Marketing With Sports

BY Brady Fredericksen // Content Marketing Strategist

How to balance passion and product

They say not to mix business with pleasure.

“Separate your hobbies from your work, it’s better for you,” they explain. “Keep your personal interests personal, and your professional grind from 9 to 5.”

That all makes sense, sure, but sometimes your worlds collide.

For me, that’s writing and sports. When I’m not working, I’m watching a game. When I’m not watching a game, I’m probably tinkering with my fantasy football team. Heck, maybe I’m even shooting hoops or attempting to golf?

Sports are just a part of who I am.

Now, that relationship is a little different with work. I’m a copywriter, and my professional connection is different now than it was in my past life as a sportswriter. However, the ability to take a passion like sports and use it to help mold your work as a professional is huge. Notice how I said help moldyour work. That was intentional.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, a designer, a video editor, anything, we can all fall victim to the same sports pitfalls.

You’ll never out-Nike Nike

We’ve all seen Nike ads.

They’re packed with drama, oozing intensity and emotion with a plethora of the world’s biggest athletes front and center. They’re incredible, and if you’re a sports fan, you want to create that.

I know I do.

Imagine having the opportunity to leverage LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods in your everyday projects? And listen, it’s alright to admit that you think the next “Just Do It” campaign is living in your brain at this very moment.

But that shouldn’t be your goal. If you’re a marketer, especially one lucky enough to work with clients who have professional sports partnerships, your job isn’t to try and make the most badass and epic commercial.

For us, it’s less about the sports and more about the partnership.

Remember: You’re still selling something

You can’t forget the end goal here. It’s incredible to work with professional athletes and leagues to create captivating content, but in the end, you’re still selling a product or service — tires, pizza, cars, vacuum cleaners, etc.

Look at State Farm’s partnership with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.

There is a lot of fun to be had when you’re working with the most popular and talented player in the NFL. In the end, though, it’s not about Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It’s about State Farm Spokesperson Patrick Mahomes, whose purpose is to help you sell insurance, not throw touchdowns.

It’s best to think about sports as a vessel for advertising. We use them to reach audiences and expose our brands to people who may not always connect with what we’re trying to market.

Don’t forget to have fun with it

It’s important to look at what you’re passionate about through different lenses, especially when it comes to work and play.

The work we do around sports — whether it’s with the NFL, NHL, or NTT INDYCAR SERIES — is different from the way in which I, personally, enjoy sports. It’s like creating a work/life balance, only on a smaller scale.

It’s ok to be watching football on Sunday and have a great design idea or some killer line of copy pop into your brain. It happens to me all the time, and sometimes they end up being some of my best ideas.

Prior to working with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, I had zero interest in open-wheel racing. Now, I can tell you every driver on the circuit. I’ve got favorite drivers — never thought that would happen — and I watched my first race from start to finish during this year’s Indy 500.

Finding personal connections to your work is vital.

You learn a lot about yourself when you work in marketing or advertising. You’re exposed to goods and services that you never think about, then you’re tasked with marrying them and sports — even when it’s not a natural fit.

Sports are about overcoming challenges. When you think about this industry and the work we do every day: it’s not that different.