Brand Innovators 2023 Outlook: Sports

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In the 10th installment of our 2023 Outlook Series, Brand Innovators speaks brand marketing leaders about what is on the horizon for 2023 in sports marketing.

Nothing brings people together like their favorite sports and during a time of economic downturn, fans will rely on their favorite sports for fun and connection amid uncertainty. 

As digital engagement and fan player connections have increased through social media and more streaming opportunities brings more events home, expect digital engagement and more immersive experiences in sports marketing in 2023. 

“I couldn’t be more excited about the outlook for the Sports category in 2023,” says Marissa Solis, senior vice president of global brand and consumer marketing at the National Football League. “As fans continue to face challenges in their everyday lives with the economy and rising global tensions, sports will continue to be an escape and a unifier that many long for. The stakes will be high in terms of our fans’ expectations for engaging experiences.”

“In 2023, there will be more ways to watch than ever before through new streaming and DTC options,” says Solis. “We will not only bring the game closer to our fans’ fingertips, but we will have the ability to also bring all the exciting narratives that surround the game and experiences on and off the field. Technology will allow us to tell deeper ‘helmets off’ stories and connect with our fans on a more intimate level and on their terms…bringing the game to them always and anywhere.”

“More streaming content will be created which allows fans to see the behind the scenes of the NFL,” says Cheyenne Cantor, executive at UTA Entertainment Marketing. “This will further deepen the relationship these new fans have with their new favorite players, coaches, and even cities. This content gives new and existing fans the opportunity to feel as though they know these athletes on a personal level. Like the success of the Netflix show, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, I would expect to see documentary style content following the NFL and/or specific teams allowing for further engagement and brand love.”

As more players connect with fans with more personal storytelling through social channels, brands will have an opportunity to support these stories. Nationwide has plans to amplify the stories of women athletes in 2023.

“For Nationwide, creating opportunity around women’s sports and supporting the athletes is a space where we see growing momentum and great potential,” says Ramon Jones, EVP and chief marketing officer at Nationwide. “Our partnership with the National Women’s Soccer League is an example of such a commitment. Since our sponsorship began in spring of 2021, we’ve invested in growing the game and we’ve developed a community impact platform that benefits charitable partners in each team market. We also recently piloted a program where we hosted several NWSL players for a two-week professional development experience at our company headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. We look forward to continuing to support the league both on and off the pitch in 2023 and beyond.”  

Justin Toman, head of sports marketing & partnerships at PepsiCo expects the strength and value of live sports to continue to grow, with the sports tech and sports media sectors driving the majority of growth. “Growth may be measured, especially in the first half of 2023 when macro-economic conditions are likely to slow fan demand for the sports they love, but not erode it,” says Toman. “Properties and brands are likely to be a bit more cautious with emerging sponsorship categories and technology to avoid a crypto/NFT-style crash. Test-learn-scale will be the approach to ensure initiatives are profitable, stable and sustainable. I’ll be closely watching the on-going intersection of sports and politics as Paris ’24 starts to really come into focus and the road to World Cup ’26 in the US officially begins.”

Cantor also expects to see opportunities in the globalization of American sports like the NFL. “We’re seeing globalization of many sports, particularly the NFL,” says Cantor. “With games in the UK, Germany, and Mexico City the past few years, the NFL remains focused on building relationships with fans outside the United States and growing the game of American football. The extravagant ‘one-off’ games leave the fans wanting more and overseas games create a perfect opportunity for unaffiliated sports enthusiasts to connect with a team and build that overall fandom.”

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