Let's make 2023 the year of paid marketing

Is your club looking at paid marketing? Chris Samson - Digital Marketing Manager at Southampton FC - has some tips to help you get started.

Let's make 2023 the year of paid marketing

The start of a new calendar year always means it’s time for companies and individuals to start making predictions about what’s going to be big over the next 12 months. Who doesn’t love downloading every single one of those trend reports and having a glance through to see if anything relevant jumps out at you? I know I do.

Relevant was my key word there though. I’m not bashing the likes of Web3, GenZ or, everyone’s favourite, the Metaverse. They absolutely have a place in the world of marketing, and they absolutely will eventually have a place in the world of sports marketing.

However, my usual problem with these listicles is that they aren’t always aimed at those up and down the country doing the doing “in the trenches”. I’m all about actionable insights that anyone working at any level in sports marketing can hopefully pick up and use in their roles.

I'm here to share a few simple hints and tips to potentially get you started with paid marketing, and make that your go-to channel in 2023.

A little goes a long way

I’ve just started this post by saying I want anyone working at any level of sport to find this applicable for them, but I’m also talking about paying money to advertise. Do those things match? I think they can.

You don’t need to break the bank in order to get fans' eyes on your content. Even as little as £5 or £10 can be enough to promote your next match to a wider audience or to encourage fans to buy from your official club store.

Your targeting choices are important here. You could be, for example, situated in a one-club town or city. It’s highly likely the majority of your fans live in that town or city, so you might want to use your budget wisely and target some additional towns or areas around your town or city.

The tricky part could be joining those dots together and seeing whether the proof is in the pudding. If you’ve already got Google Analytics set up then make sure you’ve got tracking on your URLs as part of the ad. If you don’t have Google Analytics set up, then I know someone who’d be happy to help if you can’t manage it yourself (hint, he owns this website!).

Level up

Once you’ve started it’s time to start levelling up. One of the ways I’d recommend is to start integrating your paid marketing with some other areas of the club. For example, if you know who your season ticket holders are, or your regular ticket purchasers, and you’ve got their details, you can upload them as an audience into your Meta Ads Manager. From there, you can then exclude them from your regular ticketing campaigns so you’re maximising the impact of your budget. Alternatively, it might be a cup game coming up that isn’t part of their season ticket, so portion part of your budget to make sure they know they need to buy to be there.

There’s also some different ad formats you could use. It doesn’t need to be all static images or videos. I mentioned official club stores earlier, I’d also recommend diving into Meta Commerce Manager. You can set up all, or any, of your products and link them through to the online store. From there, you can also create ads promoting these products. I'm sure you’ve seen plenty of ecommerce brands targeting you across Facebook and Instagram with these ads while you’ve been scrolling.

It’s not all meta…

Some clubs or individuals might not want to “donate” money to Meta (if it wasn’t already obvious, I firmly believe there’s plenty of ways you can get what you want out of the platform), but there are plenty of other channels out there that could be worth exploring from a paid marketing perspective.

TikTok is a platform that will be very high up on everyone’s 2023 trend lists yet again. It’s high up on my list to explore the paid marketing side of TikTok, though from what I gather it’s one that goes against my first piece of advice at the moment. A little might not go a long way, so I’d stick to figuring out what you’re doing organically on that platform for now if you’re not blessed with budget.

I’ve no idea what to make of Musk-owned Twitter just yet, but I’ve definitely observed an increase in the number of ads shown on the platform, and an increase in the number of users moaning about the number of ads on the platform. Twitter’s ad capabilities are much less sophisticated than Meta’s, I’ve always found it to be much more generic.

I wouldn’t recommend going gung-ho if you’re limited in what you can spend, but for a few specific areas of your club there are opportunities on Google. Before diving in, I’d recommend you do some test searches to see whether your club already ranks organically for what you’re thinking of creating ad campaigns for. That could be obvious things your fans are searching for like “club x match tickets” or it could be things you haven’t thought of advertising about yet like “conference space in town x”. You might not need to, but you’ve got the chance to completely own the search engine results page by running some Google Shopping Ads for your official club merchandise.

Hopefully 2023 can be the year that paid marketing helps you achieve some of your targets.