Immersive Thrills: The Rise And Impact Of Experiential Marketing In The Sporting Arena

Shifting the paradigm from conventional advertising to immersive encounters, brands are tapping into the emotional and physical dimensions of consumers


In the dynamic realm of marketing, a revolutionary strategy has been gaining momentum – Experiential Sports Marketing. Shifting the paradigm from conventional advertising to immersive encounters, brands are tapping into the emotional and physical dimensions of consumers. 

In a world inundated with information, experiential sports marketing stands out by prioritising consumer engagement over product promotion. This approach aims to create memorable encounters that resonate with individuals on a deeper level. Rather than being passive recipients of information, consumers become active participants in the brand narrative.

Suhail Chandhok, CEO, U Mumba said, “It's becoming increasingly important in Sport to bring the fans closer to the action and their heroes. At the same time, cross promotions with movies or music bands ensure a dynamic blend of entertainment and sport, enhancing fan experience & bringing new fans to a sport like Pro Kabaddi. U Mumba plans to engage these experiential synergies to create memorable take aways as such opportunities are unique for fans to enjoy the sport and amplify the overall experience too.” He further added, “Specific to Kabaddi Leagues, fan communities like our "U Mumba Mandali" have been created to connect directly with fans in their native languages to provide them with an interactive experience that shatters any geographical and linguistic barriers. Technological innovations are being introduced which allows fans to witness the players on and off the mat, allowing them to get a sneak peek into their personal and behind-the-scenes moments.”

Types of Experiential Sports Marketing Strategies

There are many ways to create experiential sports marketing campaigns, depending on the objectives, budget, and target audience of the brand or product.

Sampling and product demonstrations enable consumers and sports fans to touch, feel, and experience a product firsthand. It works well for sports products such as running shoes, fitness apparel, and equipment, but also for consumer electronics, food, and beverage, and other products that can enhance the sports experience. For example, Adidas created a jumping contest at the Adidas store featuring NBA star Derrick Rose, challenging participants to make a 10-foot jump and win a pair of sneakers.

Event sponsorship and activation involves creating experiences for consumers at sporting events, such as fan zones, interactive activities, or athlete appearances. It allows brands to connect with consumers in a relevant and meaningful way, while also creating a positive association with the event and the sport. For example, NBC Sports and Premiere League Mornings planned live tapings of their morning coverage in cities across the country, featuring opportunities to engage with talent, purchase swag, meet athletes and mascots, watch matches, and take selfies at club and sponsorship activations throughout the venue.

Consumer contests and sweepstakes create excitement around a brand or product and encourages interaction with consumers. It often involves offering prizes, such as tickets, merchandise, or trips, to consumers who participate in a contest or a sweepstake related to the brand or product. For example, Coca-Cola launched a campaign called ‘Score a Trip to Russia’ in 2018, offering consumers a chance to win a trip to the FIFA World Cup by purchasing Coca-Cola products and entering a code online.

Virtual and augmented reality uses technology to create immersive and realistic experiences for consumers that simulate or enhance the sports experience. It can be used to showcase the features and benefits of a product or service, or to create a fun and engaging activity for consumers. For example, NFL Experience in New York City allows guests to experience what it's like to be in the NFL, using AR, POV video, and other high-tech interactive devices.

Punit Balan, Chairman & Managing Director of the Punit Balan Group said, “Incorporating elements such as multilingual engagement, mix of entertainment with sports, curating behind-the-scenes videos with a touch of personalised marketing, and giving a holistic view of athletes' lives, has helped to further build the connection with fans and ultimately contributing to reach and engagement. Establishing a deeper and more lasting connection between the audience by embracing innovation in this dynamic field will contribute significantly to the growth and popularity of sports across the country.”

Impact Of Covid-19: Navigating Challenges

The global pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for experiential sports marketing. With restrictions on large gatherings and heightened safety concerns, brands had to pivot swiftly. Virtual experiences, augmented reality campaigns, and innovative digital strategies emerged as the new frontier. While the physicality was restricted, the emotional connection remained resilient, demonstrating the adaptability of experiential marketing in the face of adversity.

As the world transitions into a post-pandemic era, brands are re-evaluating their experiential strategies. The focus has shifted to creating enduring positive brand experiences. The immersive encounters are not just about a fleeting moment but aim to foster lasting connections. Whether through personalised digital experiences or small-scale live events, the objective remains to etch the brand into the consumer's lifestyle.

Not Just A Destination

Experiential sports marketing has evolved from being a novel approach to a cornerstone in brand strategy. In an era marked by digital saturation, the tangible and memorable encounters offered by experiential marketing stand out.

Tenzing Niyogi, CEO, Ultimate Kho Kho League, “We also focused on production innovation and integrating cutting-edge technology. With more than 19 cameras, notably introducing the Spidercam for indoor sports in India, the production aimed to bring viewers intimately closer to the action. Top angle view in an indoor fast paced sport provides a unique viewing angle for viewers to see & get involved in game tactics. This immersive viewing experience allowed fans to truly sense the thrill and excitement of the sport, creating a deeper connection between the audience and the league. These are quite the evidence to acknowledge that the landscape of experiential marketing in sports events is dynamic with continuous evolution in innovations and technologies.”

As brands navigate the ever-changing landscape, the challenge lies in not just adapting but in innovating – ensuring that each consumer engagement is a journey, not just a destination.

Tags assigned to this article:

Around The World

Our Publications