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The Intersection of Sports and Philanthropy

ericshainock's picture

This past week, there were two conferences going on simultaneously: Cause Marketing Forum (CMF)and the SBJ Intersport Brand Engagement Summit. While I attended CMF, I followed along on Twitter with the Brand Engagement Summit. Both conferences are set up similarly - there are networking events at night and speaker panels throughout the day to learn best practices and trends in the industry. The following are best practices that cut across both philanthropy and sports and can be used in any industry setting:

1. Content is King

At CMF, we heard from Ryan Shadrick Wilson from Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). It's no surprise that obesity and healthy adults is an issue. Children are eating fast food and unhealthy foods rather than fruits and vegetables. PHA created a campaign to educate and inform Americans about fruits and vegetables. In essence, they are trying to make eating healthy cool. PHA is using influencers to get its message and its videos and content is fantastic. The content is unique and buzzworthy, and its message comes across well when its delivered by its influencers.

At the same time, its long been known that content is king in sports. Teams and brands are creating bite-size social and digital pieces to engage with fans. Brands such as Under Armour and Proctor & Gamble have created great campaigns leading up to the Olympics, which is more of a long-term play. On the other end of the spectrum, teams like the Clemson Tigers football team and the Golden State Warriors have created in the moment posts that capture fans' hearts.

2. Innovation is Key

Everyone used to have a PC computer until Apple came along. MP3 players were wildly popular until the iPod changed the game. Brands that don't continue to innovate will fall behind those that continually try to disrupt the market place.

At CMF, Goodwill touched on its Give Back Box campaign that allows consumers (who shop at designated partners) to send clothes or other donations to Goodwill with a prepaid label. Goodwill disrupted the marketplace and flipped the business model on its head by reusing retail boxes.

At the Brand Engagement Summit, innovation was talked about, especially as it relates to content and "what's next." E-Gaming and virtual reality are two rapidly growing areas in the sport industry. Positions are being created because of the demand. Arenas are filling up to watch e-gaming competitions and its quickly become a multi-million dollar sector of the industry. Brands and agencies cannot afford to sit back, but rather they need to get out in front and embrace the innovation.

3. Influencer Marketing is Growing

As I touched upon earlier, influencer marketing is huge in the non-profit space. Having a celebrity or an athlete aligned with a charity's mission helps bring it to the forefront. This is what cause marketing is about - non-profits are looking to get its mission out into the market and athletes have a voice and platform to provide this. However, there are influencer experts in all areas of social and digital (think Youtube, Vine, Twitter, Instagram). Many of these influencers have millions of dedicated followers. If you know what area your organization best demos in (pictures, 6 second content, videos), organizations can target the best type of influencer for the desired media channel.

In the same breath, brands and teams often come across as large organizations that are missing a personal voice. Using influencers (athlete endorsers, or its own players) help personalize a product or a team and brings it to an individual level. That allows fans to really connect with an individual and it breaks down barriers that may exist. Fans often think that a team could never understand or get to know each one of them; influencers and community initiatives helps bridge the gap between team/brand and consumers.

There were great insights shared and much collaboration occurred over the two day conferences. It's a great opportunity to see what works well and doesn't across the board for charities, non-profits, agencies, and brands. If you're interested in hearing more about either conference, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Eric Shainock works for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as an Account Representative in the Strategic Partnerships division after previously working at Intersport, a sports marketing agency. Eric is a current student in the GW Sport Philanthropy Certificate program. He is a 2014 graduate of the Ohio University Sports Administration Graduate Program. Feel free to reach out via email: or on Twitter: @ericshainock.

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