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Star Wars: A Lesson For Sports Marketing by Zennie Abraham of SBS

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When Star Wars characters appeared at the Oakland Coliseum in 2005 for the Raiders / Chiefs game and to celebrate the Star Wars movies, another "barrier" between sports and entertainment was shattered. That continued with the use of Star Wars stars in ESPN's commercial toting their new High Definition television service, "ESPN-HD." The obvious connection is that both sports and Star Wars are integral parts of popular culture. And because of that, Star Wars could very well alter the face of sports marketing.

How? From SBS' point of view as a comprehensive website that combines e-learning simulations, sports, and popular culture, the next trend in sports marketing rests with the very structure of the Star Wars' movies. Let's compare the basic story structure of Star Wars with that of a sports team, The Boston Red Sox:

Star Wars Movies Boston Red Sox
Hero Luke Skywalker / Obi-Wan Kenobi Changes from game to game, but start with pitcher
Villain Anakin Skywalker AKA Darth Vader The New York Yankees plus whatever opponent is up next
Conflict The Force v. Dark Side of the Force for control of the Federation Red Sox v. Yankees for baseball supremacy
Government Setting The Federation and the Senate Major League Baseball and US Congress
Romantic Element Princess Leia / Padme Whomever the players are dating

While most may find the table above humorous, there's a lesson within it for team marketing specialists. A marketer can construct a "story" for the season that at once brings the team and its players into intimate fan focus. Like Star Wars, the "sale" is the story itself. In the case of the Boston Red Sox, and from the perspective of the Red Sox Nation, the story is a simple one of good vs. evil, and the enemy comes in the form of the New York Yankees. But within that simple tale are subplots of conflict within Major League Baseball and over the salary cap and other matters.

A savy marketer can take these and other elements and create a whole preseason story that "sets the scene" for the fans. Commercials could be formed around the anticipated exploits of selected Red Sox stars, and how the hated Yankees stand in the way, with their constant violations of the sacred salary cap, to provide another example.

In fact, making commercials and ads along the lines of the old black and white episode clifthangers are a great way to encapsulate this "Star Wars" strategy. Like the Star Wars action figures, the Red Sox can have their own collectors set, with all of the team's players available and even one doll representing a hated Yankee, like George Steinbrenner.

Of course, the Red Sox would have to have an agreement with Steinbrenner, but why not?

Such a scenario points to how a league-wide "Star Wars" style marketing strategy could work with each team. If one thinks about it, one person's "team to hate" is another person's "team to love." So an interconnected system of heros and villains and subplots can be the basis for a league marketing strategy.

For example, team stars could hold press conferences simply to call attention to the upcoming rivalry, much as is done in modern professional wrestling and boxing. And such a media event can help announce the availability of action figures for the first 10,000 fans. The team player can say, "Come and if you're the one of the first 10,000 fans, you'll get my action figure." Thus, there's a perfect synergy between marketing strategy and media reaction. The media will come and it will be reported.

In closing the Star Wars marketing strategy can be applied to individual teams or an entire league. The Boston Red Sox could just as well be The Golden State Warriors or the Oakland Raiders. Every team has a story to sell, just like Star Wars.

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