Ladies and Gentlemen, sport events are back! In a new guise, with a new business model and much more work to do than in the past. But they are back, fitter than ever: catalyzing moments for people, and an appealing opportunity for brand promotion.
“Maybe the digital world is beginning to get saturated” visionaries dare to say. What is certain is that it is not enough to satisfy the attention-seeking behavior of modern times anymore. Just like the lines of a circle that always get back to the starting point, in the same way people’s needs seem to retrace a cycle that brings them there where they started.
We’re taking it to the extreme, but this is the concept: in the social time we are living in, in which we are convinced that tweets and likes might be enough, the real experiences, in the flesh, seem to be back to meet a need for participation and sharing, essential elements in modern sport events, the events 3.0.
In this space we have already dealt with the Ironman case to introduce the business model of the “Participation Sport”, which is taking more and more market slices to the detriment of more traditional “Spectator Sports”. A winning model, reproduced - relatively speaking - also in other disciplines: from running to beach volley, from mountain bike to paddle and clay shooting.
The objective is the large participation of people paying to make a unique experience, being themselves the protagonists, and the same people become clients of the product that they contribute to create: the event. That’s not all: the event itself is prepared, attended and told by participants themselves, who become the main communication channel of the event and its sponsors.
Easy as it is, then? Not really. First of all, a great creative work needs to be done in the beginning, because experience must be unique in order to create participation. Or at least it must seem to be so.
It all began with running. Who has never taken part in a color run or in one of the many runs supporting charity in a given territory? Some have gone beyond that: the “Moonlight Half Marathon” in Jesolo attracts 6,000 runners by night, the “5 alle 5” in Treviso made 2,500 people run at 5 a.m. on a working Friday. What followed were selfies, videos, group photos that worked as evidences of these little yet great “deeds”, with the approval of Diadora, main sponsor of the event.
Never heard about the “Beach Volley Marathon” in Bibione? A sport gathering which was for amateurs in the beginning and which has celebrated its 22nd edition this year, attracting over 20 thousand people, 2,800 teams, 12,000 athletes on 250 fields, all this in just one weekend. Title sponsor? Mizuno, which decided to invest on the event a few years ago with a perfect marketing operation.
Same story for the Südtirol Dolomiti Superbike, a race born 24 years ago from the “crazy” idea of a group of friends with a passion for mountain bike: riding for 20 km with a 3,500 m gradient in Val Pusteria. “Something never seen before in Italy”. Nowadays the event attracts 5,000 riders every year, coming from all over Europe, amateurs and professionals together, and it was able to attract the attention of first level sponsors like Fi’zi:k, Sportful, Canyon and Sorgenia, which dedicate special products and services to the Südtirol Dolomiti Superbike. Do you know how participants love to call each other? “Legends”.
We could make infinite examples like these: in clay shooting, FITASC gathers professionals and amateurs to compete together, and it is able to take over 1,000 passionates to Piancardato, a small village on the Umbrian hills in just one weekend, to take part in the Sporting European. Take part, not watch. More than that: pay to take part. Take part and communicate that: 1,000 ambassadors with smartphones, ready to take a selfie, to the benefit of the sponsor of the event.
“Ok, we have the idea, and after all it doesn’t even cost too much to fulfill it”.
All right, but this is not enough. Now it is necessary to write the plot of the story, the protagonists and narrators of which are the participants of the event. The communication supporting this type of events is changing, too.
It is not sufficient to put the communication tools in the field only just before the event. The protagonists of this story are to be involved and accompanied all the time: in their daily training, in the choices they make as consumers, while sharing the values that characterize them. These are the ingredients that create a community that speaks about itself all year round and meets at the event in the flesh.
Creative ideas and strategic communication, then. Those that work with sport events, brands and federations, like ourselves, need to know how to use both elements, two elements that cannot go without each other. On the one hand, it is necessary to invent new challenges that can involve an increasingly demanding audience; on the other hand, you can have the best idea of all time, but if you cannot tell it in an effective and permanent way it will remain only a good idea. As said, the participants in the Südtirol Dolomiti Superbike call each other “Legends”, and this is the narrative thread to follow: the myth, which transforms the mere event into something which is worth telling. If we know how to build, take care of and feed it, it will be the epic of the event itself to transform each participant into an influencer.