Friday, February 8, 2013

To Understand Sports Consumption, Ask the Why Question

Understanding consumer behavior can be a daunting challenge. After all, we are complex beings with different motives and needs that we seek to meet through consumption. One of the five Ps of sports marketing is Positioning, which entails understanding customers. Market segmentation, marketing environment analysis, and examining consumption behavior are tasks associated with this starting point in crafting marketing strategy. Without a solid understanding of customers and markets, it is risky at best to go down the road of making product, price, place, and promotion decisions.

One way to demystify consumer behavior is to ask a simple question: "Why?" This approach gets to the heart of the matter - uncovering what buyers seek to gain or needs to be met through use of a product, service, or experience. Asking the Why question reveals that all customers lumped into a target market because of their similarities are not so similar after all. In the case of evaluating sports consumers, the temptation to view fans of a sport or team as a single group is a mistake.

People have different motives for wanting to consume. In the case of sports, consumption motives can be:
  • Social - Desire interact with friends or be a part of a community of people with a shared passion
  • Psychological - Identifying with a sports brand is important to self-concept; consumption may be a form of escape or fantasy fulfillment
  • Personal - Sport consumption influenced by attraction to characteristics of a sport or athlete; Individual desires such as sensory stimulation and need for entertainment are other personal motives
In order to get to consumers' motives for their decision to consume sports, marketers must shift their focus from their offerings to the impact desired. In other words, we must not obsess with marketing product attributes or features. Instead, the emphasis should be on what a person will receive or realize as a result of product usage. For example, if you recall Super Bowl commercials for Audi and VW, the consumer motives targeted in their ads were bravery and happiness, respectively. Notice what was not communicated - engine specs, gas mileage, or price. There is an adage in marketing that "people don't buy drills, they buy holes." We do not buy for the sake of owning products; we buy because we value the benefit the product delivers.

Think of consumption as a means to an end. The means is purchase of your product, service, or experience. The attributes of your offering result in certain consequences, or benefits. A sports marketing example might be a family section at a baseball stadium (attribute). This attribute offers the benefit of a safe, appropriate environment for a family to enjoy a ball game. The terminal value is greater family unity and memorable experiences. What do parents want to buy - tickets to your family section or family unity and lifelong experiences? I think you know the answer!