How Luxury Brands Are Targeting Sports Fans
SPORTS AND EVENTS are two of my greatest passions. Throughout my career, the global sporting events that I have had the honor of working on — including the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, 2018 FIFA World Cup, Formula 1 racing events, US Tennis Open 2019 — have shaped and inspired me, both professionally and personally.
Sporting events draw in fans around the world, whether watching on the television from the comfort of their home, catching up on social media or attending in the stadium. And from the inside, I have seen how naturally this enthusiasm, energy and national pride draws a vast international consumer audience for the world’s most popular brands.
The intersection of sports and luxury has achieved significant attention over the years. Recently, we have seen luxury brands spending millions of dollars to reach the massive, international audiences that sporting events provide, such as the recent partnership between LVMH and the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The ways luxury brands are currently making inroads with this unexpected audience and how they balance their heritage of exclusivity with this new, more mainstream relatability is fascinating and a topic worth diving into in more detail.
Vast Market and Global Audience
Sporting events generate large revenues and visibility worldwide. According to Statista, revenue from world sporting events is expected to reach $32 billion in 2023 and grow to $37 billion by 2027. The breadth of this mass appeal makes these sporting events a perfect opportunity for luxury brands to put themselves in front of previously untapped audiences that might not otherwise resonate with them.
We have seen some unexpected partnerships recently that perfectly exemplify this move towards uncharted audience territory. During the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Prada partnered with the women’s soccer team from China and the NBA has been partnering with Louis Vuitton since 2020.
Looking at these examples, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup set a record for attendance with over 1.9 million fans attending, according to Reuters. Similarly, the NBA set a record for attendance with over 22.2 million fans attending in the 2022-2023 season. These stats do not include the millions of fans tuning into these programs online or through their television screen.
Not only are brands able to access the large (and growing) in-person attendees and viewers, but they can also use sponsorships to reach passionate fan bases by teaming up with specific athletes or sports teams.
The real advantage is globalizing the luxury brand’s presence. Brands know they are also getting international recognition and exposure when they sponsor worldwide sporting events like the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
While the consumption of sports, whether online, through the television screen or in the nose-bleeds, is attainable for a lot of fans, the experience of a VIP lounge is not. The clientele able to experience a VIP lounge are primarily wealthy or celebrities. Think about who you see watching the best soccer games in the suites, or what celebrities you see in the front rows at a basketball game.
For these high-end experiences, exclusivity is the most appealing feature and these VIP suites allow luxury brands to entice a typically wealthy audience and showcase their products. The space allows luxury brands to have a captive audience for a couple of hours during the game, during which time they can showcase their products in subtle or overt ways. Luxury brands need that physical interaction more than any other industry because in many cases, the craftsmanship must be worn or seen up close to be truly appreciated in all their complexity.
Luxury is limited by definition, but it is the desire of the wider audience that makes it more precious and increases its value. VIP suites and lounges are the perfect opportunity to tap into this clientele and continue to perpetuate this idea of a priceless experience.
Most of the prominent luxury brands were created in Europe, arguably the global heartland of sports fanatics. Some of the most sought-after luxury brands today are also some of the oldest – for example, Hermès was founded in 1837 and Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854. Another heritage brand that helps with this example is the Olympic Games. Pierre de Coubertin successfully revived the Olympic Games in 1894, as a way to bring sports to the masses.
Lately, we see more and more luxury brands attaching themselves to the Olympic Games as a way to reach mass audiences. The historical significance between the Olympic Games and luxury brands gives them an opportunity to connect to their heritage. Therefore, heritage plays a logical role at the intersection of sports and luxury, but the challenge remains continuing to appeal to modern audiences.
If we want to explore the example of the Olympic Games even further, it is interesting to note that this event is in many cases the definition of universal appeal. It is bringing together 10,500 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), creating an immense, international connection. There are elite elements and widely inclusive elements. Luxury brands cannot solely rely on their top clients and collectors, they need to broaden their appeal if they are going to stay relevant, even if their products are too expensive to be widely accessible.
This exposure can help luxury brands maintain relevance. It is fundamentally important that they continue to appeal to a younger audience as Gen Z and Millennials are expected to make up about 70% of the worldwide luxury consumer market by 2025.