Master of Science in Sport Management Online

What You Need to Know About Building a Sports Brand

It’s been estimated that the American sports industry is worth a staggering $422 billion, with the four big leagues (the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) generating an average of $23 billion in revenue each year. To continue pulling in so much money, sports teams have to spend big on advertising. Every year, approximately $27 billion goes to sports advertising, which is enough funding to turn some companies into brands that are synonymous with sports. What have these brands done to establish such a strong foothold within the sports industry?


Image via Flickr by Alan Klim

When you see the Nike swoosh symbol, what do you think of? You probably picture Michael Jordan soaring through the air to dunk the ball. He’s wearing Nike shoes, of course, which is why so many people want to buy them. Nike lets sports superstars do the dirty work of pitching consumers a product. The company spends obscene amounts of money to attract high-profile athletes to endorse the Nike brand.

Before Jordan became the face of Nike, the company had just reported its first losses. The company needed him, and it jumped through hoops to sign him. Their efforts paid off in the end, as the Air Jordan line alone sold $2.5 billion worth of shoes in 2012, long after Jordan himself retired from the game.


Image via Flickr by tavarua

The ESPN brand is responsible for a huge chunk of Disney’s earnings, despite the company’s revenue earnings from multiple theme parks, movie studios, and consumer products. The network, which is worth $40 billion, saw early success because executives targeted an overlooked audience: sports fans. Now, the network’s continued success can be attributed to the fact that fans can interact with the ESPN brand on television, computer, mobile devices, and other media. ESPN is accessible, which means it has more opportunities to get back what it spends.


Image via Flickr by marcgelinas

Gatorade now commands 46 percent of the sports drink market, but only after it almost floundered in 2007. While the brand has always been targeting athletes, former company president Sarah Robb O’Hagan recognized that those athletes were the driving force behind sales. She made the daring decision to completely ignore all other demographics. Since then, Gatorade has redefined itself as a brand devoted to athletic prowess and is working to establish itself as a leader of fitness knowledge.

EA Sports

Image via Flickr by Kriisi

Even though the video game industry is struggling, EA Sports still manages to attract and keep customers by focusing on delivering a quality experience and keeping fans connected to their favorite sports. It’s a goal focused on immersion and engagement. With hyper-realistic physics and opportunities for gamers to connect with a game even when they’re away from their consoles, EA Sports is making sure its customers stay engaged with its product as much as possible.

These four brands have built themselves up as some of the biggest, most successful sports brands in the industry. As a sport manager, chances are you would be interacting with one or more of these brands on a daily basis simply because their presence is so pervasive.