Calum Hollington, media executive at Wake The Bear, gives his advice on reaching sport fans this summer

Wimbledon tennis Marketa Vondrousova Getty Images

With the European Championships now underway, the cricket season warming up to the Men’s T20 and later The Hundred, Wimbledon beginning and the Olympics and Paralympic Games in Paris just weeks away, all eyes are on a thrilling summer’s sporting agenda.

The commercial opportunities around this are endless, with TV, radio and social media set to be alight with related content, from official broadcasts, write-ups, blog posts and fanzines, all of which will be ploughing out millions of words of copy and endless hours of footage to fans of every demographic.

Which of course lends itself to a great opportunity for brands to tap into these moments of heightened attention when passions will be high and, hopefully, moods bright. Because catching audiences in a receptive, positive frame of mind is a significant help for any marketer looking to engage a potential customer.

But for start-ups and younger businesses, for whom marketing budget and expertise are relatively low, it could feel like a missed opportunity. Ad breaks on commercial TV are for the big boys and girls, right? As are sponsorships and brand endorsements. The answer, of course, is yes. But does this need to be a problem? Absolutely not.

Because when it comes to sport in 2024 the opportunities to get in front of audiences are limitless, in both type and expense. Once we used to watch or listen to the match, catch the highlights programme later that day, and maybe read a report in the paper. Not now. Fans will be watching live via TVs, Smart TVs, online and mobile, and will be catching up on all the action via YouTube, podcasts, social media platforms and fan sites with bespoke video content.

A report by Mintel in 2022 showed 63% of all online adult sports fans follow their favourite individuals on social media, rising to 79% among males aged 16-34, while 62% of people who follow sport in the media do so via social media platforms, rising to 91% of those aged 16- 24. This can be extrapolated out to an even larger proportion of the population when you consider that for major football tournaments and sporting events such as the Olympics, people who don’t traditionally identify as ‘sport fans’ will also be tuning in.

Which presents the perfect opportunity for smaller businesses to reach a large, much sought after audience through video content such as engaging brand films, video pre-roll advertising or in-feed video-based posts. In fact, it’s a misnomer to think that fans only want to hear from the big brand sponsors traditionally associated with sport advertising. There is just as much of an appetite for something different - a D2C, or a sustainable business, a founder-led operation or a boutique brand from their local area.

While it’s well known targeting is very straightforward when using social media, and financially the barrier to entry is low, the secret to cutting through the noise in this summer’s sporting frenzy will be about message and timing.

Whatever your chosen media - be it ads on CTV, gamification or video content on social media - creativity remains crucial if your brand is to stand out. And to hit the right creative mark you will need to marry up three main factors: firstly stay true to your brand personality, next be absolutely sure who you are targeting with your advertising - because sport fans span every demographic - and then take advantage of the wealth of insight available into the likely emotions and media consumption behaviour of that audience.

On social media, brands of any size can be part of the narrative very easily, joining the conversation in real time with time sensitive messaging, perhaps relating to a particular win or stand out moment, and striking a tone of voice that people will notice for the right reasons - for example with humour, if that’s right for the brand.

Interactive advertising is also a great opportunity to make a memorable connection for your small business. Not only is brand recall high but it’s not a widely used form of advertising, increasing your chance to stand out.

Whatever your budget and chosen media, any marketer willing to innovate and get creative with their approach can tap into this incredibly rich period when engagement will be high, audiences receptive and opportunities rife. Never think you can’t get involved as a start up: everyone can have skin in the game.

Calum Hollington Wake The Bear

Calum Hollington is a media executive at Wake The Bear