Sports marketing strategies for Game Day and beyond

Nicolas Algoedt

Nov 4, 2021

Sports marketing strategies for Game Day and beyond Featured Image
Nicolas Algoedt

Nov 4, 2021

Sports are an essential part of American culture. There is rarely a day that goes by without some sporting event broadcast nationally. From boxing to basketball to curling to tennis, there’s no shortage of televised or streamed competition. That’s why brands across industries are integrating sports marketing strategies to drive more online sales.

Steady interest in sports and the amount of time and money people spend watching games and supporting favorite teams has not gone unnoticed by retailers. From online grocery stores to fashion retailers to sports retailers, eCommerce brands are cheering on sports and using personalization to enhance the effectiveness of their sports marketing strategies.

While there are many different sports to choose from, retailers will find that marketing deals and sponsorships with athletic competitions that focus on team efforts are the most lucrative. 

The top five fan favorite sports in the United States are:

  • (American) football 
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Ice hockey, 
  • And more recently, Soccer–AKA football to most of the world

This article will focus on some of the biggest opportunities available for retailers to hitch their brands to the most popular events and occasions in the sports realm.

Table of Contents
  1. Football, not football

  2. Winning their hearts through their stomachs

  3. Embrace endorsed products

  4. Fuel the fantasy

  5. A viewing experience, indoors

  6. Encourage travelers with package deals

In the next sections, we’ll explore how different industries and verticals approach sports marketing strategies. We’ll also explore new sports watching trends and how online retailers are adapting to evolving consumer behaviors.

Football, not football

American football is, without a doubt, the most popular sport in America. This holds true at the collegiate level, but more so within the sphere of professional athletics. Established just over a century ago, the National Football League (NFL) has the largest viewership in America. It has also garnered a large following in other countries such as Canada, Mexico, and also, interestingly, India. The sport is ripe with marketing opportunities for businesses in retail, travel, and sports tech to leverage to drive engagement and sales. Other industries with savvy marketing teams can use creative, out-of-the-box thinking to capitalize on the adoration of the sport to their benefit.

One reason the NFL is favored among sports fans and brands alike, is that it takes place in the autumn and winter months – the holiday season! During this time, consumers often gather in groups with friends and family to celebrate and enjoy each others’ company, often watching the games. 

It’s also the period when they are accustomed to spending more money on gifts, decorations, and other holiday-related items. Not only is fan merchandise a top seller, but NFL fans generate a huge boost for retailers offering game day essentials, food, and even travel tickets. 

The NFL hosts the most popular single-day sporting event in the US: The Super Bowl. Usually held in early February, this championship competition has become a holiday of its own, and brands spend millions of dollars for 30-second ad slots to capture the imagination of the fans, many of whom are more interested in seeing the commercials than the game itself.

Winning their hearts through their stomachs

One of the top selling categories in the run-up to and during the NFL season is the F&B category. Where tailgating used to be the norm before the pandemic, “homegating” has now replaced it, as more and more fans are happy to stay cozied up indoors with their friends and family to enjoy the experience in the comfort of their homes. With food and beverage deliveries becoming increasingly commonplace, grocers with an online presence have much to leverage. This is possibly part of the reason why Postmates was made the first ever official on-demand food delivery partner by the NFL.

Ideas like sending timely push notifications during game day, answering game related trivia to unlock special discounts, offering special sales or discounts on NFL branded products are some ways to entice consumers to shop more.

Insider’s Web Suite & Mobile App products offer many attractive & engaging templates for customized messaging on your website and mobile app.

Embrace endorsed products

The NFL conducted research on the perception and purchasing power of its players. The numbers were great, and reiterated what we already know and see. Players tremendously impact purchase decisions of consumers, with a majority of NFL fans (67%) and parents of NFL fans (77%) likely to buy a NFL player-identified product, which includes featuring a player’s name, likeness and/or jersey number. Millennials, especially, are influenced by players exceptionally, as 47% of millennials are highly likely to purchase a product endorsed by their favorite player(s).

What this means, especially for multi brand retailers in the online space, is that products endorsed by NFL players have a lot more visibility and are highly likely to convert to purchases. Using customized homepage banners to announce product availability, restocking or updates, offering bundle discounts on player endorsed products, using instant messaging and push notifications to send flash sale notifications every time a player scores, or a team wins, for instance, are great ways to leverage this fandom.

Fuel the fantasy

A growing, extremely popular way for NFL fans to engage with the sport is through fantasy games. There are a number of different fantasy football apps that are used by millions of fans. Fantasy games really involve fans to their fullest capacity, with many spending hours of research on stats, watching matches and looking at a whole number of sources to create the best fantasy team.

These apps can make the most of the NFL season by using timely mobile push notifications and offering individualized mobile app experiences based on the teams and players a user favors.

A viewing experience, indoors

Even as NFL sees great comeback as match-goers throng the stadiums after the pandemic, there has also been a significant increase in NFL’s TV audience since the onset of the pandemic. In 2021, the NFL games had, on average, 17.3 million viewers, which is a big 17% increase from the same time in 2020.

In the coming season, electronics retailers can expect sales of big-screen TVs and other supplementary gadgets that would make for a great home-viewing experience during the game season. Insider’s Web Suite can help in creating powerful individualized experiences that perform amazingly and convert visitors into customers that contribute to your revenue.

If you need inspiration for running stellar campaigns this game season, check out our success stories from partners dealing with consumer electronics.

Encourage travelers with package deals

There is some hesitancy to travel because of COVID. But for a majority of NFL fans, their love for the game surpasses this hesitancy. Most of them need just a little push to make a travel plan to watch their favorite team play. Travel providers, airlines & hotels are all jumping onboard the NFL bandwagon and offering package deals with custom trips to make their travel and stay as smooth as possible.

By using AI-based predictive segmentation and personalization, travel businesses can provide customized packages for fans even before they search for one. Anticipating their needs and showing up at the right time with individualized messages is a great way to make conversions. 

One of Insider’s partners used geo-fence based targeting to enhance their customers’ travel experiences, and ended up with a 128% increase in ancillary revenue. Travel agencies and businesses can tie-up with local stores and vendors to use such technology during the NFL season to promote sales. This is only one of the many ways in which a predictive, AI-powered customer data platform like Insider can help businesses.

As with most team-based sporting events around the globe, fans often create part of their own individual identity around the teams situated in their cities or regions. Retailers often take advantage of the opportunities to offer clothing, banners, or other branded merchandise that display the logos or colors of local teams.  

Is there a sports marketing campaign you need to execute flawlessly? Get in touch with our team for a detailed product demo and customized sports marketing strategies.


Nicolas is VP of Marketing EMEA at Insider. Passionate about new technologies and e-commerce, Nicolas has held various position at leading e-commerce and tech companies including Groupon, Microsoft and Bwin.