Standing out in the sea of sameness: How sports brands should use offline media now

Standing out in the sea of sameness: How sports brands should use offline media now

If you work in the sporting goods industry, you know what an exciting time this is, and it’s not just because athleisure has taken off (it’s now the norm to wear your sports attire to work!)


It’s exciting because evolving consumer attitudes and behaviours are creating a paradigm shift and the Consumer Sporting Goods industry has recovered to near pre-COVID-19 levels of growth (less can be said for most industries, considering our tough economic circumstances). 


And it’s expected to continue on an upward trajectory. The global sportswear market is predicted to grow 8-10% a year up to 2025, making now the perfect time to ensure your brand is out there and being seen in multiple ways.


McKinsey & Companies latest research on Consumer Sporting Goods suggests five key themes that reflect the current state of play: 


  1. The continuing growth of digital
  2. An acceleration in sustainability
  3. A closer connection between social media and social commerce
  4. The reshaping of distribution channels
  5. An imperative for new supply chain strategies


Honing into the first trend, we’re not surprised that brands continue to invest heavily in digital channels. There’s a natural instinct to think that we only need to focus on digital methods and marketing, especially since we’ve had a proliferation of eCommerce where consumers (particularly gen-Z) continue to shop online. In fact, Gen Zers are the least likely generation to reduce spending on sports apparel in the face of rising inflation. 


Digital worked in reaching this audience during the pandemic (where the only way to connect with people was through digital means) but now it’s become normal. But if you’re a challenger brand, normal is your worst nightmare. You need to stand out, disrupt the status quo, and build trust to reach stage 2 of your growth. 


The problem with social media is that it’s a sea of sameness.  The issue isn’t the relativity of the content.  For example, I love cycling and often get targeted by brands that resonate with me.  But it’s the sheer volume of it. (For context, I’ve just scrolled my Instagram feed on my phone and in 60 seconds of scrolling I’ve seen 16 cycling-related brands!)


Yes, digital marketing is vital for a brand’s success.  But too many brands continue to chase the digital dream when they should be creating brands people look for online, not brands people simply swipe past and can’t remember 3 mins later.


2021 saw sports brands accelerate their moves toward direct-to-customer (DTC) models, creating new opportunities for challenger brands to step into retailers and make a name for themselves and also build direct relationships with consumers.


One of our clients, Fat Lad At The Back, is a cycling brand that on seeing its digital revenues plateau amongst the rising cycling paraphernalia online has shifted an element of their marketing investment offline with immediate success. Outdoor media has been deployed to maximise reach of their target audience, rather than simply more frequency through digital media. Outdoor provided new eyeballs on the brand via a channel that cuts through and delivers brand fame.


Take Allbirds. Its physical stores provide customers with an immersive experience including their very own bartender and hostesses to create a better shoe buying experience. While digital might spread the word, the people that are more compelled to go in and spend, are the ones seeing offline media less than a minute away from the store’s entrance. 


The success of many challenger brands today, e.g. Under Armour, Lululemon and New Balance comes from a 360 campaign (digital and offline in synergy). This is the sweet spot and can be the difference between plateauing and breaking through to stage 2 growth. 


In a post-pandemic future, distribution will be omnichannel, with customers able to move seamlessly and instantly between digital and physical. That’s why it’s worrying to read that 56% of brands are investing little to nothing in offline marketing this year (according to a March 2022 retail survey of 117 brands). Why isn’t everyone doing the new 360?  Surely this is how you cut through.


We often hear it’s down to the 3 M’s: Money, moments and metrics. With the relative inexpensiveness of digital advertising, the targeting capabilities at the right moment in a user’s journey, and measurable performance metrics, many brands get into a one-track mind with their marketing strategy and go all in on digital ad spending. 


Let’s look at each one closely:


Money: We’ll clear up this myth off the bat. Offline media doesn’t have to be expensive and we can say that with confidence because at JKO, we have an experienced team of multi-channel media planners and a network of channel specialists who know how to scale brands with smaller budgets, always taking a gradual test and learn approach with a detailed business forecast to align everyone on the expected performance.


Moments: The rules of advertising have not and will not change.  For it to work it has to be the right message, at the right time in the right place.


Yes, digital media can connect you with consumers 1-1 using tightly targeted media to avoid ‘wastage’.  However, most of us go online to do-something.  It’s action based and we’ve an incredibly powerful built in ad-blocker that we easily switch-on to switch-off from brands getting in our way of completing that task.


Don’t believe me?  Ask your colleagues a simple question,  They’ll have all spent over an hour online today.  Ask them to tell you an ad they remember seeing?  I’ve never had anyone recall a brand, NEVER!


Broadcast media works differently, as its consumed differently  It enables you to put your brands into a consumers way of life, in to their moments that matter.  But it does so in a more lean-back fashion than digitals lean-in, getting shiot done fashion.


As a result, brands are noticed, remembered and hunted for online.


Don’t believe me?  Do another simple question.  Ask if anyone can remember a brand they saw on TV last night or their journey to work this am?  I’ve never encountered anyone who couldn’t recite one!  NEVER!


Metrics: With industry standards and trends in marketing changing at a dizzying rate, a digital-only marketing approach will drive short, but not long-term business growth. 


Because growth is about maximising effective reach at the optimal frequency.


You should always start with the ‘low-hanging fruit’, the people who’re in-market and need the solution you’re selling.  This will be a replenishing pool, but it will never deliver you the highest growth possible,.


A large proportion of your target audience won’t be affected by the digital media you’ve been serving them.  If you’ve shown them the same message 15 times, then the 16th time won’t get them over the line. You need to engage with them differently, in the media channels that make them take notice.


Become a brand they want to associate with, one they want to be seen out with and importantly one they want to tell all their friends about, 


Offline media when it’s planned properly IS targeted. We know what TV  programmes your audience watch, what radio they listen to and what outdoor they absorb on their commute.


It is 100%, right message right time and right place delivering a positive ROI.


So don’t get washed ashore because you’re afraid of going against the tide. Now is the time to change it up and stand out from the sea of sameness. 


Looking to take your first steps into offline advertising? Get in touch.