The application of marketing-mix on the sports market


2014. március 27, 09:05

What kind of opportunities are guaranteed by the sponsorship of sports events for companies in planning and executing marketing actions in connection with sports events, that is for the realisation of their programme marketing?

In the seventies and eighties very few companies had a definite, elaborated strategy in connection with programmes. Choosing and supporting the different events happened on a humanitarian basis and sponsorship was rather regarded as charity than a possibility for marketing. The aim of sponsorship was to win the sympathy of the local community, so most companies sponsored local events. Companies received very little exchange – value for their sponsorship contribution. It was the task of company leaders, who mainly made their decisions on a subjective basis, to choose the events, which were mostly not directed by business or company interests. In this period there were few events worth sponsoring from the point of view of companies.
The attitude of the companies has changed greatly concerning supporting events by now. Sponsorship is no longer a charity contribution, but an additional medium to the existing communication programmes. Nowadays the organization and arrangement of many events are directly guided by the marketing and communicational aims of the company. The goal of most event marketing programmes is to increase selling in the sphere of a special consumer target group. At present the strategy of the companies in connection with programmes is different. Besides sponsoring the programme, the companies more and more often use different marketing actions connected to the programmes thus instead of event sponsorship, programme marketing comes to the front. What is the difference between these two? Sponsoring an event first of all means publicity and advertising opportunity for the company. Companies most often buy the “sponsoring package” recommended by the organizers of the event, which did not contain anything else at the beginning but getting an opportunity for advertising at the event. Buying the “sponsorship package” means only the first step of programme marketing today, with which the company gets the right to realise the marketing actions connected to the event. These actions can be motivation or public relations programmes, the originality and influence of which depend only on the fantasy and creativity of the marketing experts of the company. Decisions are made by the company’s marketing experts and product managers, and the programmes become more and more a means of communication. It is also shown by the fact that although more events seek sponsors than the number of sponsors available, expecting the opportunity of sponsoring the most important events like the Olympic Games, the fight among companies is growing. A lot of companies now strive to become the main sponsor or host of an event. This way it is easier for them to achieve the event suiting the needs requested by them. Thus programme marketing which means the planning and realisation of marketing action in connection with the programmes, is taking over the place of sponsorship in company marketing. Marketing is actually such a complicated process, with the help of which companies plan and sell their products or services on a definite target market. Marketing action can be divided into two parts, marketing-mix and communication-mix.

The elements of marketing-mix are the following:

  • market research which serves the assessment of the consumers’ needs, behaviour, how well known a product or company is,
  • product development, the aim of which is to determine the physical characteristics of a product,
  • price policy, the aim of which is to determine the price of a product,
  • packing, which means planning the packing of the product,
  • distribution – the aim of which is to determine how the product should reach the consumers.
The elements of the communication-mix:

Advertisement, commercials which can appear on TV, in the radio, in newspapers, on posters etc., motivated selling, the aim of which is to increase the marketability of a product using different techniques (like “ two for one”, presents, sweep steaks etc.), public relations, the aim of which is to organize the relationships of an organization, inter-company marketing, which means the cultivation of connections with partners, direct mail, the aim of which is to forward the messages of the company directly to the consumer by post, programme-marketing, the aim of which is to make use of different events, programmes to help communication with the target market, social marketing, the aim of which is to improve the image of the company through different donations for charitable aims.
Thus programme marketing is one element of communication-mix which is very popular among economic organizations nowadays. The role of programme marketing is expected to grow in the future because besides offering a fine opportunity for the companies to communicate with their target market, the organizers of programmes (cultural or sports organizations) cannot do without the financial contribution of companies in the successful arrangement of an event. The main reasons why program marketing is popular: Program marketing can finely relate to the other elements of communication-mix ( advertising, public relations, motivating selling, donations etc. ) and completing them can greatly improve the efficiency of communication strategy. Through programme marketing the company can effectively reach its target group. The programmes, as events which well meet the demands of these concerns, make the given concerns easy to address for the company. It is not a mere chance that banks show a preference for opera and theatre performances. The aim of the banks is to “reach” those well-off men and women who are most likely to employ their services on a regular basis. The companies can choose freely the degree of resources they use when working out their event marketing programmes depending on how much publicity and presence their special business interests need. Programme marketing is a very effective way for the company to reach their target consumer group. Event marketing programmes provide possibility for the companies to reach the more and more segmented consumer groups at a realively low cost.

The programmes can be of the following types:

  • a) sport,
  • b) musical,
  • c) art and cultural,
  • d) community,
  • e) charity,
  • f) entertainment programmes.

Supporting sports programmes takes the most important place in the world among the possibilities on which companies can spend money. The following we are going to examine the most important goals of company event marketing programmes, and the strategies and devices through which they can reach these goals.

