Digital marketing has come a long way from the early days. It’s no longer a platform to just push information. We can now reach consumers, engage them and ultimately get them to convert.
With the strides over the years in performance media, digital has become a powerful tool for brands to drive results quickly. The ability to map revenue back to the platforms has been a huge catalyst in leadership taking digital more seriously.
There’s a challenge to all this though. In the search for a better ROAS, we’ve become obsessed with data and quick results. We’ve become impatient as marketers often playing the short-game instead of the long-game. We’ve become flat and uninspired in our advertising often pushing people to the end of the funnel at all cost.
If we aren’t careful, we’re going to lose the true magic of what digital allows us to do. As marketers, we can’t be focused on brand marketing alone and we can’t only be focused on performance marketing alone. We have to do both and ensure they work together.
The rise of performance media has led to marketing that is often too transactional. There is a misconception that telling people to “buy tickets” and spending dollars broadcasting it across channels will drive “butts in seats”. The result is marketing that is generic, annoying to consumers and dilutes the brand foundation that’s been built.
Here’s the thing. It’s not enough just to sell. We have to sell well. This means getting consumers to buy through campaigns that feel authentic, relevant and engaging for consumers and celebrates the brand. It’s about building up brand equity, while also getting people to convert. Doing this requires a strong understanding of the brand, our consumer and what makes good creative.
Instead of treating performance marketing and brand marketing as separate entities, it’s time to treat them as partners. These two things must work together if we want to drive the strongest results possible and play the long-term game.
Nik Sharma, one of my favorite thought leaders in the space, coined the perfect term: It’s time to focus on performance branding. Take the time to read his thread on it:
Performance branding is about driving a connection while also driving business results. It’s about building a nimble plan that puts the brand first, builds long-term affinity, leverages the right data with creative and sells tickets. It blends the magic of why people love sports (the emotion) with what we’re all hired to do (sell tickets and drive revenue).
If you are looking to adopt this mentality, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Fans don’t want to be sold too.
Fans don’t want to be sold too. They want to be entertained, engaged and delivered relevant information. If you work for a sports team there’s a good chance people already know that tickets are available. And because of that, screaming at people that tickets are on sale won’t do much except maybe close the loop on those who were probably going to buy one way or another. It’s not about saying “tickets are on sale now”. It’s about capturing fan attention.
Emotion over selling tickets.
Instead of selling tickets to fans, performance branding is about showing fans what the experience is all about. It’s about tapping into the emotion of why people love sports. The community, the camaraderie, the action, the excitement. Don’t tell people that tickets are on sale. Show them what they miss out on by not attending a game in person.
Emotion is the most powerful tools we have as marketers. Performance branding leverages the emotional connection fans have to the game versus a transactional tone. When we tap into emotion instead of transaction we pull consumers in instead of turning them off. And when we have their attention and capture their hearts, it’s more likely that they’ll convert. Sell the emotion, not the tickets.
Know what makes good creative.
For whatever reason, there tends to be a “check the box” mentality with creative in digital advertising. Too often teams have an extremely engaging presence on social, but a completely dry and boring approach to how their brand comes through digital advertising.
Brand creative and performance marketing creative should not be a separate thing. In fact, the overall brand creative should help drive and influence how creative comes to life across performance marketing. If creative feels completely disconnected from the brand values, the brand messaging and what makes the team/fan base unique, then something is amiss. The stronger the creative, the stronger the results.
At the end of the day, what works on organic is most likely going to work in your digital advertising efforts. It’s not about the sell with the content, but capturing attention, hearts and minds.
Not all consumers are created equal.
Too often there’s an approach with digital advertising to “spray and pray”. We have so much data today, yet so often we bombard our data lists with the same message, same creative, same frequency. If we don’t have a true understanding of our target consumers, then we’ll never have a true understanding of what they need from us.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all consumers are created equal. If your job is to sell tickets, then take the time to define and understand what your target audience looks like. Not everyone you are trying to reach is going to have the same reasons why they come to a game or cheer for a team. From diehard fans to social fans, their needs are different.
Do the hard work to understand your current and prospective fans. Know why they care and why they buy, then mold the message to them. More relevant messaging and products can go a long way in getting fans to convert.
Conversions can take time – that’s okay.
As mentioned, performance marketing has made us impatient as marketers. We look for the quick conversion instead of playing the long game. Not all conversions happen quickly though – but that does not take away from the important of building brand affinity, prospecting and warming up a lead. When teams invest in an approach that blends brand and performance, it allows them to still build equity with a fan or consumer that is not quite ready to buy.
Think about it. A consumer that is being retargeted from your site or cart abandoner is a completely different consumer than one that hasn’t even considered buying a ticket. Hitting up a less warm lead with a “buy tickets now” message does not build any equity. But, hitting them up with an emotional ad that pulls them in and piques their interest helps build brand affinity. They might not convert today, but at least you got their attention and have them thinking about your brand.
Not all conversions are created equal. It’s important to remember that your investment in digital advertising does not have to be a “this or that” approach. You can build up fan affinity and brand equity, while also drive ticket sales. It’s the teams that invest in the long game and not just the short game that will win over time.
Here’s a really smart thread on why you should be invested in both brand and performance. It’s about DTC, but still extremely relevant:
The traditional consumer journey is changing drastically. Today, we need to think less about the sequence of messaging and more about the different touchpoints and the context/intent of the channel. Reaching a consumer through SEM is different than social; SEM is more lower-full, while social help makes a lead warmer.
So often though, we look at reporting through channel-based metrics. And, I don’t think it paints the full picture. Just because someone bought through SEM does not mean that the rest of the efforts did not play a part. We shouldn’t focus only on where people convert. It’s about the totality of our efforts and not one single ad.
We need to think about how we measure the totality efforts and look at attribution differently. It’s important to understand how all the touchpoints all work together to move consumer along to convert.
The traditional consumer journey is changing drastically. Today, we need to think less about the sequence of messaging and more about the different touchpoints and the context/intent of the channel. Reaching a consumer through SEM is different than social; one shows intent while one might help to warm up a lead. It’s doesn’t mean that one is less important than the other though.
So often though, we look at reporting through channel-based metrics and we invest in the areas where we see the most direct ROI. And, I don’t think it paints the full picture. Just because someone bought through SEM does not mean that the rest of the efforts did not play a part. We shouldn’t focus only on where people convert. It’s about the totality of our efforts and not one single ad.
We need to think about how we measure the totality efforts and look at attribution differently. It’s important to understand how all the touchpoints all work together to move consumer along to buy.
One of the beauties in digital advertising is it allows us
to be nimble. Unlike traditional marketing channels, we can test, try and tweak
daily. If something isn’t working, then change the approach.
A campaign should never be pushed live and walked away from. The best results are driven through daily monitoring, making changes and keeping creative fresh.
Specific to sports teams, it’s also important to make sure your digital advertising efforts have a pulse on the team and fan sentiment. Creative should not be tone deaf to what’s happening on the field. Be nimble and tailor your creative accordingly.
At the end of the day, performance media and brand should go hand-in-hand. As marketers, we need to close the gap and make sure that we’re driving both fan affinity and ticket sales for long-term growth. Performance branding is the ultimate sweet spot that allows us to tap into why our fans love our teams while also driving business results.
Looking for a few examples of strong creative focused selling the experience, emotion or engaging content versus transaction? A few examples below: