Youth League Marketing Is a Bigger Opportunity than the Super Bowl
On the first Sunday of every February, American tradition puts millions of us on the couch watching the nation’s top athletes battle for glory while we binge-eat chicken wings and get excited about being served ads. For this reason, most everyone in advertising has dreamed of marketing their brand at the premier advertising event of the year: the Super Bowl.
Strangely, few major brands take advantage of the lucrative, more accessible sports marketing opportunities available at local youth leagues. While small, youth league marketing sponsorships exist across the nation and can make a big impact when executed at scale.
But is local marketing really as important as a Super Bowl ad when considering cost efficiency, reach, impact, and scalability? It boils down to whether it’s better to be a small fish in a big pond or a school of big fish across multiple small ponds.
Cost Efficiency of Youth League Marketing
Let’s break down the stomach-curdling cost of a Super Bowl ad. A single 30-second placement costs upwards of $5 million, and that doesn’t even factor in the creative and technical expenses of scripting and producing an elaborate commercial. That’s a huge gamble for a one-time ad, especially considering the mounting pressure to make Super Bowl ads raunchy, controversial, or shocking, since those qualities could ultimately leave an even more costly smudge on your brand’s image. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and the cost seems frivolous.
Local advertising’s cost is not only more palatable; it’s a safe bet. Youth league marketing sponsorships will run you about $200-$600 for an entire season, and there’s nothing risky about putting your brand’s logo on some t-shirts or on-field signage. For the same cost of running one Super Bowl ad, your brand could sponsor more than 8,000 local sports teams and still have budget left over for other tactics.
Reach of Youth League Marketing
You’re probably thinking, Of course sponsoring local sports teams is more affordable, but it doesn’t offer exposure to millions of engaged Americans. But that assumption is incorrect. Sure, no other sporting event brings in as many viewers at once as the Super Bowl. In 2020, 99.9 million viewers tuned in, some explicitly to watch commercials. But if you scale a brand campaign sponsoring youth sports leagues in whichever locations your brand has channel partners, its reach can rival the Super Bowl’s.
Youth sports teams play anywhere between 10 and 40 games per season. Each game typically requires ten players on each team, but depending on the sport, team sizes are often much larger. For example, high school track and field teams draw as many as 60 student athletes per team. Each player likely has two to five family members or friends who come to games, and certain sporting events may fill entire stadiums with locals ready to show their hometown pride.
That means your youth league marketing spot has the potential to reach 2,000-8,000 locals in a single season. Scaling this strategy across thousands of locations puts your reach in the millions. And sponsoring a facility rather than one team multiplies your reach even further, because the teams from surrounding towns that play on the same turf would have repeated exposure to your ad as well.
While it’s true that advertising during the Super Bowl offers the unique opportunity to launch a national conversation about your brand, you can’t overlook local advertising’s proven ability to start a conversation. And the actual impact could be much more meaningful in terms of ROI.
The Super Bowl is a fleeting moment, one where viewers are distracted by side conversations and snack food and are likely blurring their perception with alcohol. When they see an ad for a national pizza brand, it may make them chuckle, but the odds are slim that they’ll order pizza once the game’s festivities have already started.
Viewers at local youth sports games are less distracted. Parents, grandparents, and significant others don’t want to miss a big play, so they keep their eyes on the players, and therefore on your brand’s ad. Youth sports serves girls and boys preschool through age 18 and promote character, responsibility, fun, teamwork, and courage. Tying your brand to these principles by supporting local teams can make the community more likely to support your brand in return.
For example, if a national pizza brand sponsors a youth sports team, families may be inclined to declare that game nights are pizza nights, and they’ll remember that every time they see your ad at a game. What if game nights were pizza nights for families attending youth sports games across thousands of the brand’s locations? That type of impact from hyperlocal youth league marketing is priceless.
The trouble with youth league marketing and the Super Bowl is the issue of scalability. Super Bowl advertisements must be relevant to football fans, so they’re often intentionally retired after their premiere. Similarly, hyperlocal advertisements must be tailored to the unique needs of each town and team and include different business information. There’s also the risk of channel partners misrepresenting the brand by using outdated logos and imagery, or executing an ad poorly for lack of marketing knowledge. This is why it’s essential to develop a strong channel marketing program.
Providing channel partners with pre-approved, customizable assets, clear brand guidelines, and incentives or shared funds for utilizing certain tactics can make scaling a youth sports sponsorship campaign feasible — even easy. By the same token, a Super Bowl advertisement can be repurposed and broadcasted on TV stations across all of your brand’s locations, but it misses the customization component. Channel partners intimately know their region, town, or neighborhood and can apply that local knowledge to make your brand’s advertisements more relevant to members of their community. So, it’s important to bring their perspective into the mix when scaling your marketing strategy.
Ultimately, Super Bowl ads singularly serve the national brand and neglect the channel partners who drive daily sales in their local communities. But when the national brand and channel partners run a campaign as a united front, the messaging is stronger, the audience more focused, and the ROI potential greater.
So this Super Bowl Sunday, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy licking the Doritos dust off your fingers in peace knowing that a $500 local sports sponsorship could be just as effective for your brand as a $5 million 30-second ad. Regardless of how expansive or limited your budget is, local advertising should be treated with the same level of effort and intention as a Super Bowl ad seen by millions of viewers. When it comes to marketing, the big leagues aren’t always better.
Richard Mendis is chief strategy officer at BrandMuscle.