The sports industry and its marketers are one of the many industries beginning to realise the importance that user-generated content (UGC) carries and the role it can play in supporting widespread marketing efforts.
Sports fans themselves are helping account for the healthy growth of UGC creation and sports marketers are now acknowledging and learning how to fully harness the content being created and make the most of it in their marketing strategies. This concept is backed up with sports-brand powerhouses such as Nike, Adidas and GoPro already adopting UGC into their commercial marketing strategies as a way to engage, retain and reward consumers.
Whether it’s in-stadium, broadcast, digital campaigns or traditional marketing, user-generated content is having a profound impact on all aspects of sports’ brands; particularly noticeable in and around the growth of sports events.
For example, the NFL Super Bowl's halftime show has become synonymous for over-the-top performances and brands spending millions on advertisements that will specifically launch at the Super Bowl each year.
As this change happens, it means that we're all having to adapt to this new style of sports show. It may have started at the Super Bowl years ago, but it's now becoming increasingly common for larger (and even smaller) sporting events to become more of just that, an event.
Pepsi Halftime Show
What can you do?
If you don’t have the budget to create a show stopping ad at the Super Bowl this year, don’t worry! There’s plenty of alternatives. Luckily, UGC doesn’t mean you have to spend mega-budgets on professional content. There are brands within the sports industry who have nailed their UGC marketing strategies, utilising fans and brand advocates to really move their content marketing forward.
Because of the way user-generated content works, as a brand you don’t have to do much other than come up with a unique hashtag, engage with your existing audience and tell them exactly what content you want generating; then sit back and let it roll in.
If your fans really love your brand, they will create content for you with no issues, and they may already be!
Others may take some convincing with perhaps an incentivised contest where a prize can be won. Don't worry though, prizes are still a blip on the radar for some bigger budget ideas and can be put together cheaply or for free if you give away tickets for the next game or some free merchandise.
Once you start aggregating the posts being generated on your hashtag, you can curate the content you want to display and then embed this on any website, TV or jumbotron – perfect for big screens at sports events.
Let’s take a look at what others in the sports industry are doing...
How are the rest of the sports industry utilising UGC?
Nike teamed up with Instagram to create their campaign called Nike PHOTOiD.
Some key facts: Nike is the most followed brand on Instagram (65.7m followers) and the campaign utilised this huge audience to let users use Instagram photos to customise their trainers.
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This campaign originated because Nike wanted to create something that was two pronged, a campaign that advertised the Nike brand and something that added value for their audience. The campaign was built on the key trends that were driving audience behaviour, and the ‘creative self-promotion’ that Instagram encourages.
Nike utilised their huge following, turning followers into customers.
The campaign had some very impressive figures with 100,000 shoes created within the first week – and at the peak of the campaign, Nike had 600 shoes being created every hour.
Throughout the campaign, Nike had a click through rate of 8% to buy the designed shoes on their Nike ID website.
GoPro were one of the first brands to really adopt user-generated content as a key part of their marketing strategy. Because of GoPro’s unique and small product range, which are perfect for creating the content they wanted their customers to share, they had the perfect way of getting people to create great content, reflective of what they were selling.
By using the #gopro hashtag, it gave the ability for customers to share their experiences with the product and for GoPro to aggregate all of this UGC. When curating the content, there's always a nice mix of amateurs, sponsored professionals and people who have used their GoPro in non-extreme sport instances.
In order to keep pioneering the 'UGC revolution', in 2015, GoPro launched what they called the GoPro awards. The idea behind this was to empower the consumer and create the world's most engaging UGC. GoPro customers have the ability to earn monetary rewards, all they have to do is capture and share their passions as video content and share on the dedicated website page.
GoPro awards submission page
This was the first time we really saw the impact of UGC on a brand, while enabling a global revolution of self-expression.
Formula One (F1) is trying to move the sport forward and gain access to a larger audience in order to make the sport more involving for fans, who may not be able to follow from race to race.
This tactic is being pioneered through some of the drivers. With the rise of social media, it means drivers have been able to build up huge followings, Lewis Hamilton has a following on Twitter and Instagram of around 3.9 million, whereas the team he races for Mercedes AMG F1 have a following of 1.5 million.
It’s clear that drivers have got the biggest and best opportunity to influence fans, get them more involved in the sport and offer opportunities for them to share UGC. Lewis Hamilton communicates with his fans across social media using the hashtag #TeamLH, meaning all content generated by fans is collected under one hashtag.
While user-generated content is beginning to emerge across the sports industry, there are some class-defining leaders such as GoPro who are spearheading the content marketing revolution within the sports industry; along with brands such as Nike, who have built a huge social following and have nailed how to best get their audience engaged and involved in a marketing campaign.
Content will continue to be an area of investment for many organisations. Not only is UGC more cost effective than producing your own glossy content, it also gets people to directly engage with your brand, too.