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Sports Marketing: How to capture the hearts of fans with authentic storytelling

a look behind the scenes

The fans’ wishes were answered. Companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime are rolling out more and more programming that reflects exactly that desire: a first-hand look at the life of sport. And that with all its strengths, mistakes, weaknesses and feelings. Case in point: the huge success of Netflix’s Drive To Survive. A documentary series that offers viewers exclusive, intimate access to the racing drivers in one of the biggest racing competitions in the world: Formula 1. It is a program that tells intense and emotional stories. The magic behind it? All teams and drivers are given equal attention – regardless of whether they are at the end or at the beginning of the grid. The success of Drive To Survive shows what can be gained when stories come first and human interest takes a back seat.

The key to success is authenticity

One thing is clear: emotional storytelling builds a deeper connection to sport. But how can brands tap into this reservoir? Because the audience always wants more. Especially in the fragmented digital landscape that defines sports television today, it’s harder than ever for brands to connect. The answer is to use social media as a vehicle to project human stories. Take Vodafone and their sponsorship of the British & Irish Lions. The campaign focused on showing the players’ emotional side with dedications of their Lions jerseys to people who helped them on their journey.

Or adidas Running: superstar sprinter Noah Lyles showed his personal love for anime in the campaign, bringing his character and personality to the fore. As you can see, it’s not just about partnerships and fame. Rather, it is about the fact that the personality shown appears and is authentic. Any attempt to create something artificially is rightly doomed to fail.

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As is so often the case, love is in the details

How can brands ensure this authenticity and avoid an artificial grid? The key to success is to look beneath the surface! Here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Storytelling is not just storytelling: Brands need to work with their partners and ambassadors on a more personal level. It must go beyond athletic ability! Is there something unique about them? Who are you outside of your sporting activities? This is authentic storytelling. And not just a normal commercial with a fabricated story and actors. The supreme discipline here should almost resemble a documentary approach – the brand withdraws completely in order to be recognized as the sender of this story at most at the end.

2. Sensitize employees: Storytelling is a team task. Whether in marketing or employer branding: the interest of those responsible must be aroused. You have to understand that even the smallest story could have great added value. my appeal? Give those responsible a stage – an opportunity to exchange exciting moments, experiences or unique customer stories in order to give these stories a voice.

3. Story fist, Brand second: Storytelling is not called storytelling and brandtelling for nothing. The story must be 100 percent the focus of every production and not the brand! Sure, it’s always difficult, especially if you actually want to advertise the brand. Nevertheless, storytelling transports so much more than any conventional commercial. Strong messages, real people and emotional stories – that should be the true core of the brand!

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4. Big cinema? Not necessarily: Telling a powerful, moving story doesn’t always have to take the form of a film. It can also be made much easier by turning text and photos into great stories. Classic storytelling through blogs has fallen into oblivion for many marketing managers. Nevertheless, this is also an absolutely profitable opportunity for all those who want to realize exactly these projects despite a smaller budget.

5. Content variety pre-programmed: The production of such stories is not only inventive, but also a lot of fun. So why not show this one? Behind the scenes, outtakes, snippets – all these aspects can be used to feed the brand’s various channels even after the end of the project. This not only shows the effort that went into the project, it also keeps the story alive all the longer. And that in all its facets.

About WeAreSocial

With 1000 employees in 16 offices on four continents, WAS offers clients a global perspective at a time when social media is shaping culture. The agency understands social behaviors within online communities, cultures and subcultures that span the entire social and gaming landscape. WeAreSocial works with brands across a wide range of industries in B2C and B2B to reach the right people in a strategic, relevant and effective way.

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