Can Sports Marketing Provide You a Competitive Edge?

Ed BurghardDr. Irv Rein is a professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern University. Dr. Rein has co-authored a number of books and scholarly articles on the topic of place branding.

I recently asked Dr. Rein to recommend one of his papers for the community of practice to consider reading. He selected a paper co-authored with Ben Shields entitled “Place branding sports: Strategies for differentiating emerging, transitional, negatively viewed and newly industrialised nations.”

The paper explores the use of sports marketing as a way to differentiate your location from competitive options, and provides a comprehensive overview of the possibilities and considerations when incorporating sports marketing into your place branding efforts.

Dr. Rein’s recommendation is particularly timely as sports marketing is again a hot topic in the product branding world.

Dr. Rein and Ben’s paper is an excellent read and I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you will consider subscribing to Place Branding and Public Diplomacy. Every time I open an issue of the journal I feel like I learned something valuable.

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5 Comments so far

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  2. Rollie Cole

    February 7, 2013

    Yes, but not for everyone, nor for every purpose. Indianapolis made a strong, community-wide effort for several years before it started landing events and then the NCAA. Now it also has companies that do the marketing for leagues and teams far from Indiana. But as with convention centers, the entire national market can only support a few centers like this.
    On the other hand, leveraging both amateur and pro sports that exist in the area (including fishing, hiking, and other non-league sports), can be a very effective way to allow individuals and organizations to “create value” in the local economy. The marketing, the equipment, the training, the medicine for when things go wrong are all ways that an area active in sports can use that to develop and growth business around it.
    Rollie Cole, PhD, JD
    Founder, Fertile Ground for Startups, Small Firms, and Nonprofits
    “Think Small to Grow Big”

  3. Dain Simpson

    February 7, 2013

    A very interesting article, but for smaller communities achieving a return on a community’s investment can be problematical. Sports branding neeeds to consider whether it is all sports, specific events linked to the natural competitive advantages of the location, participants events (marathons, bike rides) and how the yiend on investment is generated.

  4. Michael Haywood

    February 15, 2013

    As part of a place branding platform, sports can definately play a central role in establishing identity. I have no argument with Dr. Rein and Ben Shield’s central thesis, except to say that sports has the potential of becoming an essential tourism activity in virtually every community.

    As a core leisure activity, people of all ages, during all times of the year, engage in sports either as participants or spectators. When viewed through the prism of a pyramid, the preceding discussion only examines the pyramid’s apex – the rarified, professional, and spectacular sports events that garner national and international attention. Obviously countries and major cities want to become associated with the power of these sports brands. But, in my mind, communities should be giving far greater attention to the base of the sports pyramid and its untapped potential.

    Sports activity at community and regional levels gives rise to a tremendous amount of travel. For example, my 16 year old grandson is passionate about cross-country skiing. This year he has competed at events across the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and at events in British Columbia. As part of his sports program at school he has travelled three times to Austria in order to train. During the off-season he continues his training by engaging in cycling events that take him into the U.S. He is but one individual, supported by his parents who often travel with him, and sponsors who believe in his passion. Similarily his sister pursues her interest in competitive rowing and teaches downhill skiing during the winter.

    Sadly too few DMOs collaborate with their parks, recreational and sports program compatriots and coordinators. Ignored are the thousands of unpaid volunteers who work tirelessly to coordinate travel, encourage visitation, book rooms and manage amateur sports events that attract thousands of visitors annually.

    What makes a community truly appealing has less to do with finessing and fiddling around with brand identity, and far more to do with generating community spirit, supporting community events (including all sporting activities), and helping build an enviable quality-of-comunity-life.

    Tourism succeeds in communities that care, communities that endear, communities that are hospitable, communities that look after their own and take pride in their accomplishments. Through sports all communities can build an enviable tourism industry.
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