Know How – Sports Marketing: Mike Wilson: Welcome and introduction

TO protect the innocent, all I’ll say is that the couple of people involved were selling raffle tickets on behalf of a Scottish football club that plays in the so-called ‘junior’ ranks (something of a marketing challenge in itself, since it has nothing to do with age).

So, it’s half-time. And there are about 80 of us standing on a terracing, shuffling from one foot to the other, trying to keep warm.

My hands are stuffed down the pockets of my coat and I begin to root out some spare coins, in anticipation of being asked by the two guys to purchase a strip of tickets.

The pair are inching their way towards me, cajoling the supporters – who they appear to know each by name – to dig deep.

They have done their selling, to the gentleman to my right. And before I know it, they are trying to sell to the fella to my left, after having completely blanked me.

I almost resolved, there and then, never to return.

Which may not trouble anyone at the club, because there is a sociability – especially if you are part of the gang, of mostly older men.

Football. Bloody hell. As Sir Alex Ferguson might say.

We all need a reason to take ourselves to any sporting occasion. And while good results and star names will help, not everyone can be so blessed.

Football has the benefit of emotional attachment, often through family and friends.

But if there is a perceived crisis within Scottish sport – especially football – when it comes to attendances, it might be helpful to reflect on how others market their events.

At Boise University, in Idaho, USA, they issue 5,000 free tickets to students, who create the party atmosphere that goes a long way to luring the remaining 31,000 others who pack the 36,000-capacity Albertsons Stadium. The university’s Athletic Department has an employee with an interesting, revealing title: director of fan development. Read what Matt Gaudry has to say, here.

At English rugby union giants, Northampton Saints, there are big names and great results on the park. But also a recognition that the local competition is fierce (in terms of other things people could be doing with their time, including as sports fans), that there is no ‘magic bullet’ and that a prerequisite is a committed team prepared to work extremely hard at building and preserving. After all, it is not the biggest of towns. Read what commercial director, Brian Facer, has to say, here.

This series of articles commissioned by – and supported by QTS – has a simple aim: to inspire sports organisations – of all shapes and sizes – to lift their marketing game. To get more bums on seats.

At Boise, there aren’t many home games, and each one is turned into a spectacle.

In Scotland, beyond the spectacle on the park, it’s barely more than the slight rush of people taking their cold seat (often next to a stranger, whose behaviour may not be welcome) with five minutes to go before kick-off.

Here’s a simple thought: set up a turnstyle exclusively for first-timers. Then lavish them with attention and a free scarf.

Who knows, for an outlay of barely £10 (including the invite to the post-match tea and scones), you could have a fan for life.

And it is Scottish football that well-known business writer, Kenny Kemp, has within his sights; albeit in the context of some fascinating statistics from across the Atlantic. Read him, here.

And before it sounds potentially all too daunting, sports writer, Mark Woods, considers the transformation that can take place within the space of a few, short months when a bit of clever marketing is deployed. Read him, here.

For example, it’s not about you delivering the product, it is about people wanting to engage with what you are providing. And it could not be better summed up than by Ardi Kolah (read him, here), who advises (perhaps counter-intuitively): if you want to drive sales, then stop… selling.

And to bring it down to the level of the individual club, with perhaps only limited resources at its disposal, Catherine Hawkins (read her, here) offers a simple but highly imaginative piece of advice: consider concentrating your marketing on an individual rather than the team.

That sport is just more than the game will be self-evident to any marketeer worth their salt, and the point is persuasively made, here, by Michelle Dite.

She, like all the writers in this series of articles, has something of a track record in the field. We’re talking global expertise.

And to finish, bringing the global and the local neatly together, is Martin Reynolds, who was the head of Marketing for Glasgow 2014.

We all doubtless have huge fond memories of last year’s Commonwealth Games on these shores, and taken immense pride on how well it was organised. Marketing was central to its success and Reynolds provides some encouraging words – read him, here – on how everyone involved in sport – whether a club volunteer or a governing body paid official – can easily reach for the stars.


Mike Wilson is managing director of

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At QTS, we believe in emerging sports talent 

In June 2014, we initiated an emerging sporting stars campaign, to target numerous sporting stars who might benefit with some extra support to help them towards their career goals and targets.