SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

Understand importance of Internet in customers’ lives

A continuing study charting the growth of the Internet indicates that sports marketers who understand online demographics have great opportunities.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project publishes 15 to 20 pieces of research a year regarding America and the Internet. The project, which began in 2000, is underwritten by the Pew Charitable Trusts and published by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. The Jan. 25 report may be seen at www.pewinternet.org.

A few highlights:

63 percent of adults in the United States, or 128 million people 18 and older, are online.

70 million Americans log onto the Internet daily. This number is 37 percent higher than the 52 million adults online daily in the 2000 Pew study.

E-mail is the leading draw of the Internet. Last year, 58 million people e-mailed daily, up from 45 million in 2000.

19 million people use the Internet daily to research products before buying.

The study noted racial divides. Caucasians and English-speaking Hispanics are more likely to use the Internet than blacks. About 68 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics use the Internet daily, yet only 43 percent of blacks do so.

Whites online are more likely than minorities to buy a product (63 percent to 53 percent) or participate in an online auction (24 percent to 16 percent). Hispanic Web surfers are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to look for new job information (61% to 38%) and listen to online music (46% to 30%).

How do people use the Internet? It varies with age, race, sex and other variables, and marketers need to know that if they are going to make the best use of the Net.
Black Internet users are more likely than whites to use the net for school and job research (71% to 58%), look for information about a new job (61% to 38%) and listen to music online (46% to 30%).

Men are more likely than women to use the net to get news (77% to 66%), buy travel services (60% to 51%) and check sports scores (59% to 27%). Women use the Internet more than men to get health information (85% to 75%), research spiritual information (73% to 56%) and participate in support groups (63% to 46%).

Pew claims that the Internet was born in 1994 when the first successful browser was made free to the public.

If that’s true, it means that millions born since the mid-1980s are Internet natives. Those of us older than 19 are immigrants.

To put it another way: If you saw the movie “Wayne’s World” in a theater and you remember Ronald Reagan in the White House, you probably don’t understand the importance of the Internet to millions of kids. The Web is as integral to their daily routines as wristwatches are to the rest of us.

According to Pew, 81 percent of teenagers go online. Seventy-eight percent of the 18-29 crowd is also online daily.

Younger (under age 30) netizens are more likely to use the Web than older Internet users for the following: researching school or job training (76% to 48%), finding new job information (65% to 31%), instant-messaging (59% to 33%) and listening to music (53% to 27%).

Pew’s research has shown that the Internet genie isn’t going back into the bottle. If you’re not properly engaging customers through the Internet yet, it’s time to get busy.

But marketers, beware. Reaching customers through the Internet is a lot more about lifestyle-complementary sponsorship than intrusive advertising.

Don’t shout. Don’t clog their Internet sessions with spam, which 70 percent call annoying. Don’t splatter them with pop-up ads. If they e-mail a question, respond immediately. Give them an option to speak with a human being.

After all, 3 million netizens told Pew that they regularly use the Internet to rate products and services. You don’t need millions of people berating your advertising efforts and products.

The key to successful Internet marketing is to understand the importance of the medium to your customers’ lives. Demonstrate sensitivity to your customers’ sense of values, status, product requirements, brand preferences, loyalties and preferred promotional tone. Then reach them with good products in a tasteful manner that gets their attention.

Hasn’t that always been the challenge for marketers? Maybe this newfangled Internet thing isn’t so complicated after all.

Mel Poole is president of consulting and marketing firm SponsorLogic. Reach him at mpoole@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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