Marketing and Sports events…a quantum theory

Marketing and Sports events…a quantum theory

Marketing in 2016 has come to infiltrate every aspect of our day to day lives. It’s no longer confined to merely what you’re bombarded with when you step out the door – it’s in your house, on your screens, and in your hands (more often than not, at the same time).


The value-add of marketing to sports events is (to me) in many ways like quantum theory. The tree falling in the forest paradox  is a key example of this. I’m sure we’ve all heard the thought experiment: ‘if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’. Now this can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, the physical and audible noise of the tree falling, or secondly, the metaphorical implication of whether the tree falling had an impact in any way.

So – why is this is like marketing?

The theory spells out clearly what is at the crux of why some sports events are successful, and some get stuck in the white noise of our attentional span. If you pull off a great event, your operations and logistics go to plan, the event offering is predicted to completely satisfy the target consumer’s wants and needs – you’ll make a nice audible sound in putting on the event. But the central issue becomes – how will anyone know about it? How will you find the audience to attend the event, how will you communicate with them to the point of driving them towards conversion, and your campaign out of the clutter? How will others hear about the event on a larger scale? This is the metaphorical sound that relies predominantly on marketing. At the heart of it, it doesn’t matter how great your event is, or how loudly the tree falls –  if no one knows about it, it makes little impact.


Marketing, therefore, focuses on spreading the word about such events through PR activities, with a focus on supporting communication of the event on platforms including websites and social media. All communications must ensure all branding related to the event and company in question are consistent, and will make a visual impact on the consumer. The ultimate goal is to engage the consumer through both this imagery and dialogue in an attempt to connect with them in a meaningful way.

To illustrate the importance of marketing and the impact of carefully crafted sporting events on consumer perception and brand awareness, leading global brand Nike paves the way.


Pioneering the intersection between sports events and marketing is Nike Football’s ‘The Chance’ – aligned with what we now call Nike Most Wanted. The Chance is an event that gives young FOT’s (Football-obsessed teens) around the world the opportunity to win a place in the Nike Academy for a year.

The campaign first ran for six months in 2010 through, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Whilst a great event for the lucky boys involved, the use of marketing to push this event resulted in participants creating more than 17,000 Facebook pages, reaching an additional 5.5 million fans. Furthermore, 2,000 user-generated videos and 28,000 player posts were created, and the brand received 3.4 million YouTube views.

The numbers don’t lie – Nike owns the ‘interaction spectrum’ of experiences. Through events like The Chance, they have tapped into a way to engage in what we call ‘experiential marketing’, and connect to the consumer, as well as creating a community. But this wouldn’t be anywhere near as influential on their target market on a broader scale, nor create the link with the perception of their brand, without the marketing of these key events.

At the end of the day, consumers have all the power, and what they perceive about your brand showing up in their everyday experiences is all that matters. Without marketing The Chance, you’d reach a handful of boys. With it, you reached millions.

The tree fell very loudly that day, I’d posit.


Cover image via Nike.


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