Max Nogueira
Director General
Play Marketing

Opportunities in Sports Go Way Beyond Soccer

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 14:48

Mexico is a major consumer of soccer, from local Sunday matches to the World Cup, but this singular focus masks the fact that other sports also attract large audiences in the country, suggesting major untapped potential in terms of marketing, says Max Nogueira, Director General of Play Marketing, a sports marketing agency. “Unfortunately, in Mexico we have soccer and then all other sports. But it is precisely in those other sports where we see the greatest opportunity.”

As big as the soccer industry is in Mexico, Nogueira believes other sports, such as running or basketball, could make a greater dent if they move beyond their amateur status and develop the professionalization and investment required to reach the next level. The growing fanbase of the National Football League (NFL), for example, is a testament to the potential waiting to be unlocked. “There is a lot of potential in other sport niches. These may not be as big as soccer but they are still worth exploiting,” he says. Play Marketing is targeting these niches through its business lines in areas such as logistics and event planning, sports as a lifestyle, public relations, sponsorship management and the use of sports as a means of wellness within organizations.

Nogueira says the relationship between sporting federations and the government is one factor that is holding back growth. “The lack of transparency in the use of private and public funds in some national sports federations is preventing growth because it generates distrust within the private sector and keeps it from investing more in the development of national sports.” Greater professionalization, he says, can help deliver concrete results for sponsors and the business community. “If we could produce measurable results for sponsors, it would not be so difficult for professional sports federations to find more resources. That would generate a win-win situation for everyone: sports, athletes, the business community and fans.”

To reach this goal, two elements are required: commitment and communication. “Clubs, federations and sports institutions must commit to the development of sports. Whenever they have the resources, they should invest in people with experience and talent to develop the sector.

The industry also needs to understand how to sell to the private sector and how to offer a business plan. It is about aligning priorities and resources.”

Helping to build a brand communication strategy and business plan is where Play Marketing comes in. “We need to find a way to communicate and convince both sports clubs and businesses of the importance of having a solid business plan and then deliver results,” says Nogueira, adding that the company has already tackled this challenge. “Our work with the Mexican Golf Federation is one example of our success. We helped to develop the brand and to put it in the minds of potential sponsors.” Nogueira also believes that part of the issue lies with a company’s approach to sponsorship dynamics. “One of the main problems with sponsorships is that businesses do not see tangible results from their participation. Many people still believe that what matters to sponsors is how many people they reach through a TV ad and that is not true. What matters is how people interact with the brand.”

Another hurdle for other sports in Mexico is soccer’s popularity. “Soccer has become the yardstick of success for every other sport, which puts them in a very difficult position since they are not able to compete with it. That is why many sports in Mexico would rather retain their amateur status.” While there is no easy solution, Nogueira says other sports need to focus on keeping their current fanbase and strive to obtain new fans by offering different value propositions. “Sports should be more proactive when it comes to their offer. They should look for ways to attract more people to stadiums, even if they are not regular fans. Those who attend the games should feel that they left the stadium with the best possible experience because this leads to more fans and more resources.”

Despite the challenges, Nogueira is confident that Play Marketing can make an impact on the industry. “We have a found a way to make sport itself our client. The industry still lacks much in terms of growth and professionalization but instead of looking at the downside, we treat it as the great opportunity it is.”