What coronavirus means for sports marketing

The Olympics have been postponed. Major leagues are suspending their seasons. How can brands pivot and still reach fans?

The postponement of the Summer Olympics, coupled with the suspension of play across the NBA and NHL, have disappointed fans all over the world. For brands, however, the impact of COVID-19 may require coming up with a new playbook if they want to continue marketing to sports.

For some, that may mean taking money invested in sports marketing and putting it elsewhere, which is what Anheuser-Busch​ — a major sports marketer — is doing. The beer marketer said this week it will redirect its sports and entertainment investments to its non-profit partners during the COVID-19 health crisis. Some brands may also look for ways to continue to engage sports fans, such as via social media or esports. However, any budgets redirected over the next few months could quickly return to the major sports leagues once games start up again.

“If this continues to go on the way it looks like, it’s going to be a big change [for sports marketers],” Fred Schonenberg, founder of New York-based VentureFuel, told Marketing Dive. “People will start looking for new ways to move the needle with that money.”


Esports and other sponsorship alternatives

Another potential marketing pivot is into esports and online gaming, which may include similar fan demographics to live sports leagues. There could be increased investments from brands who have already dipped their toes into esports as well as an openness among brands who have been reluctant to try until now, said Brad Nierenberg, CEO and founder of Washington, D.C.-based agency RedPeg Marketing.

“The CMO is never going to question you for being involved in one of the major league players,” Nierenberg said.

The difference is that there isn’t always the equivalent of a single entity like the NFL in esports, making it difficult to understand which is the best game to align with to reach a desired audience, he added.

Some organizations have already moved quickly to try and get in front of the cancellations. This includes Las Vegas-based Sports Gambling Podcast, which is running a simulated series of NCAA games on social media.


To read the full article, head over to Marketing Dive.


RedPeg was founded by Brad Nierenberg in 1995 with the aim of creating an agency that he would want to work for. Talk about secret recipes!