7 Great Sports Marketing Campaigns

7 Great Sports Marketing Campaigns

The synergy between digital marketing and sports is undeniable. Done well, sports marketing campaigns can capture the hearts and minds of sports fans. Brands that use sponsorships or digital promotions have increased affinity and loyalty with their audiences.

Advancing technologies and multichannel approaches are transforming both sports and sports businesses. A potent mix. But what are the best examples of digital sports marketing? And what are the lessons we can learn? And why are they some of the most creative marketing campaigns around?

1. Norwich City's Powerful Mental Health Ad

To mark Mental Health Day 2023, Norwich City and the Samaritans released a poignant ad urging people to check in on one another, which garnered 53.3 million views in a week and earned praise from UEFA.

The ad follows two Norwich City fans during a football game, highlighting their contrasting attitudes. While one fan exudes excitement, the other remains quiet. The narrative unfolds as it is implied that the seemingly cheerful friend has passed away, leaving his friend to enter the stadium alone and drape his scarf over the empty chair, emphasising the importance of checking in on loved ones.

The campaign addresses the sobering reality of mental health, particularly among men, with suicide being the leading cause of death in males under 50 in the UK. Fans commended Norwich City for raising awareness, with many sharing personal experiences and expressing gratitude for the club's support.

Public figures like Roman Kemp and Vivianne Miedema lauded the ad as a progressive portrayal of mental health awareness. The initiative aligns with efforts to destigmatise mental health discussions, leveraging football as a coping mechanism and fostering supportive communities within the sport.

Norwich City provided mental health resources and the Samaritans hotline, reinforcing their commitment to mental health support. Additionally, the club auctioned off shirts featuring the Samaritans logo, with proceeds benefiting suicide prevention efforts.

This campaign catalysed important conversations about mental health, challenging misconceptions and emphasising the significance of checking in and supporting one another.

2. Red Bull Stratos

Remember this? Years in the making, the record-breaking “Space Dive” was the most watched YouTube live stream ever in 2012 with 8 million concurrent viewers. Across the world, millions huddled around desks, watched from phones, and sat transfixed in classrooms as Austrian Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space into blue oblivion. And the purpose of this dramatic enterprise? A marketing stunt. An amazing undertaking, yes. A fantastic advertisement for Austrian energy drink brand Red Bull? Double yes.

What we liked about this particular campaign was its innovative use of live streaming. It paved the way for further streaming on social media and showed – if done right – it could be another tool in the digital marketers’ arsenal.

It also matched the ethos of Red Bull’s brand. A marketing strategy that uses social media for maximum effect, capturing people with equal parts amazement and awe. Whether through the traditional sponsoring of athletes, extreme stunts, or the full scale ownership of successful sports teams like Red Bull Racing.

The only slight dampener on the Red Bull Stratos success story? The relationship between Skydiver Felix and his employer nosedived after he failed to mention the name of energy drink before he jumped. Ouch.

3. Orange x French Football Federation

 

Orange, in collaboration with the French Football Federation, released a groundbreaking ad to combat negative attitudes towards women's football, coinciding with the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Produced by Marcel, Paris, the "Bleues' Highlights" ad initially showcases renowned male football stars' exceptional skills, then seamlessly transitions to reveal moments featuring players from the women’s French team, achieved through deepfake technology.

The ad delivers a powerful message: "At Orange, when we support Les Bleus, we support les Bleues," underscoring the telco's commitment to French football in its entirety.

Launched across various sports publications and TV channels, the campaign garnered significant attention, with over 15 million views, 50 articles, and mentions during prime-time TV news. It also received endorsements from notable figures, including the French Minister of Sports and World Cup-winning athletes.

What sets this campaign apart is its positive approach, reframing perceptions of women's football to highlight the team's excellence. It emphasises that true love for football transcends gender boundaries, promoting inclusivity and appreciation for skill irrespective of gender.

By celebrating the women's team's abilities, the initiative challenges gender biases in football while maintaining authenticity. It serves as a testament to the effectiveness of campaigns addressing societal issues without resorting to negativity, demonstrating that showcasing excellence can effectively counter misconceptions.

