Leveraging Sports for Marketing


The strongest brands create emotional bonds with their users. Sport is one such avenue that has unique emotional power. In no other walk of life do our hearts and brains become so invested in the activities of people we do not personally know, but who we admire with a burning…

The strongest brands create emotional bonds with their users. Sport is one such avenue that has unique emotional power. In no other walk of life do our hearts and brains become so invested in the activities of people we do not personally know, but who we admire with a burning passion. Not many things can engage, entertain, and captivate large audiences like a sport. From a marketer’s perspective - sports for the longest time simply meant big-name sponsorship deals and maybe television sports ads. However, in recent times, with the proliferation of new channels, fresh opportunities are arising for brands to cultivate deeper relationships with their audiences. The annual cricket festival of India - the IPL - has already dawned upon us. If you throw in the festive season as well, brands surely must be licking their lips at the myriad of marketing opportunities up for grabs. On that note, let’s have a look at how brands across the globe have leveraged sports marketing campaigns to connect with audiences with

Ready For Sport

The pandemic has brought a huge amount of disruptions to all facets of life, including sports. All major competitions across all sports were put on hold, leaving athletes in the dark about the way forward. The ‘Ready For Sport’ campaign by Adidas aimed at inspiring both professional and amateur athletes for whenever they returned to the field. Starring over 2,500 Adidas athletes such as Lionel Messi, James Harden, and Rohit Sharma - it aimed to unify the spirit of sport to motivate the world. This campaign connected the sporting world and spurred emotions of belief and positivity amid the tough times when all sports were halted. In the pandemic world, multiple brands have edged towards empathetic and emotionally-touching communication in order to leave lasting impressions on their audiences.

Made For Football Watching

On a similar note, Pepsi too strived to throw light on the plights faced by the sporting world as the pandemic rocked our lives. While Adidas’s target audience was professional and budding athletes, Pepsi’s campaign catered to the next most important segment of sport - the audience. This campaign celebrates and elevates the weekly ritual of tuning into games from the comfort of your homes. The campaign had various elements including social media shoutouts, regional initiatives and activities for fans across 16 partner NFL teams, as well as gift hampers.
Touching campaigns like these leave a positive impact on audiences and promote positivity and a sense of belonging.
You Can’t Stop Us While Adidas launched an emotional and inspiring campaign, Nike too would have something up its sleeve. The ad debuted during the NBA’s return in Orlando, Florida, and has garnered over 20 million views on Twitter and Facebook since. The kinetic, blink-and-you-miss compilation features 50+ Nike-sponsored athletes from 24 sports such as global superstars LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, and even the Indian women’s cricket team. Keeping with the theme of society and shared commonalities, the video is a nod to professionals, amateurs, and ordinary sport-lovers. Unconventional sports such as surfing, skateboarding and BMX are also included. The prominent themes include athletes’ relationship with social justice, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the long shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This campaign goes on to show how brands can drive powerful social statements for the betterment of society.

ZPL (Zomato Premier League)

Everyone’s favourite app got even more exciting during last year's IPL, and after a roaring success, ZPL is back this year for more fun. Banking big on in-app gamification, ZPL’s fundamental focus is satisfying users with the one thing they crave the most along with their food - a discount. ZPL, along with offering an eye-catching discount on prominent restaurants, also allows consumers to predict who will win the matches allocated for the given day. If the prediction is right, users can avail an additional discount on their upcoming orders, making the cycle of ordering food nearly impossible to break. Not only does this increase the number of orders during the duration of the IPL, but it also adds some spice and intrigue to the ordering process. It also increases brand recall and identity since users’ predictions are always in the back of their mind while the game is on.

Stevenage Challenge

Back in 2019, Burger King caused waves with a marketing campaign which made use of a popular football video game - FIFA 20. While we all know of Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool, not many were aware of ‘Stevenage’ - a lower league club sponsored by Burger King. Burger King began sponsoring the fourth-tier team as the 2019/20 season kicked off. In a bid to raise the awareness and popularity of Stevenage,  the fast-food giants challenged FIFA players around the world to select them when playing online or in Career Mode. Once they had done so, they were motivated to share video clips of their goals online and in return, receive rewards from Burger King. As per a video posted online revealing statistics of the campaign, more than 25,000 goals scored with Stevenage were posted online, and as a result of the campaign, the club sold out their home shirt for the first time in its history. Below is a visual representation of the different strategies used by these brands - marketing strategies used by these brands There are countless more examples to prove how sports can be leveraged as the ideal way to build connections with your audience by driving engagement or making powerful statements. As the IPL progresses, we are sure to see more innovative campaigns and activities carried out by prominent brands in the coming few weeks - stay tuned here for all the hottest shots! Download the PDF version

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