Sports Marketing

Sports Marketing

A Career in Sports Marketing

Nine Key Areas of Sports Marketing
  • Commercial Sponsorship (sales)
  • Sponsorship Activation
  • Sports PR and Communications
  • Events and Hospitality
  • Customer Relationship Management and Marketing
  • Brand approvals
  • Athlete management
  • Licensing/ merchandising
  • Broadcast rights.

Commercial Sponsorship/Sales

These roles are all about brokering sponsorship deals between sporting institutions and commercial partners. For example, a football club needs a kit sponsor. In an agency, these teams will approach potential sponsors and broker deals between the two organisations. This also includes media broadcast rights sales.

Sponsorship Activation

Sponsorship activation roles are all about activating the ‘commercial rights’ (sponsorships) brokered by the commercial team. These roles involve planning how a particular sponsorship deal can be used to maximise exposure for the sponsor. This can involve planning innovative campaigns at/ around sporting events, aiming to increase or solidify awareness of a particular brand.

Sports PR and Communications

These roles involve working with the media to increase awareness and/ or leverage opinions of sporting brands with the public. Digital and Social media are now key to deliver.

Events and Hospitality

These roles are based on the ground and primarily revolve around the logistics of running sporting events or corporate hospitality.

Customer Relationship Management and Marketing

Acquiring and retaining customers via the development and implementation of a range of direct marketing activity. This involves sending out collateral to customers to inform them about new ventures being undertaken by a sporting institution amongst other more varied activities.

Brand approvals

Most companies have a house style, a logo and a strapline. A job in brand approvals ensures all promotional items and publications/ communications (such as advertising – digital, tv  and outdoor posters, flyers, T-shirts and e-brochures) that go out on a company’s behalf, either from their own marketing team or via their agency, are within company brand guidelines. Brand approvals roles can sit inside NGB’s, rights holders, in-house marketing and sponsorship teams and sponsorship/ marketing agencies.

Broadcasting & Media Rights in Sport

Copyright and related rights – particularly those relating to broadcasting organisations – underpin the relationship between sport and television and other media. Television and media organisations pay huge sums of money for the exclusive right to broadcast top sporting events live. If you work within broadcast rights, you will see first hand how senior executives negotiate the amount of money a media owner (Sky, BT Sport, BBC etc.) will pay for the broadcast rights for a specific sport or championship. You will normally want to work in sales or the commercial side of sports marketing if you are interested in broadcast rights. There is admin as part of this role and, of course, a lot of legal work, as contracts have to be drawn up. These are managed by the legal team, not the rights team, although some legal knowledge is helpful. It’s helpful if you are numerate too and like the cut and thrust of learning how to negotiate a deal. Normally millions of $ or £ are involved. It’s a great introduction to the commercial side of sport. You will have to learn from the bottom up though.

Athlete management

means working behind the scenes to polish and help manage the career of a sportsperson and to be their brand maker… the responsibility is to build the brand of a player, negotiating on the contracts offered to them and ensuring that thebrands they endorse, or are matched with, are aligned to the athlete’s own personal values. More and more athletes will only endorse brands that fit with their own passion points and values set. Athletes can earn millions of £/$ in brand sponsorship deals – deals that are often worth more to them than the prize money they can earn by winning at their sport. Athlete Managers are constantly approaching brands that they feel will sit well alongside an athlete’s personal values. Good sales and commercial skills will be developed in this role.

Brand Licensing

Licensing means the renting or leasing of an intangible asset. It is a process of creating and managing contracts between the owner of a brand and a company or individual who wants to use the brand in association with a product, for an agreed period of time, within an agreed territory. Think about the London 2012 Olympics and all the merchandise that was on sale in the shops at the London2012 stadium. adidas was the main sportswear brand that manufactured the London 2012 apparel, but other licences were granted beyond the key items that adidas manufactured: There is the negotiation side of brand licencing, as well as the account management side, where managers look after the relationship between the brand and the licensee – in this case between adidas and London 2012.

Where could I work?

There are agency and in-house opportunities for these roles. Agencies are more fluid and meritocratic than in-house roles, it is often easier for them to create roles for people if the business is there. In-house roles come up less frequently and are often more specific on levels of experience and it is much harder for an in-house institution to create roles for talented candidates.


Examples of companies with in-house marketing and PR teams think of banks, insurance, and power suppliers, drinks brands etc. Governing bodies & Federations also have in-house marketing, PR and commercial teams.

There are also a wide variety of agencies in the sports marketing mix that deal either with a specific area of the sports marketing industry, or a combination of the fields.

What could I earn?

Starting salaries are around £20,000 to £25,000 – it is very competitive and you should be prepared to do paid placements to build your experience.

How could my career progress?
This would depend on the particular discipline you focus on, and whether you are working agency side or in-house.
What qualities/skills do I need?
  • Excellent organisational skills and attention to detail
  • A passion for sports/ entertainment
  • Time-management skills and the ability to work under pressure
  • Problem-solving skills and diplomacy
  • Strong communication, teamwork, and negotiation skills
  • An understanding of social media and its use within an integrated marketing/ PR campaign.
Useful contacts/websites;

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) –

The Guardian – (Mondays and Saturdays)

The European Sponsorship Association (ESA) –

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