Sports marketers don’t always get it right.

From ill-judged commercial stunts at live games, to betting companies with distasteful social media profiles, to exploitative pricing, there are many bad examples.

However, more often, such great subject matter lends itself to great campaigns.

Here are 10 of my favourites.

1. Google & the 2014 World Cup

I’m beginning with a slightly left-of-field choice.

In 2016, Google Cards and the integration of various media into its semantic understanding of the web are commonplace.

But in 2014, when Google started fleshing out its search results with all sorts of soccer World Cup content, this felt like a bit of a game-changer.

Team lineups, live scores, tables, even video highlights from ESPN, were all displayed in search.

On top of this, Google Now offered World Cup integration, Street View allowed you to glimpse inside the stadia, and Google Trends was used to flesh out a beautiful stat-filled microsite.

Despite doing a bit of research, I can find no evidence of a commercial link-up between FIFA and Google.

But perhaps that’s irrelevant, this was content that greatly benefitted both parties and was the marketing story of the World Cup for me.

google world cup

2. Sky Sports & virtual reality

I wanted to keep it current, so I’ve included Sky Sports’ first dabble with 360 degree video.

For the company’s 25th anniversary, David Beckham has filmed an interview in VR with Kirsty Gallacher talking about his top three Premier League goals.

At this stage in VR’s development, and given Sky’s potted history with 3D broadcasting, the broadcaster opts to use the technology in a marketing capacity. A wise move. 3.1m views already.

But Sky has a VR studio and is producing a range of these videos, so perhaps it won’t be long before this content is ‘productized’.

sky sports 360

3. #ThisGirlCan

This campaign by Sport England has received many column inches for its genius creative and startling impact.

Christopher Ratcliff breaks down the strategy in a previous Econsultancy post. Here’s a summary.

  1. Sport England wanted to address the fact that 2m more men than women take part in sport in the UK.
  2. Research showed that fear of judgement – for appearance, ability (good or bad) or poor priorities – was stopping women from playing sport.
  3. Street-casting led to the choice of real people (doing their regular exercise) to feature in the adverts and commercials.
  4. Influencers and media outlets were engaged well before the campaign.
  5. Sport England primed its audience with similar sentiment (on social and through the media) well before the campaign was launched.
  6. Women began making their own responses to the campaign, which Sport England then shared on social media.
  7. Stats released in January 2016 show that 2.8m women aged 14-40 who recognise the campaign say they have done some or more activity as a result, while 1.6m say they’ve started exercising.


4. BetFair Back Yourself

A free £20 bet from Betfair to gamble on yourself making your target time at the London marathon 2016.

All winnings, for those that hit their time mark, went to their chosen charity. Lost stakes went to Cancer Research UK.

What better way to improve brand image, collect some data, do something good, and subtly get people to try gambling.

back yourself with betfair

How the World Cup can surprisingly help us understand attribution 

5. Adidas’ D Rose Jump Store

To basketball now, and a piece of event marketing by Adidas that makes you smile.

The ‘D Rose Jump Store’ opened for a day in Hackney, East London, in July 2013.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose invited queueing fans to take a pair of free trainers… off a shelf 10 foot in the air.

This campaign video explains the work of TBWA/London.

6. #DareToZlatan

Some very funny (for soccer fans) social activity next.

There’s no real template provided by this Nike campaign, based as it is on the inimitable public persona of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but it did show social media as a channel with punch.

The #DareToZlatan Q&A was promoted with some video content on YouTube, but carried out solely on Twitter.

Promoting Zlatan’s new clothing line, agency bods took control of Ibra’s Twitter account in March 2014 and created some superb comedic responses.

This no-doubt pre-prepared content was funny and appeared off the cuff, playing on the footballer’s reknowned ego.

Here’s a couple of my favourite tweets.

7. The Madden Giferator

GIFs are such a big part of social media today that I thought I should tip my hat to Google and EA Sports for noticing the trend in its ascendancy back in September 2014.

The Madden Giferator allows fans to add custom text to GIFs of their favourite players killing it in Madden NFL 15.

During games, the Giferator switched up the GIFs available to match live action. The results were also included in a display ad campaign.

8. ‘Together we make football’

Simple concepts are the best and the NFL nailed it with this campaign.

Fans submitted stories about why they love football. The best became finalists, with their stories being made into video spots by the NFL.

Online voting determined the best effort, with that fan receiving 2016 Super Bowl tickets (in the end, all five finalists were declared winners).

Check out the compilation of videos here.

9. Powerade – Very Real Power

A bit of a blast from the past now (and not digital, I apologise). Michael Vick, the now-disgraced former Falcons Quarterback, featured in this Powerade commercial.

I love the home-movie aesthetic (the grainy, handheld camera work). It’s a beautifully executed, funny video, made even better by the contradictory legal wording at the end (Powerade does not increase strength).

There was a LeBron James version, too.

10. Real Madrid on SnapChat

Real Madrid has a sprawling digital presence as one of the biggest soccer brands in the world.

The club launched on SnapChat in 2015, becoming the first soccer team in Europe to partner on an Official Live Story.

480,000 subscribers were gained in just three months and the Clasico Live Story generated 185m impressions.

real madrid snapchat

Digital transformation in sports: from diamond to gridiron.