Stay Up to Date with The Latest Trends and Insights

4. Thank You, Mom – Proctor and Gamble

Back for the 2018 Winter Olympics, P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” is masterful marketing. It’s an awesome example of how a sponsor can craft a link between (let’s be honest, some fairly boring) products and the sporting event it backs.  Named as one of the top campaigns of the 21st century by Advertising Age, it’s an emotional masterpiece. And one in a series of ‘mother’ themed ads by the consumer goods giant.

At the heart of the campaigns is emotional storytelling. P&G positions its products as the enabler for mothers to support Olympian heroes. The latest campaign for the 2018 Winter Games focuses on “love over bias”. According to P&G, the latest campaign “celebrates mum’s role as her child’s first and greatest advocate. The one who sees her child’s potential regardless of how others see them”. Remove the blurb, and it’s still an ad campaign selling cleaning household brands, but it’s bloody brilliant at what it does.

5. Unibet – Value Stats in Sports Marketing Campaigns

In 2019 Unibet took the use of data feeds by the scruff of the neck and totally upgraded its display advertising offering. Out of the sports betting companies on the market, Unibet is well known for supplying insightful information to customers in its sports marketing campaigns, whether that is through its digital video, social channels, or blog.

What it did that was so unique this time around, was that it took its insightful data and combined it with its live dynamic odds within its display advertising and landing pages.

Indeed, for a long time, iGaming brands have used data feeds and dynamic content to supply live odds or reactive content but what Unibet did with this project was inject value. It created a new dynamic data feed for its display advertising called “Value Stats”.

a black and green advertisement

This new dynamic feature – used across Unibet banners and landing pages – provides smart insights based on the games highlighted by another data feed in the ad. The value stat data feed is tailored for each market and according to Unibet resulted in increased ad performance. This sports marketing campaign was created and controlled via the Bannerflow creative management platform (CMP) too.

a black and green advertisement

Indeed, according to Head of Acquisition Optimisation, at Kindred Group (parent company of Unibet), Max Taub: “It’s really important to have this live and reactive data, as it makes a huge impact.” And it’s something many other industries and display advertisers looking to create remarkable campaigns should be doing too!

6. The NFL Goes all in with DOOH

Photo-2-Credit-Sphere-Entertainment-scaled

For Super Bowl LVIII, the NFL partners with Sphere Studios to present exclusive custom content on Sphere's Exosphere, a fully programmable LED exterior, during Super Bowl Week. This collaboration extends to CBS Sports' coverage of the event on CBS and Paramount+.

The Exosphere features a 360-degree canvas composed of 1.2 million LED lights, covering 580,000 square feet and capable of displaying 256 million colours. This exceptional display space, coupled with the use of Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) advertising, promises to captivate audiences both in Las Vegas and watching on TV.

Joel Fisher, Executive Vice President of MSG Entertainment, expresses excitement about the collaboration, highlighting Sphere's dynamic visuals as a new landmark in Las Vegas. Guy Barnett, Senior Vice President of Sphere Entertainment, emphasises the unique and captivating content tailored for Super Bowl LVIII.

Peter O'Reilly, Executive Vice President at the NFL, lauds Sphere's rapid rise as a recognisable landmark in Las Vegas and anticipates the collaboration's impact during Super Bowl Week.

The collaboration includes various custom content pieces such as a countdown clock, a welcome visual, and graphics highlighting the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Additionally, Sphere will feature all 57 Super Bowl rings, offering fans an interactive experience.

During the game, CBS Sports will showcase Sphere in curated moments, demonstrating the immersive capabilities of its interior display plane.

Furthermore, the campaign employs multichannel advertising strategies, including Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) advertising, to amplify its reach and engagement. This innovative approach ensures that the Super Bowl LVIII experience extends across various platforms and channels, maximizing exposure and impact.

The Sphere has already seen multiple sports-related collaborations ranging from the NBA Summer League to Formula One, highlighting a new way for sports marketers to get their content and brands seen by audiences. 

