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How Digital Marketing Help Fill the Void of the Sports Industry Left by Coronavirus

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has cluttered the sporting calendar with professional leagues ceasing their matches to limit the spread.
  • Despite the coronavirus shutdown, UFC has recently built an audience-free arena and training facilities at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. Future fights could involve big-name athletes like Israel Adesana and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
  • NFL and NBA also responded by removing paywalls allowing fans to enjoy exclusive previews of their premium subscription-based products.
  • CBS has taken over Turner to broadcast UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League with one-month free access of CBS All Access.
  • To drive more audience awareness and viewership, digital marketing through via social media could help sports leagues create engaging content. This presents an opportunity for athletes to shine to die-hard fans.
  • Focusing on digital campaigns allows leagues to gain new sponsorship and partnerships as physical appearances remain on hiatus.
  • Having a responsive website that covers both promotion and physical evidence online can drive sales.



The coronavirus has brought sports to a standstill, where organizers called off sporting events globally. Even this year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics, as one the world’s most-watched sporting broadcasts, has been pushed back. The motor racing series, Formula One, has also postponed its Grand Prix in host countries like Australia, Vietnam and Spain. While sports are usually valued as recreation, the emergence has become the economic driver in a variety of markets. In fact, the global value of the sports market estimated to be worth more than USD 471 billion in 2018, where the revenue rose by 45% since 2011.*


To understand how sports organizations make money, leagues often rely on 3 income streams: broadcasting, commercial and match-day earnings. Through each sport has its own technique of monetization, they would roughly generate their income by signing their own sponsorship agreements along with establishing their direct-to-consumer (D2C) media subscriptions. Moreover, professional sports leagues are similar to entertainment companies. The teams have their own identities and fan bases, but the overall sports schedules – including the list of games teams are scheduled to play and rules – are coordinated by the leagues. The truth in both sports and entertainment is that the more viewers, the more profitable they become.



Can the Sports Industry Persevere?

In response to the outbreak, mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion company, like UFC, has snatched the opportunity to fill in the empty hole with fighters dashing to join the fight since the viewing figures skyrocketed. UFC President Dana White pioneered the idea of spending fortunes on an audience-free Fight Island in early March 2020. Such an idea was made to continue organizing fights during the pandemic. Therefore, UFC’s previous events that were hosted in Jacksonville and Las Vegas have at last moved to Abu Dhabi’s relatively-new Yas Island. These ease travel restrictions for international athletes and deepen the pool of content to supporters. Fight Island could involve most-anticipated participants in due time including Israel Adesanya and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Conor Mcgregor’s comeback could breathe new life into its future fights in case he decides to come out of retirement.


<img data-src="UFC fight island.jpg" alt="UFC fighter wearing boxing gloves in fight island.">

UFC fighter seen training for upcoming fight. Source of Image: Pexels.com by Bruno Bueno

Other individual leagues made adjustments to their schemes. For instance, the NFL has added a Game Pass service where subscribers could enjoy streaming every game since 2009 that resulted in a 500-time growth in the daily sign-ups.* NBA also announce a complimentary offering to fans, allowing them to watch replays of all 2019-20 games until April 22, 2020. Correspondingly, CBS has replaced Turner Sports to broadcast UEFA’s 2 continental tournaments – Champions League and Europa League – endearing sports fans. While the Champions League’s  2 of the 4 round-of-16 matches and the final will go live on CBS Sports Network, Europa League’s whole games will begin airing on CBS All Access with one-month access for free.*

<img data-src="NBA Lakers.jpg" alt="NBA the last throw basketball">

NBA Lakers match pre-pandemic season. Source of Image: Unsplash.com by Ramiro Pianarosa.


Digital Marketing as a Strategic Response to the Coronavirus Shutdown

Social Media Utilization

When it comes to capitalizing the media from its spiking consumption, consumer engagement appears to be an important factor. With over 5 billion smartphone users around the world, the ability to reach a targeted audience becomes more accessible in today’s era. Social media enable leagues and athletes to conveniently engage with their adoring fan base anytime, making them as essential marketing tools in sports. The utilization could also present new partnership and sponsorship possibilities with large brands through the use of online ads.


On top of that, social media marketing could drive more awareness, interest, and both television viewership and online subscriptions once the sports events resume. The use of video footage, captions and images together with hashtags would bring up more awareness nationwide. This would allow sports leagues to lure fans to upcoming events. When it comes to effectiveness, the digital marketing team will target audiences through demographic and interest profiling. Marketers would map out their locations user online activities, including pages visited and content viewed. Aside from social media channels, video-sharing platforms, like YouTube, can attract new audiences. Meanwhile, Google Display can facilitate the conversion-related searches.


Website Development

Other than having a social media presence, digital marketing through website development, design, and optimization remains important. These strategies could assist sports leagues in driving more sales together with the selling of merchandise or subscription services during the pandemic; many of our clients from numerous industries have seen the long-term advantages by using this Internet marketing plan. Having a website that recognizes and responds to portable devices is a must. Simply put, a well-designed website that responds to whatever device it is being viewed on enables visitors to read and use it effortlessly. Optimizing the media used on websites is also another critical feature. It prevents animations and pop-ups from disrupting the loading time. Surely, slow loading could cause users to move on to a competitor.



Key Takeaways

In essence, the pandemic is bringing uncertainty and endless issues for the sports industry worldwide. Until the government lift the suspensions, it remains crucial for companies to allocate their budgets appropriately. By investing in digital marketing services, sports leagues can explore new kinds of content and media channels to drive new engagement.


Do you have any doubts or opinions about digital marketing for future sporting events? Contact us to discuss more!



Stefan Hall. World Economic Forum. This is How COVID-19 is Affecting the World of Sports. 2020.

Avi Creditor. Sports Illustrated. CBS Unveils TV, Streaming Schedule for End of Champions League, Europa League. 2020.


Cynthia Vydiana Putri About the author

As a whimsical writer and spirited amateur baker, Cynthia tends to split her day by working in the afternoon to watching movies in the evening. Since committing to the PR life, Cynthia began her journey by obtaining an Arts Diploma in Monash University and a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication and Public Relations from Curtin University Malaysia. Cynthia also took a big leap into the public relations industry at Golin Jakarta before finally kicking off as a Business Development Executive at Krona.




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