The new ‘social era’ and how Alliance members can benefit from the sustainability opportunity
In the second in his series of articles, Neil Dobson, an expert in sustainability in sport and recreation, exclusively shares his views on the business opportunities for our sector from the move towards sustainable business. In this article he looks at a new era that is dawning in marketing.
The new millennium, many believe, has brought with it a new era, the ‘social era’ driven by three independent but interlinked forces – social media, more socially aware consumers and a renewed emphasis on community. This shift is naturally changing organisational thinking and creating opportunities for Alliance members.
Humans are a social species and communities have always formed the backbone of how we live. Traditionally, communities were geographically based, but with the advent of a mobile population and digital media this has changed.
Communities now exist virtually and globally as well as locally and are as likely to be built around a workplace, sports team, friendship group, online gaming portal or Facebook network as the street we live on.
In the UK alone there are 30 million Facebook accounts and 15 million Twitter users, whilst new social platforms such as Pinterest pop up all the time. Technology hasn’t just changed the way we form communities however; it has also changed how knowledge is gained and information shared. Social media enables people to share information in real time and with large numbers of people, something that simply wasn’t possible even ten years ago.
For business this means a new paradigm in how to reach and communicate with their target audiences. From the number of brand-owned Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, it is obvious that companies desperately want a foothold into customers’ online worlds.
Traditional marketing techniques however, do not translate to social media, meaning many brands are still seen as the ‘dad at the party’ on these platforms.
Unlike traditional advertising channels social media creates two-way dialogue, meaning organisations need not only something relevant to say but the perceived permission to say it. Conversely if there is a bad news story to be found, someone will find it and social media enables it to spread quickly.
This brings us to the final element of the new social era. In recent years consumers’ social and environmental awareness has increased. Thanks to global travel, 24-hour news, the growing credibility of the green movement and the wealth of information accessible on the internet, people are more and more aware of the growing gulf between the haves and have nots, and the role of corporations in creating and embedding this social inequality.
In the social era brand loyalty cannot simply be bought; it must be earned. Factors other than price are determining customers’ purchase behaviour. Consumers want to support companies that share the same beliefs they do and add value to their communities.
In the social era this means brands need to prove their social responsibility credentials, causing a shift in sponsorship and marketing strategies.
This creates commercial opportunities for Alliance members. Sport and recreation are key drivers of social media buzz, and have audiences of many millions. Furthermore, this industry has long demonstrated strong social and community credentials. Sport for good initiatives, be they large scale global programmes such as Peace and Sport or Right to Play, or smaller local projects such as those run by Premier Rugby or the Football Foundation have proven they can both positively impact local communities. In the social era more and more brands will be interested in how these programmes can be used as platforms for brand marketing.
The key to fulfilling the opportunity is to first understand the core values, ethics and principles that are at the heart of your organisation – both what you stand for and how you go about your business.
From these core values you can then create credible and relevant social, community and/or environmental programmes that will be valuable sponsorship and partnership opportunities for brands.
The last piece of the jigsaw is to then build a digital and social marketing framework around these programmes that you and your brand sponsors can use to reach and engage with your members membership base.
By Neil Dobson, Sow Consulting Ltd.
About the Author: Neil Dobson has worked in sport and recreation for 12 years. He has created and implemented impactful sponsorship campaigns, advised blue chip brands and top sports organisations on commercial strategies and is an expert in sustainability strategy and marketing within the sector.
If you liked this blog, visit Neil's previous blog and more like it in the blog section of the website
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