3 Ways Purpose Will Make or Break the Sports Industry
It’s a few weeks until the most-watched sporting event in the U.S.! I’m unusually excited this year because my home team is closing in on a spot in the big game. As a Louisiana-native, all I can say to anyone that brings up football right now is “WHO DAT”!!! I will also be watching closely for how the league, teams, players and brands might use this enormous platform to take stands on the social issues plaguing our nation today.
While pro-athletes have always used their high profile to raise awareness for social injustices (i.e. Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King), we are witnessing the dawn of a new day. A day in which the league or team’s bottom line will directly be impacted by their social purpose. Americans demand more from our favorite coffee brand than to just sell us a great cup of coffee. We want them to be environmentally, fiscally and socially-responsible. We want them to create actual change in our communities. We expect nothing less from our favorite sports teams. But, what does that actually mean? Can standing up for a cause really jeopardize fan support for their favorite athlete or team?
At Catalist, we love finding answers…ones that will help us all do a little more for each other. At the end of 2018, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans to determine whether Sports and Social Good should co-exist. Download this fun infographic of the preliminary findings.
We know there are a lot of other factors driving declining event attendance across leagues, or increasing sponsorship dollars for some, or contributing to overall revenue peaks and valleys. But, for me…I’m convinced that the difference between a good team and a great team is that they have a greater purpose to support the communities that support them. And…Americans agree! Here are three ways that Purpose will make or break Pro Sports:
- Have a Voice – Our study found that 75% of Americans believe sports and social good should co-exist, or more specifically, be involved in social causes. We want you to stand for something. We want teams, leagues and players to have a voice when it comes to inequalities and economic disparities. We look to you, our home team, as a beacon for change in our communities. Say something! Do something! Be something!
- Find the Right Cause – Of course, it’s not as easy as just standing for something. You must find the right social cause to support. It has to match with our ideals – what matters most to me – your fan. Our study also found that Over half of fans would change their support of their favorite team if they supported a cause contradictory to their own values. But, would that really impact ticket sales or overall revenue? Americans say, “YES”. If our teams support something that contradicts our beliefs, 33% of us would watch or attend less games and 22% would completely boycott the team. I can’t think of another factor that could deplete a fanbase by 20%.
Are you now wondering what issues you should support? Americans say these are the top 5 causes they want the sports world to stand up for (listed by rank):
- Children’s Causes
- Mental Health
Don’t stop there. As a self-proclaimed data geek, I highly encourage you to go find out which causes, and even organizations, YOUR fans care the most about. It could be the same as most Americans, or your community may need different support. Of course, you can always call Catalist to uncover this information.
- Communicate Impact – Standing for an issue in an ad campaign, or PR stunt, or through one community event is the first step – and very noble. Unfortunately, short-term commitments or flashes in the Purpose pan, will ultimately fail with your fans unless we know what type of change you are making in the community. Are you measuring your community impact? Are you taking concerted and consistent steps to notify your fans of your good work? Or, even engage us with what you’re doing? Do you know how we feel about your community relations or philanthropic activities? The best way to deepen relationships with your fans is to communicate how you are helping the community in which they live.
I’m encouraged by the trajectory of sports and purpose. I’m excited to see budding new partnerships announced like the NFL and our friends at Big Brothers Big Sisters. We love hearing from leagues about the measures they are taking to formalize their purpose-driven strategies and create greater connections with their community. My challenge to the industry at-large is to step into the light and own your stance, measure your commitment and shout it from the rooftops (maybe even in the form of a Second Line??).
Brittany Hill, CEO and Co-Founder