A recent article on the Dutch website Sportnext – one of my favorite sites on sports marketing – identified 11 trends in digital sports marketing. Some of these take-aways really resonated with me, so I thought I’d highlight them here.
The main premise of the article was to identify some trends that allow brands and clubs to engage fans even more, and provide extra value to the brand. The summary of the article is striking: getting closer. My favourite take-aways included the advice to bring fans closer to the athletes, and to use real people instead of actors. These are my thoughts on these tips for sports marketers.
Bring fans closer to the athletes
I absolutely love how clubs are more and more realizing that fans want to see more than just the games. They want to see the process and what happens behind the scenes. They want to be immersed in everything their favourite team or athlete experiences.
One of my major goals in photography is to document the process of athletes. I’m not the typical sports photographer who will sit at the side of the pitch for two times 45 minutes, wielding a huge lens and shooting the same action shots every other photographer is shooting. I want to show the lifestyles of athletes, the hard work they put in when they’re not in the spotlight on the pitch. I want to show their character and for my photos to be a tribute to their dedication.
Some of the ways I have done this is by shooting intimate portraits with them and capturing the moments during training and a game day you don’t normally see. I strongly believe that by making a connection with athletes and getting some access, incredibly powerful visuals can be shot. This unique content will prove insanely valuable to fans.
Use real people instead of actors
So at this point I partly agree with the article. It states that in campaigns, brands and teams are nowadays often opting for normal, real people as their talent. These people have taken the places of actors and top athletes. The reason for this is that this talent is more authentic and credible when they endorse certain products. Fans can more easily identify with these people, who are in essence micro-influencers.
As I said, I agree with this only partly. Possibly one of my major concerns in sports marketing campaigns is that oftentimes models take the places of athletes. One rather upsetting recent example is the launch of Adidas’ new jersey for the Colombian national football team. The brand thought it would be smart to use former Miss Universe Paulina Vega Dieppa to present the new shirt to the world. The female team was outraged that one of them wasn’t asked, especially since one their male colleagues was modelling the shirt for the male counterpart of the campaign.
Read this earlier article with my thoughts on using celebrities instead of true athletes for campaigns
In my photography, I will always aim to work with the people who are actually using a product. While I understand that in some instances models are used, I personally prefer to work with the actual athlete. I want my photos to be credible and authentic. This does not mean I won’t add lighting or be picky for a location, but the final image needs to be something real. The best way to attain this is to shoot with real people, showing real things.
My dream: documenting athlete lifestyles for brands
This brings me to my dream and major goal in photography: to document the lifestyles of the world’s best athletes for brands. I aim for my photos to be a true depiction of and tribute to the hard work of the athlete. I want to show them as the hero they are, by documenting the moments the larger audience normally doesn’t see. It is my goal for these photos to be used by brands, most probably the athletes’ sponsors, to showcase the people they support and make the brand shine through its ambassador.
The photos in this article show some moments behind the scenes at a major international climbing competition. My focus here was on showing these world class athletes get ready just before they had to go out and climb in front of a huge audience.