A marketer’s hunt for effective, new (or seasoned) strategies is never-ending. Whether it’s the all-new charcoal scrub magically banishing blackheads or the latest way to get ahead in Candy Crush, the world is always on the lookout for what’s hot.
The sports industry is no different. With new technologies, platforms, and ways to engage audiences, there is always room for marketers in the sports industry to improve their strategies. Its passionate, die-hard fans make this industry unique and arguably one of the most difficult to market.
While some campaigns focus on selling a product or service, others exist purely to increase awareness for a particular team or athlete. Over the years, renowned brands like Nike, Adidas, and Gatorade have become synonymous with successful sports marketing campaigns.
Let’s discover some of the most influential sports marketing campaigns and explore their success.
Under Armour – Rule Yourself
When it comes to sports marketing, one of the most important things is to create an emotional connection with your audience. And that’s precisely what Under Armor did with their ‘Rule Yourself’ campaign.
The ad features Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who is widely considered to be the greatest Olympian of all time. Phelps overcame many obstacles in his life to become the successful athlete he is today.
The ad shows Phelps going through a grueling workout regimen, highlighting the dedication and discipline it takes to be a champion. It allows us to see exactly what Michael Phelps has built his legacy on. His lifetime of going dark and becoming invisible, both literally and figuratively. A lifetime of training in the relentless pursuit of sporting excellence.
Additionally, the power of social media in sports was used to significant effect, with Phelps tweeting the ad with the tagline “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light” out to his millions of followers.
By featuring Phelps, Under Armor could tap into the emotional connection that fans have with him.
Nike – The Master Stroke with Air Jordon
The 1984 NBA season oozed with upper-echelon talent. Draft picks like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton were taken early. But it was the third overall pick that would change the face of basketball and sneakers forever. That pick was Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan was a storybook athlete from his first steps on an NBA court to his final jumper with the Washington Wizards. His skill on the court was unparalleled, and his charisma was undeniable. He was the perfect pitchman for any product.
In 1984, Nike took a chance on the then-rookie and signed him to a five-year, $500,000 deal. The move paid off in spades; the Nike Air Jordan line was born, changing the sneaker game forever.
The Air Jordan campaign was a masterstroke by Nike, which increased its market share and propelled them to become the global behemoth they are today.
The ad campaign was so successful that it spawned an entire subculture of sneakerheads and streetwear aficionados. To this day, the Air Jordan brand is still going strong and shows no signs of slowing down.
Thank You, Mom – P&G
370,000,000 Twitter interactions – just by using #LoveOverBias. That resulted from P&G’s ‘Thank You, Mom’ campaign during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The brand also bagged $500 million in incremental sales.
You must be thinking that P&G and sports don’t have an obvious connection. You’re right! But the brand’s undying love and support for mothers of athletes is something that sports fans can get behind.
This campaign didn’t promote an athlete, a team, or a sport. It celebrated mothers – those who have been there from the beginning, through all the practices and games. The emotional connection that P&G created with this campaign is undeniable.
The campaign’s tagline, “P&G, Proud Sponsor of Moms,” was used to link all elements of the effort together. The company empowered consumers by allowing them to take part in the activity. It established a one-of-a-kind digital platform for people to thank and praise their moms.
By using the hashtag #LoveOverBias, P&G also took a stand against discrimination in sports. The campaign was a colossal success and is proof that you don’t need to be directly involved in sports to create a successful sports marketing campaign.
Sport England – This Girl Can
Women’s participation in sports has been on the rise in recent years. But there’s still a long way to go. Only 40% of women aged 14-40 are physically active compared to 48% of men.
Sport England launched ‘This Girl Can’ in 2015 to encourage more women to get active. The campaign used real women of all shapes and sizes in its marketing materials. It was a refreshing change from the typical “perfect” women we see in ads.
The campaign’s tagline, “Sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox,” was empowering and relatable. It addressed the fact that there’s no “right” way to look when working out. If your heart rate goes up, that’s all that matters.
The campaign was a huge success. It reached over 28 million women and got them moving. Sport England saw a significant increase in the number of women participating in sports after the launch of ‘This Girl Can.’
This campaign struck a chord with women all over the globe, generating over 200,000 tweets and reaching over 24 million people.
The brand’s goal is to encourage more women and girls to wiggle, jiggle, move, and demonstrate that prejudice, time, money, and effort are obstacles that can be overcome.
Red Bull – Stratos
In 2012, Red Bull made history by sponsoring Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from the edge of space. The event was watched by people around the globe and generated a ton of media coverage. But that’s not all. Red Bull also created an entire content ecosystem around the event.
They produced a documentary, built a microsite, and created social media content. They even gave away a limited edition ‘Stratos’ can. The event was live-streamed on YouTube and generated over 12 million views.
The campaign was a massive success for Red Bull. It not only increased sales but also boosted brand awareness and loyalty. And it all started with one man’s dream to jump from the edge of space.
The campaign’s goal was to go beyond human capabilities and contribute to scientific knowledge for the good of humanity. The successful operation broke several world records, including the highest freefall, and provided valuable data for future space exploration.
When it comes to sports marketing, there’s no limit to what you can do. You can sponsor a team, athlete, or event. You can create a digital platform, produce content, or take a stand against discrimination. The options are endless. But one thing is for sure: creativity can go a long way. So don’t be afraid to think outside the box regarding your next sports marketing campaign.