Sport is a rum old business. It is one of the few industries that inspires fanatical passion from people who work in it and those who don’t. The only other fields that I can think of which enjoy same draw on the public’s affections in the same volume are music and the arts.
I love that so many people are so inspired by sport, the only downside is that everyone feels they know something about the sector. They probably do to some degree (whether that is explaining the 4-4-2 rule or understanding the importance of TV rights or licensed agents) but that doesn’t make them fit to guide brands looking to leverage sports opportunities to further their business interests.
Many agencies claim to ‘do sport’ but that doesn’t mean they really understand sports pr; the upshot of this is that we see clients being sold a pup everyday. It still amazes me that you go to conferences and hear ‘experts’ from sport PR firms claim that the UK should adopt an American model for match day entertainment. Anyone who has ever been to a major sports event in Britain knows that is simply not how the British enjoy their sport. Sure cheerleaders and pre-match bands are mildly diverting but they invariably play to about 1/5th of the crowd. British fans arrive at their seats about 10 minutes before kick off and usually leave as soon as is humanly possible after the final whistle. Forget about entertaining them at half time as they will be at the bar, in the bathroom or chatting to anyone within a three seat radius of their own.
I am not suggesting that navigating the sports sector is rocket science but it is a fairly complex set up. Few people really understand how complex. Consequently robust connections and understanding the mind set of each gets you much further, much faster. Any tenacious sports public relations agencywill be able to do the hard yards to get you there eventually but the sheer effort it will take them will mean that your budget isn’t being leveraged well. When you question why you aren’t making the progress you expected (or were promised) don’t be surprised if you are presented with a timesheet that shows how many account hours have been put in. This will be true but you need to be aware that you could be underwriting the agency’s learning curve.