7 Key Online Advertising Practices for Sports Retailers

The sports industry is one of the most competitive verticals online and this blog takes you through some online advertising practices (for Google AdWords and PPC Advertising) that are so often forgotten by small and large sports companies alike.

Don’t Forget Hyper-Targeting

Particularly for specialist sports retailers, consumers may well know exactly what product they are looking for, or what spec they need. So in your search engine optimisation and online advertising, remember to target the long-tail keywords, the product-specific keywords, and keywords incorporating sizing and spec details. For example, only targeting ‘Tennis Rackets’ or ‘Babolat Tennis Rackets’ might bring in traffic at the top of the purchase funnel, but targeting ‘Babolat AeroPro Drive Racket’ or ‘Babolat AeroPro Drive Size 4’ will have a higher likelihood or resulting in a sale.

  • From our experience, high volumes of searches for sporting equipment are very specific, in comparison to other industries. Keep your targeting up to date. If your products go out of stock in a particular size or altogether, ensure your ads are not displaying for them.

Google Shopping

Particularly when wanting to target product-specific keywords, Google Shopping is a channel that is often overlooked – both as a sales channel and as an opportunity for competitor analysis. Many sporting products such as running shoes are sold based on aesthetics as much as performance, so gain yourself a visual presence in the Google Search Results (and keep an eye out for a similar format on Bing soon).

Google Sports Search Result

  • From our experience, Google Shopping ads (aka Product Listing Ads) perform well for online sports retailers and it functions as a comparison engine for searchers. So if your products are well priced, you are in with a good chance of earning the sale.

Find Unique Selling Points & Shout About Them

Both on your website and in your adverts, this is a crucial best practice. Few retailers have sole distribution rights of sporting products, so competition is typically high and standing out from the crowd is critical.

For an example of thinking outside the box, Pro Direct Tennis have offered free personalisation of tennis rackets in the past, or personalisation of football boots on Pro Direct Soccer.

Pro Direct Tennis Offer

  • From our experience, consumers searching for sporting products tend to shop around a great deal in order to find the best price or the best options in terms of shipping cost, returns, and colour/design options. Use something special to make your website the final one they visit.

Have a Seasonal Focus

Interest in different sporting equipment typically peaks at different times of year. Rather than having the same online advertising campaigns and budget throughout the year, plan to increase your budget at peak-interest times and at the end of key seasons (for sale items) and reduce it at low periods if needs be. Also shift your advertising focus as products come in and out of season.

For example, a racket sport retailer may wish to consider the following timings:

April – September: Core tennis season
June – July: Wimbledon peaks interest in tennis
October – November: End of season sale period
October – December: Christmas gifting
October – March: Shift focus to squash and badminton rackets

  • From our experience, online advertisers are increasingly optimising their campaigns with seasonality in mind, making key times of year increasingly competitive. Keep yourself in prime position by doing the same.

Delayed Remarketing for End of Season Sales & New Seasons

As sporting product consumers often shop around and have a long path-to-purchase, immediate Remarketing is a commonly implemented tactic to remind consumers or your brand or to perhaps offer a further discount or promotion. However, delayed Remarketing is underused.

Consider building Remarketing lists at peak times that you don’t use instantly, but that you put on hold to advertise your ‘End of Season Sale’ or your new range of products at the start of the subsequent season.

  • From our experience, effective Remarketing tactics can really add to the bottom line without adding a great amount to your click spend, due to the low CPCs of the Google Display Network. Think about when you want to make another impression with your audience, for example, if you sell Protein Supplements then why not remarket to your customers after 1 month to remind them to buy their next month’s supply.

Use Bing & Yahoo!

Whilst their market share is comparatively small when put next to Google, for highly competitive sporting verticals, advertising on Bing and Yahoo! can be an effective route to reach your audience with much lower competition, Cost Per Click amounts, and Cost Per Acquisition amounts. With Bing in particular growing its market share (through being the default search engine on all Microsoft products), it is worthwhile trialling it and getting on there ahead of others.

Bing Sports Search Result

  • From our experience, Bing and Yahoo! users can behave differently to Google searchers, so optimise your campaigns independently from your Google AdWords campaigns. The user base also appears slightly different in terms of demographics.

Keep Your Bidding Tight

To stay competitive, margins on certain sporting goods can be limited. On this basis, ensure your online advertising bidding is carefully optimised, varied by season if necessary, and CPA focussed.

  • From our experience, it can be difficult for smaller retailers to compete with the bigger players and their economies of scale. Keeping your bidding under control is commonly what determines whether a campaign is profitable or not.


Paul Jackson

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

With almost a decade of experience in digital marketing, both in-house and agency-side, Paul is a CIM qualified Chartered Marketer with expertise and a refreshing approach. Paul’s experience with a diverse mix of brands in a wide range of industries has allowed him to see first-hand the importance of a tailored and business-oriented approach to marketing.