Overall, the collaboration between the NFL and Sphere Studios promises an innovative and visually stunning experience for Super Bowl LVIII attendees and viewers worldwide.

7. Paddy Power and Social Media Sports Marketing Campaigns

Paddy Power’s use of social media is well documented. With millions of followers, it’s a staple of many people’s feeds and unique in terms of sports marketing campaigns. It produces seemingly round-the-clock, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat posts. When it comes to creating content the betting company thinks like a publisher. And like a publisher, its success comes from the tone of voice, and attitude, which runs throughout its advertising and social engagement. Whether print, online display, or video you recognise a Paddy Power ad.

On its social effort, Paddy Powers' head of engagement Paul Mallon has commented: “I can’t think of many brands who produce the standard of in-house social and editorial content that we do”. And he’s right.

Without focusing too hard on one particular campaign, Paddy Power’s ads and posts all have the same traits: mischief; disruption; and controversy. Whether trending when pretending to chop down the Amazon rainforest in support of England in the 2014 World Cup. Or tweeting on the delightful haircuts of footballers Aguero and Falcao. Paddy Power wants to engage with its punters in real-time. It’s a cost-effective way to build brand awareness, increase affinity with the brand, and differentiate themselves from the competition. And that’s why we salute Paddy Power’s use of social media.

Some Not-So-Great Sports Digital Marketing Campaigns:

Somewhere, someone at 20th Century Fox thought that linking up with Manchester United for cross-promotion purposes was a good idea. How better to sell films than to parachute Wayne Rooney into trailers? The result is predictably horrific. Let me explain, Wayne Rooney is a footballer and not an actor (and he’s terrible). Respected Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw when analysing a Deadpool tie-in commented: “It is genuinely difficult to tell if this intentionally seeks to align the pansexuality of Deadpool with what some have seen as the homoerotic quality of footballers’ goal celebrations”. Indeed.

 

 

Ham-fisted in the extreme, placing Manchester United stars into trailers for blockbusters isn’t proving a massive success. Take this attempt, a mash-up of Rooney and the (surprisingly good) Wolverine film Logan; replies to the video on social media include “delete” and “why?”. Result! With over 72 million Facebook followers, and another 10.2 million on Twitter, it’s understandable why 20th Century Fox wanted to join forces with Man United. It’s just a pity the results are utterly awful.

(Thankfully, for movie lovers everywhere, Wayne Rooney has since moved to Derby County, and Man United and 20th Century Fox have ceased their bizarre sports marketing campaign).

Sports Marketing Campaigns: The Takeaways

One more thing! If you get the chance, check out how Italian football team Roma is combining it’s awesome signing videos with adverts for missing children. Launched in 2019, it has been such a success that it has not just resulted in kids being found but it is now being exported to other clubs to be part of their social campaigns too. We will definitely be focusing on this in another article as it such an awesome idea.

So there you have it, a selection of exceptional (and one not so great) digital sports marketing campaigns. Each campaign notably different, yet they all have one thing in common: unique engagement with a target audience.

The truth is we love remarkable sports advertising here at Bannerflow, especially those that involve online display. Here are the three lessons that we think marketers should take from these campaigns:

  • Innovate in the application of technology
  • Get Social; engage with viewers across channels
  • Be dynamic and reactive with your display advertising
  • Be real; audiences want something authentic
  • (Don’t insert Wayne Rooney into films)

One more thing: Stay on your toes. If you’re following a social strategy for a major sporting event, there’s the problem of hashtag hijacking. And with issues of brand safety ever more important, it pays to keep a watchful eye over your social feeds during major sports marketing campaigns.

Share this article

Advertising Campaigns: 7 Great FIFA World Cup Ads

Read article
5 min read

The Secret to Great Display Campaigns: Saxo Bank & Komponent

Read article

9 ways great translating can reward digital advertisers

Read article

5 great programmatic campaigns that you need to embrace

Read article

6 Key Strategies For Great Entertainment Display Campaigns

Read article

Going global and staying local – How Storytel cuts through the noise

Read article

7 Great Social Media Advertising Campaigns

Read article

The future of display advertising: Martech webinar

Read article