Commercial goals

By commercial goals we mean the effort of the company to increase the selling of their products through the event they sponsor. In reaching these goals it can be helpful to make the businessmen interested in increasing the turnover of the product by providing them advantages, presents which are in connection with the programmes or by entertaining them at the event (receptions, complimentary tickets, banquets, etc.) The organization of other programmes connected to the event (e.g. selling tickets in the shop) can also help companies in reaching their commercial goals as they increase the attendance of the shops. Promotional programmes in connection with the event that motivate consumers directly to buy the product can also serve the commercial goals. Making use of the increased interest in the event the companies can display their products in an advantageous place in the shop where they can attract attention and sell much better. At last it is an important commercial goal of the companies to sell their products at the event itself or give an opportunity for the public to try out, to taste their products.

The devices of reaching the commercial goals are the following:

  • a) Promotional sweepstakes. Programmes give possibility for the sponsor to organize some sort of prize winning games, the winner of which is drawn at the event for instance.
  • b) Opportunity to buy tickets at a low price. Those consumers for instance, who produce the receipt of buying a product can buy the ticket at a special price. This method is very effective as on one hand it increases the turnover of the product, on the other hand the number of participants at the programmes.
  • c) Special programmes. Programmes in connection with the main event can also increase selling. For instance the customer who has gathered five beer labels can play tennis for a few minutes with a famous tennis player.
  • d) Awards. A customer who has collected five beer bottle labels gets a bottle opener with the emblem of the event.
  • e) Donations. At a tennis match the sponsor offers to pay 100 $ for every ace serve for a charitable fund.
  • f) Mutual promotional programmes of sponsors. If a car factory and a brewery sponsor a sports event, there is an opportunity for those who have gathered five bottle labels to take part in the drawing of a car.
  • g) Point-of-sale advertising. In the shop there is an emblem or poster referring to the sports event besides the product of the company which attracts attention and increases selling.
  • h) Free snacks, samples, exhibitions. The events give great opportunity to display the products of the company or for tasting them (nowadays, especially in Germany the model of the sponsoring car factory can be seen near the court at a tennis match.)
  • i) Motivating marketing men. The turnover of the product can be greatly increased if the marketing men are interested in increasing selling (awards for the marketing men with the biggest turnover etc.).
Image Forming Goals

Different events greatly contribute to the judgement of a product, make or the image of a company, so great events can be used to affirm or change the existing image, or to establish a totally new image. Sponsoring an event results in a close association between the event and the company, the product or make. The fact of sponsorship shows the company in a good light in the eyes of the people, society and its positive effect may appear when buying the product. At last great events like the Olympics or ATP tennis tournaments which excite great interest help the company to distinguish itself from rivals.

The image forming devices in connection with the events are the following:

  • a) The event. The first and most important image forming device is the event itself. How it is chosen basically determines the image forming effect.
  • b) Public charity programmes. Public charity programmes are very important devices in accomplishing social appreciation, in forming a positive image of the company.
  • c) Special supplementary programmes. Supplementary programmes connected to the main programme strengthen the image forming effect produced by the main programme.
  • d) Public relations programmes. The aim of public relation activities connected to the main event is to show the company in a favourable light.
Goals to arouse interest

The events provide a good occasion to direct the attention of the public to an existing product or make. Events of great popularity which get big publicity are ideal from this respect (e.g. international tennis tournaments, Grand Slam, etc.). The events at the same time assure a good opportunity to introduce new products, makes and to direct the attention of the target group to novelties.

Devices for arousing interest are the following:

  • a) Television broadcasts. Television broadcasts are the most effective way of arousing interest. Companies can buy the right to broadcast the event they sponsor, so they can advertise during the event. At the same time the company should pay attention that the event is interesting enough to be broadcast on TV in some way.
  • b) Public relations programmes. Public relations programmes are also important devices of arousing interest. Their aim is to inform the press in the way of newsletters, press conferences etc. and to achieve the right publicity.
  • c) Advertising. Advertising is the most traditional means of arousing interest, which can draw attention to the connection of the event and the product, and the product itself (e.g. tennis equipment, courts, clothing, etc.).
  • d) Contests, sweepstakes. Sweepstakes connected to the event draw the attention to the event, which can be further increased if, for instance the drawing takes place at the event itself.
  • e) Point-of sale advertisement. Advertising on the spot of the event is a good device for arousing interest and strengthens the association between the event and the product.
  • f) Selling. The selling of products, souvenirs in connection with the event, before or during the programme can help arouse the interest in the product.
  • g) On the spot advertisements. This category involves placing the logo of a company or make in official programme booklets, on tickets, clothing of the participants, flags, by the side of the tennis courts etc.
  • h) Product display on the spot. The exhibition of products on the spot is also a means of arousing interest.
  • i) Announcements. Messages announced on the spot through the loudspeaker during the event are effective ways to raise the interest of the spectators.

