Promotional Products Work: Game On
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Sports are big business. By 2025, the global sports market is projected to reach nearly $600 billion, according to Research and Markets. Whether they pour into stadiums, ballparks or arenas, or they stream the game from the comfort of home, fans get fired up for their teams. About one-third of sports fans age 18 to 44 consider themselves to be avid fans, according to a 2022 Statista survey, while about one-quarter of people age 45 to 65-plus say they are avid sports fans.
Sports enthusiasts are there for it all—the adrenaline, the thrill and even the heartbreak. Researchers have found that people who identify as sports fans are more satisfied with their lives overall compared to those who aren’t as interested in sports. If their team loses, being part of a community with other fans can help mitigate the disappointment.
While there’s big money in the big leagues, college sports alone are a multibillion-dollar sector. In the U.S., college football and basketball are almost at the same level as professional sports. Some of these sports’ coaches get paid millions of dollars a year, and universities generate billions from sponsorships, TV deals and ticket sales, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Youth sports are right on par with the majors. Worth an estimated $19 billion, the youth sports market rivals the NFL, which made an estimated $12.2 billion in 2020, according to Investopedia. By 2026, the youth sports market could reach nearly $77 billion, according to a report from Wintergreen Research.
From youth to college to professional sports, promotional products can be part of the action on game day and beyond. Read on for insight into the sports market and some promotional ideas to put in play for your clients.
People love sports, with 85% of Americans saying they follow at least one sport, according to Mintel research. When crowding into packed arenas wasn’t possible during the pandemic, fans tuned in to watch live sports on TV. Last year, about 57.5 million viewers in the United States watched digital live sports content at least once a month, according to Statista. This figure is projected to increase to more than 90 million by 2025.
One study from Graybo, a cloud video platform for live broadcasts, found that 80% of sports fans around the world are ready to go streaming only for live sports. Another study from YPulse found that 70% of sports fans age 13 to 37 believe they don’t need to watch sporting events live.
As fans catch games in different ways, teams and brands can use promotional products to connect with them where they are. They can also use branded items to engage with fans in the off-season. A Deloitte study reveals that 60% of fans say that having a great year-round experience would make them more likely to engage with the team in the coming season, and 55% say it would make them more likely to buy a ticket.
The average value of the 50 most valuable sports teams surged 9.9% to $3.4 billion in 2021—up 55% from 2016. Here are the world’s top 10 most valuable sports teams:
- Dallas Cowboys: $5.7 billion
- New York Yankees: $5.25 billion
- New York Knicks: $5 billion
- Barcelona: $4.76 billion
- Real Madrid: $4.75 billion
- Golden State Warriors: $4.7 billion
- Los Angeles Lakers: $4.6 billion
- New England Patriots: $4.4 billion
- New York Giants: $4.3 billion
- Bayern Munich: $4.21 billion
Sports Browser ranked the world’s most popular sports using 15 different criteria, including global fan base, TV viewership and sponsorship deals. These sports rise to the top:
- Soccer/association football: 3.5 billion estimated fans
- Cricket: 2.5 billion fans
- Basketball: 2.2 billion fans
- Hockey: 2 billion fans
- Tennis: 1 billion fans
- Volleyball: 900 million fans
- Table tennis: 850 million fans
- Baseball: 500 million fans
- American football/rugby: 410 million fans
- Golf: 390 million fans
If you want to see a pro game, expect to spend more for the experience. In 2020, MLB tickets cost an average of $81, up 40% from the previous year. In 2021, it cost a family of four an average of $568 to attend an NFL game and $376 to attend an NHL game.
Nearly half of male sports fans (42%) claim to be avid fans, compared to 14% of female fans. More women than men consider themselves casual sports fans (49% compared to 43%).
Source: January 2022 Statista survey
Here’s how much NFL fans spent, on average, on their team’s merchandise and gear last year:
- Houston Texans: $380
- Los Angeles Rams: $332
- Cleveland Browns: $312
- Dallas Cowboys: $280
- Buffalo Bills: $261
- Baltimore Ravens: $227
- Las Vegas Raiders: $227
- San Francisco 49ers: $210
- Los Angeles Chargers: $194
- Jacksonville Jaguars: $192
Want to market to affluent sports enthusiasts? These fans have the highest estimated household assets:
- Tennis fans: $1.19 million
- Alpine skiing fans: $1.12 million
- Wrestling fans: $1.07 million
- Golf fans: $983,000
- NCAA men’s basketball fans: $814,000
Source: Data-Driven Marketing
The pandemic led to nearly three in 10 child athletes losing interest in sports, according to a 2021 study from the Aspen Institute and Utah State University. When children stop playing sports, the impact is felt in many ways. One in four parents say their child’s mental health has suffered since they stopped playing sports and 23% say their child’s physical health has declined. Through promotional campaigns, sports leagues, clubs and schools can highlight the benefits of playing sports and encourage more young athletes to get back in the game.
Student-athletes who graduated from college between 1975 and 2019 are more likely to be thriving in five key areas of well-being than those who did not play sports. These areas include purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being. Colleges can use promotional products to promote wellness among student-athletes or intramural participants and to stay connected to alumni.
Sources: Gallup and the National Collegiate Athletic Association
Star athletes often use their platforms to take a stand on important issues and help create change. An Ipsos poll shows that 58% of Americans believe that professional athletes speaking out can make a positive impact. Promotional products can be part of the conversation, whether fans receive them at events or as part of a larger social-issue campaign.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer team (USWNT) reached a landmark agreement in February. The settlement included a $24 million payment to USWNT athletes and an agreement from the U.S. Soccer Federation that women’s and men’s teams will receive equal pay moving forward. Promotional campaigns are just one way sports organizations and sponsors can address the gender pay gap in all sports and promote equality.
Sports organizations can inspire coaches and athletes alike with Hard Pivot, the new book from Apolo Ohno, the most-decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all time. The book features personal stories and practical guidance to live life with purpose, wisdom and joy.
The Book Company / PPAI 218850 / www.thebookco.com
The Titleist® Hat Golf Kit features branded products golfers need for a great day on the course, including a performance hat, three Titleist Pro V1 golf balls and a microfiber golf towel. Each item includes a full-color imprint.
Ball Pro Promotional Group / PPAI 112763 / www.ballpro.com
Add a team logo to the Otto Comfy Fit Low-Profile Baseball Cap, and you have the perfect fan giveaway or merch for the fan shop. Made from 100-percent polyester, this cap features a flexible fit and comes in six colors.
Otto International, Inc. / PPAI 208720 / www.ottocap.com
Give the Promotional Soccer Ball as a sweepstakes prize or to commemorate a season. You can order as many custom soccer balls as you need—no minimums required.
Disrupt Sports / PPAI 698768 / www.branded.disruptsports.com
Fans get the best seat in the house with the custom Stadium Seat. This weather-resistant seat provides cushioned bottom and back support. Features include an adjustable strap, a large outside pocket and a front-flap organizer with an insulated drink holder.
Southern Plus / PPAI 110918 / www.southernplus.com
The Foam Finger makes the ultimate school spirit promotional item. Made in the U.S., it’s available in an array of colors to coordinate with any team.
Spirit Industries, Inc. / PPAI 113020 / www.spiritindustries.com
Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-Fort Worth-based writer and former associate editor at PPAI.