April 17, 2012
It has been far too long since my last post – and it is time to get back to work so we can continue to provide quality content for individuals looking to enhance their marketing efforts. For all sport teams, there comes a time where the official season ends and you enter an “off-season” period. For most sport programs, this simply means quickly evaluating and finding ways for athletes to improve on their efforts for the upcoming season. I guess this makes some sense given that winning is at the pinnacle of the success as the level of competition at all levels seems to be increasing. With this being the case, sport organizations and programs are looking for specific ways to differentiate their athletes so they can improve on athletic performance in the future. Being a marketing blog, this is not something that I will be touching on. However, I would like to use this as a frame of reference to highlight the importance of striving to differentiate in marketing efforts. This is a concept that sport organizations and coaches must understand to be a true innovator in marketing.
So, What’s the Deal with Differentiation?
In an athletic environment, you strive to put together formalized “off-season” programs because you hope to help your athletes and/or program reach full potential. And in many instances, this can be the best time to differentiate because there are many other programs that will take a break. Thus, with this being the case, your initiatives will serve to gain ground or extend the gap if your efforts are well-crafted. There is no real fundamental difference in marketing. During the season, everyone (hopefully) is all excited about providing quality content to keep stakeholders (e.g., consumers, donors) engaged with their program. Considering the nature of college athletics, this in itself would be considered a noble pursuit for Olympic programs coordinating their own marketing efforts. However, it would be a mistake not to mention that the “off-season” is where the real differentiation occurs in marketing. If you embrace this concept, then you continue to invest heavily in marketing when other programs take a break. As a result, you have an opportunity to truly make your program unique in comparison to others.
What’s Your Next Step?
It is quite simple really. As other programs put aside marketing until the next season comes around, you continue to push with initiatives. Rather than complain that you do not have competition to drive your social media content, be more innovative and attempt to find ways to build the brand of your program from a creative standpoint. This will serve a couple of key purposes. First, it will force you to be a little more crafty in identifying potential content that will be interesting to your followers. The good news here is that much of the most innovative marketing content being released is not dependent on actual highlights from competition. Second, as a direct result from the first purpose, you will have an opportunity to find new content ideas that will differentiate your program from others who are not investing in marketing. A primary example is the “Jump Around” branding video that the UNC Athletic Department just released including all of their sport teams. In addition to reinforcing the “Jump Around” entertainment theme at UNC athletic events, they also take the opportunity to show the personality of their student-athletes from different sport teams.
Benefits of Being Different…
The primary benefit associated with differentiation is the opportunity to set a standard of excellence. In simple terms, when you invest in marketing in the “off-season” when others are not, you are putting in hours that give you an edge because you are developing skill sets. While not highly tangible, this is something that will allow you to be far more creative moving into the next sport season. More importantly, you are developing materials at a time where content can become scarce in your sport. And as fans are looking for their fix, you can become a sport organization and/or program that consumers are drawn to because of your proactive approach. This alone is something that can make this a worthwhile endeavor because it is the ideal time to significantly grow your followers via social media.
Don’t Miss Opportunity to Differentiate
With the associated benefits laid out, it is time to see what sport organization/program will embrace the mindset of differentiation. When it becomes a daily mindset to assess all key decisions based on this concept, there is a unique benefit to become a trendsetter in your field and/or sport. The time to see exactly who will make the investment is now. There is one thing that you can say with 100 percent certainty though. The programs who make the investment in building their brand during the “off-season” will not regret this because they will reap the benefits associated with strong marketing efforts.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other” (Abraham Lincoln)