What is sports marketing: Definition and categories

What is Sports Marketing: Definition and Categories

Sports marketing is a specialized subfield of marketing. It specifically involves the application of established principles and practices in marketing in the promotion of sporting events or competitions, as well as team or clubs, athletes, and other sport-related brands. Furthermore, it also involves the promotion of other brands or goods and services through sporting events and teams or clubs.

Definition and Applications of Sports Marketing

In their reference book, professors Jane Summers and Melissa Johnson-Morgan mentioned that sports marketing is based on the notion that competitive activities is a business or more specifically, a product that has a potential for generating revenues. Hence, more than just promotion, this subfield of marketing also involves the application of the marketing mix, specifically price, placement or distribution, and product development or strategies.

There is still a notable difference between general marketing and sports marketing. Marketing professionals John A. Davis and Jessica Zutz Hilbert mentioned that unlike most marketing strategies and activities observed by business and other organizations in different industries and sectors, sports marketing does not guarantee results because sporting events and teams are inherently unpredictable.

Business and organizations can effectively meet their goals and objectives based on marketing strategies that take into consideration past performances, track record and current standing in the market, and best practices in the industry. However, historical records can never determine the performance of a sporting event or a specific team. An event might lack the same number of adherents than before, and a team might be unprofitable due to the possibility of losing against another team. Revenues and profitability are not always guaranteed.

It is also important to highlight the fact that a sporting event or a particular team needs to be promoted not only to the fans or spectators but also to different groups of stakeholders. These stakeholders include sponsors or advertisers, media organizations or broadcast companies, owners and operators of venues, journalists and commentators, and the local government and its community. Thus, sports marketing requires a multimodal approach to appealing to a large and diverse target audience.

The Three Categories of Sports Marketing

Sports marketing is also not a linear process. It generally involves the marketing of competitive activities and marketing through sporting events, teams, or athletes, among others. Within this general concept are three categories. Take note of the following:

1. Marketing of Sporting Events

The promotion of sporting events such as basketball or football, branded events such an upcoming NBA or FIFA World Cup season, and associations such as the Olympics or National Football League.

2. Promotion Through Sports

The use of a particular sport, specific sporting events, teams, and athletes to promote brands or products through outdoor advertising, mass media advertising, sponsorships, and endorsements.

3. Grassroots Sports Marketing

The promotion of sports to the public to increase participation from the public as observed by local government agencies and communities to encourage youth to play sports or by universities and sports team or sports club to recruit athletes.


  • Davis, J. A. & Hilbert, J. Z. 2013. Sports Marketing: Creating Long-Term Value. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN: 978-1782548195
  • Morgan, M. J. J. & Summers, J. 2005. Sports Marketing. South Bank Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia. ISBN: 978-0170128599