Opinion: how to overcome comms challenges for niche sports

Ahead of the 2017 Drone Racing World Championship taking place tomorrow (13 June), CLICKON’s CEO & co-founder Richard Wilson describes the challenges brands face when marketing niche sports and how to overcome them.

Richard Wilson

Effectively run marketing and communications campaigns will help enhance credibility, motivate buyers and forge relationships to augment customer loyalty.

But running successful campaigns can become even more challenging when you embark into the unknown field of a niche and new sport: such as drone racing and eSports.

Below are five key challenges and potential solutions for you and your brand to consider:

Its audience is budding
Before anything else, consider the dynamics of this emerging audience. This can be broken down into demographics including age, education level, gender, income, region and psychographics, ranging from attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle.

Doing some initial research will help you get a good picture of who your audience is and why they could care about your product – which will make sure you have a clear strategy to deliver authentic content.

The Drone Racing League, with their audience in mind, have crafted some exciting and engaging videos to promote their sport. Elements such as pace, style and music are all reflective of the audience they are trying to attract.

You can’t always do it alone
If you want to make a splash quickly, consider finding partners who can help to provide insight and make your transition into a new realm a seamless experience.

Brands reap benefits from gauging the inner workings of the ecosystem and find trustworthy partners already embedded in the space. We’ve seen soft drinks giant, Coca-Cola, mark their impact on the eSports industry with the launch of the first ever eCOPA games. This would not have been made possible or at all successful without the help of their partners, Riot Games.

You need to think long term
Quick and thoughtless campaigns fall foul to the niche sports audience, you need to make considered moves and be patient when waiting for results. Making a concerted effort to build a position and relationship over time with a new audience is paramount.

This can be seen with the German financial services company, Allianz have signed up for five year partnership with the Drone Racing League. Despite not being offered equity, they deem the access to insights and the audience valuable enough for their investment.

Engagement needs to be 24/7
While brands mostly consider sponsorship during events, they should extend their engagement to the ‘community’. While this might seem a lot like ‘audience’, it is, in fact, worth mentioning these as separate points.

The whole community concept is much more than taking a commercial opportunity when you see one, but rather embedding and investing into it. You need to actively try to understand all the cogs in motion within these complex and budding communities.

Take, for example, Twitch a leading social and video platform community for gamers, who have continued to expand their investment within the eSports industry. They have worked together with teams such as Team Liquid and games such as Vainglory to cultivate an engaging and welcoming community for eSports enthusiasts to connect on.

Content is constantly evolving
These new niche communities and their audiences are immune to ‘bullshit advertising’ to quote Shane Smith at VICE.

Brands should work to develop content and experiences that shows a much deeper level of understanding and integration with their niche target audiences, instead of bombarding the community with typical marketing messages. One of the simple ways around this is to push out native content through articles or videos as well as sponsoring documentaries and informative videos that benefit a wider subset of people.

Another way is not only deliver content within the area but build upon it to expand the dimensions of the sport – as we’ve seen with Mountain Dew, who together with Day of Drones continue to promote the drone racing by launching interaction events and new subcultures within the sport such as drone hunting.

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