Maximizing Your Brand Marketing Strategy Around Major Sporting Events


Katie Arena, VP of Marketing at Clinch, outlines some of the challenges marketers face when it comes to marketing around major sporting events such as the Olympics, and how these can be overcome. She expands on delivering an automated and real-time strategy, the evolving streaming landscape and the fragmentation of sports viewership.  

March 28, 2024

There are several major sporting events coming up this year, such as the Olympics and the Euros. What challenges are brand marketers likely to face when executing campaigns around such events? 

Some of the top challenges that come to mind center around creative, strategy, and data – all of which are intertwined. From a creative perspective, brands embarking upon advertising partnerships with esteemed sporting and event organizations, are often beholden to strict creative guidelines and embargoes, especially when logos, athletes or other dedicated intellectual property is involved. These strict creative rules can be a nightmare to adhere to when you factor in different regions and media channels the brand is looking to activate across, or changes and modifications that must be made to copy, ad layouts, etc. at any point in the campaign lifecycle. Managing these factors alone is difficult – and the level of QA required can be rather daunting.

On the strategy front, another common challenge is delivering on the inherent “real-time” nature of this category, as well as circumstantial moments that a brand might want to leverage to trigger a particular creative outcome. We’ve seen several instances where advertisers have this idea to capitalize on specific moments throughout an event, but run into limitations around achieving scale – or platform-specific limitations, like that of social media and other walled gardens, that limit the ability to accommodate true real-time creative activations and third-party ad serving. It’s crucial for brand marketers to lean into systems and technologies that bring automation to their campaign activation and optimization process. If a certain regional team, or in the context of the Olympics – country, drops out of the game, a brand wouldn’t want to serve a creative to that particular region with messaging that speaks to a potential win. There can be a lot of interesting ways to personalize, but also a lot of operational levers to pull to make it happen without the right tools and degree of automation at hand.

Lastly, failing to integrate insights from event-based activations into broader marketing strategies risks missing valuable opportunities for optimization and personalization.. 

What key strategies can aid brand marketers in overcoming these challenges? What role can AI play? 

There’s no shortage of facts and figures indicating that consumers are increasingly expecting a more personalized brand experience. Even under strict creative guidelines, brand marketers can achieve personalization at scale, but it’s critical to start with ad templates that are customized to conform to required specifications, and further, marketers should pay close attention to placing proper guardrails in their campaign’s decisioning logic. Changes throughout a campaign are inevitable at any stage; that’s why marketers should select tech partners who are agile enough to support their evolving needs, but have built-in safeguards to make sure compliance is fully met. There’s still a lot of concern around the legal implications of AI-enhanced images, which I’d imagine weigh heavily in these instances. But where AI can really drive value is practical applications of streamlining the campaign set up and quality assurance processes. Automation is key when you’re dealing with high volumes of creative variants to review, or complex campaigns to assemble.        
Additionally, It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s incredibly important to ensure that your campaign strategy is actually feasible across the platforms you wish to activate, and is also aligned with your target outcomes. It’s ok if you’re not an expert on activating a particular media channel, or setting optimization strategies, however partnering with the right platforms and advisors who are is paramount to success. 

Is the increasingly saturated TV/streaming landscape changing the game when it comes to advertising around sports? 

The evolving streaming landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for advertisers looking to reach sports audiences. With the rise of streaming services and on-demand content, sports viewership is becoming more fragmented, but despite the fragmentation, the digital landscape offers marketers opportunities for highly targeted advertising. The user information, even on the household level, unlocked via streaming platforms and digital sports apps, allows brands to deliver personalized ads to specific audience segments.
We now have advanced analytics tools that empower marketers to measure the impact and ROI of their advertising efforts more accurately. Real-time tracking of metrics such as impressions, engagement rates, and conversions (both online and offline) facilitate data-driven decision-making and campaign optimization, which are essential in navigating the dynamic streaming environment.

Do you see regional differences in marketers’ approaches to planning and implementing campaign strategies around major sporting events? Between marketers in EMEA and AMER, for example? 

Beyond the cultural and environmental differences that set apart behaviors and preferences of American vs. European fans and consumers, there are many common threads regarding what it takes to successfully plan and implement strategies around sporting events. A centralized system to manage creative, strategy, activation, and measurement is key to ensuring a smooth campaign. As is the ability to support operations and feedback from multiple campaign stakeholders, in a unified space. Many of our advertiser clients who activate sports-related campaigns roll up into a global directive, but have regional leads who are hands-on in the system. Flexible user permissions allow them to share visibility with other team members they see fit, and all feedback and approvals are shared within the same system they are operating, so there’s virtually zero chance of miscommunication.