The Battle for Consumer Loyalty in the Sports Vertical

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 5 min read

Sports are an intrinsic part of who we are. We reminisce about past glories on the field, watch our favorite teams and athletes with rapt attention, and never feel quite right if we miss our morning run. We play them both to enjoy the spirit of competition but also to foster an active lifestyle that allows us to live healthy, fulfilled lives. For marketers, the devotion of the vertical’s consumers offers a unique opportunity; champion brand builders like Nike that are able to capture this passion are able to evolve from apparel companies into lifestyle brands whose slogans and campaigns transcend advertising and become part of the worldwide lexicon.

With the release of our new sports marketing page, Enter the Arena, Digital Surgeons aimed to bring the passion of the sports consumer to life and capture the spirited competition facing brands engaged in the battle for consumer loyalty.   

The “arena” may invoke the thunderous roar of our stadiums or the gritty, blood-soaked sand of the coliseum, but for sports brands the battle is actually taking place across an innumerable number of touchpoints and experiences.

This battle is happening on the hood of a sweatshirt or on the front of a jersey. It’s happening when a sprinter, gasping for air, quickly decides what that one thing is that will help them recover. It’s happening when an aspiring athlete picks out their first mitt on the way to tee-ball practice. And it’s happening under bright Friday night lights as much as it is the glowing televisions of Monday Night Football.

The arena lies in the hearts, minds, and bodies of your consumers, and in the passions of weekend warriors, fitness enthusiasts, adventurers, and athletes everywhere.       

Successful sports brands understand how to leverage the strong emotional tie that consumers have with athletic performance. They understand that they hold the power to become icons that lead their consumers toward the performances and lives they dream of.

While not a traditional sports brand that creates apparel or equipment, energy drink maker Red Bull recognized the growing popularity of extreme sports and shifted its marketing to capture the emotions of audiences that connect with athletes pushing their bodies and minds to the limits.

Instead of sponsoring an extreme sports event with 100 other brands, Red Bull began hosting their own events. Why settle for slapping your sticker on a motocross bike when you can set up an event where someone jumps one onto the top of the replica Arc de Triomphe at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas?

When Felix Baumgartner was standing on the edge of space 24 miles over New Mexico, 9.5 million live YouTube viewers on Red Bull’s channel heard him bravely declare:

“I know the whole world is watching now. I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to get up really high to understand how small you are… I’m going home now.”

Anyone with a pulse felt their heart jump as Baumgartner stepped forward and eclipsed speeds of 800 MPH, breaking the sound barrier before his safe desert landing.

Red Bull understands the value of appealing to the Evel Knievel in all of us. Even if we aren’t skydiving from space, who doesn’t wish they took more risks? Who doesn’t aspire to push their limits and accomplish more?  

In just over a decade, yoga-inspired apparel company Lululemon has grown from a single storefront in Vancouver to a public company with more than 100 outlets and $340 million in annual revenue. Lululemon has achieved this meteoric growth largely by engaging with community yoga influencers. Before expanding to a new market, the company sends missionaries to every yoga and exercise class they can find to befriend popular instructors and present the products, but more importantly present the self-actualized lifestyle the brand represents. Converting these instructors into brand ambassadors creates a symbiotic relationship where the store drives clients to the instructor and vice versa.  

Lululemon understands the strong connection between yoga practitioners and their instructors and leverages it to spread brand awareness. Yoga instructors provide far more for their clients than simply instructing them on the proper form for a pose, they serve as spiritual guides for the lives they want to lead.

The Lululemon manifesto is filled with feel-good affirmations that echo the teachings of yoga instructors towards living more mindful lives. The manifesto’s affirmations include practical directives (drink more water), feel good quotes, and inspirational statements. Brand evangelists wear the manifesto on tote bags and echo it through social media.

Certainly a different tactic than throwing a man out of a helium balloon above the earth, but it’s a different brand.

Whether your arena lies on a Bikram yoga mat, or in the adrenaline rush of thrill seekers everywhere, give your consumer the experience that inspires the life and performance they dream of.       

We may not be bruised and battered gladiators deafened by the reverberating roar of a bloodthirsty mob but the release of our sports marketing page still makes us feel the sand of the coliseum between our toes. 

Enter the Arena with Digital Surgeons and learn how we’ve fought for our clients.