What we see on the field is a sport, but what makes it happen – both on and off the field – is today’s word. Part of the colossal global sports industry, which is currently valued at around USD 1.3 trillion, today’s term, sports marketing, encompasses virtually everything that isn’t the million-dollar/pound/euro players on the field, ranging from finance and contracts to PR and event management to the intricacies of training, medicine, and human resources. The wide-ranging sports marketing focuses both on the promotion of sports as well as the promotion of businesses through sports.
Created from the combination of the verb sport, which originated in the 1400s from the Old French desporter, meaning ‘to divert, amuse, or carry away from serious matters’, with marketing, which, as the verbal noun of market, came into English in the 1560s from the Old North French derivative (market) of the Latin marcatus, meaning ‘the act of transacting business’.
Arguably, depending on perspective, there are many possible origins of the concept, from the first paid athletic event (a U.S. baseball game in 1858), to the formation of The Football Association in London in 1863, to the first international football match in 1872 (England v. Scotland) – even the first courses in sport administration and management from 1911 (University of Wisconsin-Madison) are a plausible origin – but, in truth, it had had a part in all sporting contests, even back to the ancient Olympic Games. On the other hand, as a specific discipline to be studied, pursued, and perfected, sports marketing is approximately 50 years old, going hand-in-hand with globalism and the information revolution.
As a separate industry within an established and growing, yet fragmented industry, sports marketing is projected to continue to grow, with the Asia/Pacific region (9%) and the Middle East (6%) projected to be drivers of growth for the next several years, though North America and Western Europe will still remain the largest markets.