Brand Innovators 2024 Outlook: Sports

Brand Innovators 2024 Outlook: Sports

Whether it is the international expansion of the NFL, the Euro Cup or the Olympics, sports will be on the global stage next year offering brands a number of ways to connect with fans across the world.

Expect to see more innovation in the sports experience, whether that be in-stadium or online, as well as innovations in digital, personalization and immersive fandom experiences in 2024. 

The National Basketball Association, for example, will be focusing on the fan experience in each city. “Scaling marketing creative and messaging in a hyper-personalized, local and targeted way will become exponentially easier with generative AI and we’ll see more team and city-specific marketing tapping into personal fandom,” says Tammy Henault, chief marketing officer of the National Basketball Association.

Teams will continue to look for new ways to reach consumers. “You’ll see an evolution around our sport and around our experience,” says Seth J. Bennett, chief marketing officer of the Charlotte Hornets. “We introduced our in season tournament this year, which is yet another way that we look to innovate and create excitement and energy around our brand and around our team. We’ll continue to be curious about how we can expand that.” 

In 2023, the Charlotte Hornets debuted a virtual store and they will continue to look for ways to engage consumers in new ways. “We’ll also want to understand how we might be able to partner with other areas of our business to help us reach new and existing customers,” he says. “Is there something that can make the experience have less friction? That is absolutely a part of our mission for live sporting experience.”

This year, we saw streamers including Netflix and Apple lean into sports offerings with strategies that are aimed at reaching younger fans. This shift not only brings sports to consumers in new channels, it also expands the range of sports that consumers are tuning into, increasing the popularity of sports including soccer and F1.

Nationwide has leaned into soccer over the last few years and continues to see growth in interest in both the men’s and women’s game in the U.S. 

“As an official partner of both the National Women’s Soccer League and our hometown Major League Soccer team, the Columbus Crew, we’ve seen first-hand how both leagues are capitalizing on the groundswell of interest in the sport,” says Ramon Jones, EVP and chief marketing officer for Nationwide. “Over the last few years, MLS has disrupted the traditional broadcast distribution model with their Apple TV deal, launched MLS NEXT Pro as a pathway for player development, and announced expansion franchises. When you factor that in with the exponential impact of “the Messi effect,” we expect the surging interest in MLS to continue,”  he adds.

“The NWSL has seen incredible momentum across all areas of the business during the 2023 season with record attendance and record viewership, continued expansion, and an innovative new media rights deal on the horizon. There continues to be great opportunity and potential with this league and in women’s sports overall,” he continues.

“With the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Soccer teams competing on a global stage during the 2024 Olympics in Paris, several FIFA events being hosted in the U.S. over the next few years, and the World Cup in 2026, we expect that international spotlight will continue to drive the impressive domestic growth we’ve seen so far.”          

Be it new international expansion, innovation through virtual channels and interest in new sports, expect 2024 to be a year of evolution in sports marketing.