Don’t get digital. Get strategic. 3 important questions for sports marketers.

There is a debate currently in marketing circles around the need for organisations to be “digital ready”. Its an important and highly valuable debate. Lets face it, investing to ready our organisations to cope with the digital revolution going on around us intuitively make sense.

The debate appears to have started to permeate sports business circles. The SportsGeek, Sean Callanan, recently featured a very insightful interview on his podcast with Isabelle Perreault from management consultancy firm Stratford Managers on the topic of “developing digital maturity in the sports business”. Their discussion centred around the significance of digital as a driver of revenue in sports and the important role of people, not only tools, to the digital transformation process.

In a good piece written for the SportsPro Blog, Jesper Frederiksen of DocuSign argued, “merely by adopting the technologies that other industries such as banking, retail and property have, like electronic signatures or online customer service, the sports business has another chance to excel and reach another level. If it doesn’t, the industry risks stalling progress and undermining the star quality that we all want to see from the world’s top sports stars.”

Strategy first, digital second

This debate is important. However, and this might appear counter-intuitive, in order to maximise the potential from digital, the sports marketing and broader sports business community must put digital to one side and concentrate first on strategic marketing.

There is also a debate in marketing circles around marketing’s role in driving an organisations business vision and strategy. The marketing function has suffered from a long-held perception that it is responsible for design or advertising and promotion. It is of course more than this. Marketers in any organisation should be focusing on delivering customer value that drives sustainable revenue growth.

The big opportunity for sports marketers today is to step up and take ownership and develop the fan/ customer experience. The explosion and complexity of channels available to sports organisations to reach fans and vice versa is increasingly necessitating not only a single view on each fan/customer but more significantly an overarching ownership (or at least influence) on all decisions which impact on the fan/ customer experience.

Ask yourself these three questions

So before rushing to invest in the latest CRM software or content management system or to engage consultants to advise you on data security or data protection, ask yourself these three simple questions:

  1. Does my organisation have clear marketing objectives in place?
  2. Do we know how the key macro trends, competitive dynamics / customer needs and our own internal resources/ capabilities are influencing (positively or negatively) our ability to deliver these objectives?
  3. Do we use this insight as the backbone of our strategic planning and management decision-making?

If you can answer “yes” to the three questions above then you will have a fair idea of the role of and value that digital transformation could bring to your sports organisation and your overall marketing efforts. If you answer “no” to any of the above (particularly question 1), your efforts to digitally transform and fully leverage digital are likely to fall flat.

The sports business has made great strides in recent years in the digital space and there are frequent examples of great digital activations and partnerships. However, unless we as a sports business community promote proper strategic marketing planning, the myriad shiny digital toys at our disposal will look good but likely under deliver.


About the author of this post:

David is a Chartered Marketer with more than 15 years’ experience in international sports marketing roles. You can follow David on twitter @davidgfowler or connect on LinkedIn at



One thought on “Don’t get digital. Get strategic. 3 important questions for sports marketers.

  1. David – all digital is great and exciting but what about the product?
    The games, the teams and the players?
    Without a great product, all marketing – digital or traditional – is, using an old phrase, like “farting in a thunderstorm.”
    It starts and ends with the product – get that right, then the digital marketing debate can start!


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