Today marked the kick-off session of the Brandweek Sports Marketing summit. What struck me as one of the overarching themes of the day, is the role technology continues to play in sports particularly related to the fan experience. Technology is rapidly changing the way people connect, consume entertainment and shop. For sports leagues and their respective teams, today’s changes are happening much faster than ever before. Modern technology and data collection enable richer, more customized relationships between fans and their favorite teams. When I worked at the National Basketball Association (NBA), we were one of the rare sports leagues at the time that placed heavy marketing emphasis on promoting the league’s players versus teams because we realized the benefits of fans connecting with players both on and off the court. Now it’s simply table stakes for any sports league and their member franchises.
On particular session from today’s summit I enjoyed featured Kate Jhaveri, EVP & CMO for the NBA, Barbara McHugh, Senior VP at Major League Baseball (MLB) and Heidi Browning, Senior EVP & CMO for the National Hockey League (NHL). Over and over again, each described the importance of using different social media platforms and video technology as an authentic way for leagues to connect their players even deeper with fans. Ms. Jhaveri said during the pandemic when NBA games were postponed, relationships with fans mattered more then ever and the league had to be more creative with content to keep their game top-of-mind for the 1.9 billion followers across all platforms. Ms. McHugh discussed “Authenticity being paramount” for MLB players and personnel to connect with their fans. She mentioned the importance for brands today to lead with empathy, optimism and collaboration for deeper and rich connections.
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