promotions during this heightened concentration of sports fixtures?

Athletics stadium


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Ideas for supercharging your sports marketing campaigns

If we think about the limitations this year poses, it’s likely that the majority of merchandise producers will have been quite reserved in the volumes of production. Given live sports attendances will be so low, one would assume that the same appetite to spend £80 on a shirt just simply won’t be there en masse as it would have been if people were following their nations around group stages and knock-outs of tournaments ‘on tour’.

But what if… what if we could take advantage of this moment by also solving an age-old retail challenge…what if you could build demand for previous seasons’ collections and brands own the very cool forum of ‘vintage’?

What if instead of slashing the prices of the latest releases due to drive sales, retailers held a tiered discount to reflect the season of football kit, for example if you purchase the kit from 2020 you get 15% off, 2019 gets 20% off and so on…? 

Our client Samsung did something very similar for this, where they took advantage of the buzz and early search demand of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, creating a waiting list for people to access their sale early. Each person received a unique code via the waiting list to be able to access the sale, and when customers arrived to their custom landing page, they were able to select 1 product from each of the 4 tiers, banded at 10, 15, 20 and 25% off in each tier. 

In the same way, I’d love to see brands and retailers engage with consumers and fans to buy any season’s kit to be a part of it - really championing previous season kits - without cannibalising their current stock sales which will inevitably still perform well, but controlling that forum of cult vintage. 

Recently, Emilie Birks of Yamaha Music gave us some insight that the biggest peak of guitar sales happen around festival season - Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Download, T in the Park… the list goes on. Imagine the spike we’re going to see in the sales of footballs, football boots, rugby shirts, football shirts and who knows, if the Olympics and Paralympics take place, of more running trainers, swimming goggles, bikes, javelins. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing for brands and sports retailers to facilitate easier access to these products, not just by offering discounts, but working with influencers and experienced athletes to provide beginners’ content? 

What if for every pair of football gloves bought, there’s a goalkeeper’s tutorial from Lloris, Pope or Neuer? For swimming goggles, there’s a unique code offer to redeem a swimming lesson at your local pool, with a message from Adam Peaty? To me, this is the ‘Linford-Christie-on-a-Rice-Krispies-box’ moment but in 2021’s digital marketing form. 

Similarly, in the absence of being able to see the games live, I’d love for brands such as Adidas, Nike, Puma, Under Armour and, in rugby’s case, Canterbury, connect with their networks of community clubs to whom they supply kit, to create a huge audience of potential long term advocates. 

Imagine these brands using unique codes as part of their sports marketing and promotion ideas to unlock exclusive access to ‘watch-parties’ of games - watching with brands and stars together - those that watched with the brand then getting access to exclusive discounts, product drops and offers. 

Not only will we add to the buzz AND deliver sales, we can enhance CRM and turn grassroots clubs into a network of long term positive brand advocates. 

A great example of this is how EA Sports and Twitch have explored this in E-Sports and Gaming. This is the perfect opportunity to create that exclusivity of digital attendance through live streaming. 

A really great execution of using content gates to create exclusive access is by Beauty Bay, who work very closely with influencers such as NikkieTutorials to create brand awareness and early demand, then exclusive early access lists, all accessed by unique codes and delivering on sales.

Open air football stadium

Travel marketing opportunities around sport

I’m not for one minute suggesting that it’s an easy tie-up nor will it solve all of the challenges travel and tourism has faced, but there are marketing tactics and experiences that can get the mind travelling even if you can’t. 

During certain fixtures, wouldn’t it be great for travel brands to offer a mystery discount? For you to back the team you think is going to win in order to unlock a discount to that destination? So if your prediction is correct you receive 20% off and if you lose, you might pay normal price but receive an extra night for free. 

You could even turn an accumulator ‘bet’ (I’m treading carefully here…) into an accumulator of points to be converted into discount or cashback on purchase to a destination of your choosing. Or maybe not of your choosing? Perhaps it could be to win a trip to the winning nation of the tournament, or a mystery destination? There are so many different things we need to be trying to build the buzz in travel again. 

There’s a lot of potential for brands to succeed on social media platforms through affiliate partnerships. Tourist boards themselves can get in on the action, providing paid social channels and influencers with codes to unlock specific discounts to ‘redeem when you can travel’ such as destination visits, hotel nights, meals. This form of social media marketing has the power to get people thinking about destinations as they’re watching their national teams and athletes competing. 

Of course, there are many Sports Tour Operators out there, but I’d love to see airlines themselves seize the opportunity around sport. Because the majority of holidays are booked during existing or recent holidays, I’d love to see airlines promoting flights around next season’s Champions League, nudging and seeding throughout the fixtures of Euro 2020(+1) that they’re offering early booking offers around the fixtures for the 2021/22 season. 

They could even potentially go one step further and partner with Sports Tour Operators to provide tickets at the same time, all with the purposes of booking travel and building confidence once again - naturally, with cancellation policies in place to de-risk the purchase for consumers. But essentially becoming the airline of European sports travel when it does return.

BT wanted to become the home of broadband for gamers, and they recently ran a campaign with the launch of the PS5 where access to purchase was only made available for existing BT broadband customers as an exercise in retention. 



Grow your business through great sports promotion experiences

The online marketing possibilities that use this summer of sport are literally endless and, with them, the opportunities to drive demand and engagement once again across the entire customer lifecycle. Here at Uniqodo, we’re all about new ways of solving common challenges with bespoke solutions and about making things happen for brands and their consumers in the moments that truly matter. 

To me, this summer poses a huge moment which should matter to everyone, and I’m excited to see how much further companies in these verticals are going to go to develop their slam-dunk sports marketing strategy beyond A) what my simple mind has thought up and B) what’s been done before.

Of course, there’s not much time, but it’s still very surprising what can be achieved with Uniqodo’s PromotionX in a short space of time. With our simple javascript integration, we can avoid lengthy IT projects, so there are many things we can bring to life for brands and ecommerce platforms across these major industries to take advantage of this summer.

If any of these sports marketing promotion ideas have piqued your interest, or you’ve got your own creative juices flowing for the Summer of Sport or indeed for any key moments beyond it, we’d love to have a brainstorming session, so get in touch and we’ll happily share some of our thoughts on how you can bring it to life with Uniqodo’s Promotion Experience Platform. 

Who knows… maybe we can be sat in BoxPark together brainstorming ideas whilst 2021’s Sporting Heroes deliver unprecedented results during these unprecedented times? 

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