Meeting the future challenges for sport – five opportunities for right now

We are working with a number of sports, governing bodies and events to be ‘match fit’ for when things return to normal. Whilst it can be hard now to see past the short-term situation, this time can be used wisely to maximise marketing spend, brand and results, all of which will be crucial in the future. Here is a top-level overview of what our planning team has found:


When sport events come back, everyone will be trying to reach the same people at the same time. As the starting gun goes, delayed ‘winter’ events will clash with ‘summer’ events and 2020 events will run across 2021, creating a massive push to secure ticket income over a short period of time. This, combined with sports trying to deliver sponsor rights, will see a very concentrated burst of marketing activity, creating a hugely cluttered environment. We see this activity being met by an increased demand by consumers to attend live sport and entertainment events.

Opportunity: Use time now to sort out your performance marketing – updating websites, optimising your CRM activity, testing tech, planning direct response media options, getting measurement and tracking down across all digital touch points.


Communities have become hugely important as this country has united to help those that need it the most, whilst celebrating our excellent health service. We have already seen many sport follow other consumer brands to share this support and re-purpose their products. We see this as an opportunity for the industry to authentically connect with casual audiences via storytelling and content to celebrate the importance sport plays in our lives. We see all sports putting the focus back onto participation (as we’ll all be in need of the exercise) whilst also using this time to evaluate how you can position yourself to create a point of difference in the future.

Opportunity: Speaking to your community partners, re-evaluating how to connect with different audiences, placing participation at the heart of your activity, linking up your elite and grassroots efforts to position yourself differently.


In the absence of face to face interaction, there has been a huge change in the ways that society has become digitally connected. As things return to normal, these habits will continue to evolve and grow. Sports will need to harness this behaviour change to make digital experiences and content work harder outside of traditional channels. This time can allow you to audit your channels, review your digital reach and research new options. To continually reach new audiences, sports need to innovate and explore new platforms alongside more traditional broadcast channels, especially to reach and resonate with younger audiences.

Opportunity: The digital space is only going to become more crowded, so this time provides the chance to review content planning, messaging, positioning and product. New tech and platforms should be led by audience-first planning.


We’ve seen how some brands have damaged themselves by placing profits before people – the same will go for sports that don’t show they understand their audiences and can relate to them in authentic ways. We have seen a number of sports take the lead already. Whether it be taking pay-cuts, donating their facilities, using their stars to push the ‘stay at home’ campaign, encourage exercise or distribute positive content through digital channels. This time gives you the opportunity to pause, reflect and position yourself as ‘more than just a sport’ – cementing emotional connections with your fans, reaching new or lapsed audiences whilst even resetting values that might have negatively impacted your brand.

Opportunity – Use this time to plan how your sport will convey itself as essential when things return to normal. Find easy ways to create a meaningful and shared passion between your sport and fans, focusing on fan generated activity.


As the landscape has become more crowded, a number of sports have been constrained by stakeholder differences, sponsor scarcity, media criticism, reduced funding, declining memberships and fan disengagement. We see that more than ever, individual sports and their partners need to come together to bring the separate parts together for the wider benefit. We see sponsors taking a more active role in shared marketing planning, we see fans reacting to positive actions from governing bodies, stakeholders and venues seeing the bigger picture and events capitalising on the nation’s love of world-class entertainment.

Opportunity – This is a time to internally reset for the better, laying down a clear set of long-term objectives that everyone can support. Sports can use current sentiment to plan for shared ambition and purpose across all delivery partners.

Alistair Gammell, Associate Partner at Threepipe Reply