Sponsoring major events can inflate the workers of the company with pride, it can increase the unity of the company and motivate the employees to work better, more efficiently. At the same time the different programmes – especially in the case of a big company – can draw the attention of the workers to a new make and strategy of the firm, and this can make them realize the mission of the company.

The ways of motivating the workers are the following:

  • a) Motivating programmes. These programmes can motivate the workers to work more efficiently and the best of them can get complimentary tickets for the event for instance.
  • b) Special programmes. They can be company receptions, meetings during the event, conferences on the spot of the event or famous sportsmen can visit the company etc.

The programmes give a fine opportunity to invite and entertain existing and potential business partners, to establish new business contacts. The events can also help reach business circles which are otherwise difficult to meet.

Devices to realise inter-company marketing goals:

  • a) Entertainment. Company leaders accept with pleasure an invitation to the box of honour at a major event where they can have a good time with their partners.
  • b) Receptions. Banquets, receptions organized at the event also give an occasion to cultivate business relations.
  • c) Advertising. Statements in special publications which advertise the event are useful ways of reaching business partners.

To oust rivals from an effective marketing area can also be the aim of sponsoring an event. Events of rank like the Olympic Games, international tennis tournaments radiate power, quality, superiority, so leading makes cannot afford themselves to let their rivals “steal” this status by becoming the sponsors of the event. As in this case the only aim of sponsorship is to oust the rivals, there is no need for using other marketing strategies. The event-marketing programmes of companies can be broken down into nine phases. The very first one is to decide whether the company needs this marketing device at all or not. Some companies are “reactive”, which means that they only assess offers that are forwarded to them, while other companies are “proactive” and look for such programmes which suit their ideas. Nowadays companies prefer the latter, because it provides better planning and the preparation of more effective marketing programmes. In case the management of the company decides that the company needs an event-marketing programme then comes the second phase, the evaluation of the events.

The aspects are the following:

  •  how much the event suits the image, style of the company,
  •  how effective the company is in reaching the target group,
  •  how much it suits the communication strategy of the company,
  •  what is the event like (national, regional or local),
  •  what are the possibilities to cooperate with the organisers,
  •  what is the proportion of participation on the part of the company (main sponsor, partner sponsor etc.),
  •  how much press publicity can be expected in connection with the event,
  • -how helpful the organizers of the event appear in meeting the needs of the company.

The third phase is to plan the special marketing programme in connection with the event, in which the marketing specialists can let their fantasy free to come forth with more and more original plans. The local conditions and the organizers who know well the characteristics of the event can provide great help in the work of the marketing specialists. In the fourth phase the discussions between the sponsors and organizers take place and as a result the two sides make the contract of sponsorship. The contract should make it clear what the rights and obligations of both sides are.
The fifth and probably the most important phase is to prepare the budget of the programme. Earlier the companies thought that there was no need for further costs besides paying the sponsorship sum. But nowadays the sponsorship money is only a part of the whole sum that comes up. This sum only finances the acquisition of the right which makes the additional costs possible. The volume of the supplementary costs is defined by the goals of the company. In case the main goal of the event marketing programme is to increase sales then the additional costs can reach the treble of the sponsoring costs, but if the goal of the company is to oust the rivals then there are no supplementary costs. The sixth phase of the programme is to set up the criterion system, which can measure effectiveness. The decision of the methods depends on the aims of the company first of all. If the aim of the company is to increase selling then the growth of the turnover should be examined, but if the aim is to arise interest then its effectiveness can be measured by examining the behaviour of the consumers. The seventh phase of event marketing programmes is to plan, to coordinate and to realise complimentary activities (advertising campaign, public relations programs).  The eighth phase involves the performance of the programme, which is carried out in an ideal case by the sponsors and organizers together. The importance of mutual realization is bigger and bigger these days as the interests of the sponsors can be achieved best in this way.

The ninth and final phase is the analysis, evaluation of how successful the marketing program was. An evaluation which meets the needs of the company should contain the following:

  • general analysis of the success/failure of the event,
  • data of the participants (number of spectators, organizers etc.),
  • media assessment about the event,
  • photographs taken at the event (video films),
  • the quantity of goods sold at the event or in connection with the event,
  • successfulness of other company programmes.


Ph. Kotler /1991/: Marketing – management. Budapest, Műszaki Kiadó.
Hoffmann Istvánné /2000/: Sportmarketing. Budapest, Bagolyvár Könyvkiadó.
W. Freyer /1991/: Handbuch des Sportmarketing. Forker Verlag.
Hoffmann Istvánné /1990/: Modern marketing. (ISBN 963183090X)
Nagy Alfréd /2005/: A sportmarketing kommunikációja. Magyar Sportmenedzser Társaság