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Big Brands Big Budgets: How To Compete

We’ve all heard the old adage – good things come in small packages. In the world of sports marketing though, where businesses are trying to define their brand and connect with target audiences, small can be limiting.

Competing with the big brands in your market segment doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. In days gone by, limited mediums made it hard to execute competitive marketing campaigns. Now, the opportunities at everyone’s disposal are vast.

Think obvious platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. The growth of sports marketing in these areas is huge. Fans trawl social media pages for updates while they’re watching the game on television – Twitter alone recorded 27.6 million tweets during this year’s Super Bowl. That’s a huge opportunity for customer interaction.

Conversely, bigger brands have deployed underground campaigns to inspire roots level intrigue, awareness, and consumer support. Think Nike’s 2014 secret pop-up vending machine campaign in New York City, which offered free swag for FuelBand points.

But while the opportunities are plentiful, there’s also more competition that ever. Social media campaigns are accessible to even the smallest fish in the ocean, and clever guerrilla-style campaigns will continue to evolve. So how can smaller businesses compete with the uber budgets of the big brands?

Getting It Right From The Very Beginning

Getting the basics right is a good start. Deliver exceptional products and services with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

A great example of a small business competing with the big boys is Tracksmith. They make clothing for runners. Pretty simple. But it’s not any old clothing. It’s top quality apparel harking back to the origins of the sport in terms of styling.

Tracksmith founder, Matt Taylor, isn’t following the big brand trends of continuously diversifying product lines and making everything fluorescent. Instead, they’re producing a line of quality products with a defined market, branding, and voice. Leading us neatly to the next thing small businesses need to get right to compete with the big boys – branding.


A great name and a great logo are imperative for any business, particularly a small business looking to grow. Even the right colour can increase brand recognition up to 80%. You can’t do that looking and sounding shambolic.

A great example in the sporting arena is the Tom Waterhouse online bookmaking service, started in 2010. It looked sharp, and it targeted younger betters, who were moving away from the traditional on-track to online form of gambling.

Within three years, the small business grew from 1,000 to 200,000 clients, eventually selling to the UK-based powerhouse William Hill in 2014.

Dare To Be Different

Waterhouse dared to be different, and it paid off. Another popular online bookmaker, Sportsbet, also dared to be different recently with its controversial new Android app marketing campaign. It starred Olympian drug cheat, Ben Johnson, who Sportsbet quipped in the ad “really knows his stuff” when it comes to performance enhancement, putting the “Roid in Android.”

The ad was widely criticised, with many calling for its ban. Sportsbet remained staunch on the campaign, and the subsequent media frenzy only propelled the campaign further.

While Sportsbet isn’t a small business by any means, the principle rings true. Small businesses daring to be different can make a splash in their intended pond with a bit of creative thinking.

Voice And Consistency

Before leaping off the high board into any bodies of water, small businesses need a defined and consistent voice across their marketing channels. What do we mean by voice? Check out the difference between Rhone and Nike. Both make sportswear, but to very different audiences, reflected in their voicing and imagery.

Once this is established, businesses can look at cost-effect marketing solutions such as social media advertising, product placement, guerrilla marketing, and lifestyle marketing.

While all businesses want growth and understand the marketing boat to be an important one in the sea of success, as you can see with some of these brand’s success stories, it doesn’t have to burn a big hole in the small budget.

If you’re looking to build a digital strategy in a crowded space, get more for your money by optimising every element to the max. Digital Fuel are market leaders in getting branding bang for your buck so get in touch and we can discuss how to help your business stand out in the crowd.

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