Brand management

The summer of sport 2024: How can you capitalise with your brand marketing?

For sports fans, this summer is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in history. 

The Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics. Euro 2024. Wimbledon. The Tour de France. The Open Championship. Some of the world’s most high-profile sporting events, all contained in one three-month span.

Few things emotionally click with people like sport does. It brings communities together, forms shared identities and inspires action. So, it’s only sensible that marketing teams globally look to harness these rare opportunities to build brand awareness and secure some extra sales.

Capitalising on major sports events is a tried-and-tested pastime, but one with plenty of hurdles. In this guide, we’ll explain what you must know to lawfully use sporting events in your marketing, and help you kick off your campaigns with some effective brand marketing strategies.

Summer of sport 2024 Olympic Games statistics - Over 15 million tourists and over 1 billion watching - Source: BBC and Sky News

The brand marketing value of major sporting events

Well-established brands understand the interest that The Olympic Games, World Cup, Super Bowl and more can bring to their products and services. That’s why they pay huge money to become official sponsors and partners for these events.

Take Paris 2024 as an example. The upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games have raised over €1.2 billion in sponsorship revenue, with worldwide partners including Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Samsung and Toyota.

A few months earlier at Super Bowl LVI, companies paid on average $7 million to air a 30-second commercial during the broadcast.

Advertising and sponsorship are among the biggest revenue streams for high-profile sports events. So, it stands to reason that they are keen to protect the best interests of their sponsors and prevent others from piggybacking off their reputations.

The challenges of capitalising on sporting events in your marketing

With so much money invested into sports events by advertisers and sponsors, other brands must tread carefully if they want to use these in their own campaigns.

Again, let’s use the Paris Olympic Games as an example. In their guide for non-Olympic partners on commercial opportunities for participants, also known as Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter, they outline what non-sponsors can and cannot do in their advertising.

This document includes everything from parameters on using Olympic athletes in brand marketing before and during the Games, to guidelines on what is considered fair “generic advertising”.

Olympics marketing restrictions for non-sponsors - Brand marketing infographic

This is only scratching the surface. You must also consider the core Olympic and Paralympic IP, as well as the IP of Paris 2024 specifically and the teams/athletes participating. 

As you can imagine, these rules are not exclusive to the Olympic Games – every high-profile sporting event has similar brand guidelines to ensure non-sponsors cannot hijack its identity.

So, before you even think about hopping on the back of this summer of sport, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid using any official or licensed imagery, designs, colour palettes, or footage in your advertising
  • Ensure there is little chance your campaigns could mislead your customer base into believing your brand is connected to the sporting event
  • Restrict the use of elements that could be seen as connected to the event, such as the French flag in connection to the Paris Olympics
  • Closely examine any laws surrounding social media and the sporting event you want to base content around – for example, using event-related hashtags and emojis, or re-posting official content, may be illegal
  • Check the timing and scale of your campaign does not attract unwanted attention from the relevant organisation

4 things to consider before using sports in your marketing

With these tight restrictions in place, you might be wondering if it’s even worth trying to capitalise on sporting events in your brand marketing. While there are risks, the rewards can also be significant.

For instance, at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Nike’s smart, sustained campaigns, including the creation of “Nike Town” on the edge of the Olympic Park, meant that more people thought Nike was the official sponsor of the games instead of the actual sponsor, Reebok.

Then there’s Canadian clothing brand Lululemon, who quickly sold out of a clothing line titled “Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition”, cleverly referencing the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Nike statistics for brand marketing during 1996 Olympics events - Source: The Content Architects

When deployed intelligently and consistently, these real-time marketing campaigns can generate short-term buzz that leads to long-term brand recognition. But before pressing ahead, we recommend you consider the following:

1. Is your campaign relevant to your target audience?

First, ask if the sporting event you’re attempting to capitalise on is one your target markets are interested in. If it’s not, your efforts are likely to be in vain, and at worst, could even damage your reputation with loyal customers.

So, assess the interest of your audience before getting started, based on your pre-existing customer data or by conducting market research.

2. Are you being authentic and genuine with your content?

Next, is the sport you’re using aligned with your brand identity and values? If it’s completely detached from what you stand for, it can immediately make your campaigns look like a desperate grab for attention rather than a smart, fresh move.

Always know what you’re trying to do and what you hope to achieve from your campaigns. If it doesn’t benefit your long-term goals or resonate with your brand’s personality, then it may be safer to stay out of the conversation.

Brand authenticity - 91% of consumers reward brands for authenticity, recommending to others or repeat purchasing - Source: LinkedIn

3. Will this short-term approach damage your brand’s consistency?

In a similar vein, your campaigns should always be brand-consistent, regardless of the subject matter. Modern customers expect a consistent experience every time they interact with a business, and it’s one of the biggest hallmarks of brand loyalty.

If piggybacking on the Olympics or the Euros risks breaking the consistency of your tone of voice or visual identity, then it isn’t worth it in the long run.

90% of customers expect their interactions with a brand to be consistent across all channels - Source: Forbes

4. Do you have a plan in place and the tools to be agile?

Real-time marketing requires forward planning and an agile process. It’s no good to create content about a gold-medal performance in the 100 metres or an incredible goal several days after it happened – you need to strike when audiences are invested.

Consider Oreo’s ingenious blackout ad after the power outage that affected Super Bowl XLVII – they had a social media team ready to pounce on anything that happened.

Having high-quality brand management tools and dedicated teams ready to monitor every minute of the action are key to fully capitalising on this summer of sport.

7 ways to take advantage of the summer of sport in your brand marketing

With our challenges and final considerations out of the way, here are our 7 standout ways to make your brand marketing shine during this year’s sporting spectacles.

1. Focus on digital channels for younger consumers

The latest generations of shoppers, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, consume sport much differently than even a decade or two ago. Studies show that 79% of global sports fans exclusively watch sports online, while 53% of sports fans access other online sports content while watching a match or tournament.

Capitalise on this by placing banner ads and other collateral on sports-adjacent websites across the summer of sport. These may be at a slightly higher premium at these moments, but they can put your product or service in front of engaged audiences, boosting your brand awareness.

Infographic of digital experiences in sports stats around streaming, Gen Z and social media, and Facebook - Source: Greenfly

2. Accelerate social advertising during events

Similarly, approximately 70% of Gen Z sports fans say they prefer to watch sports on social media platforms. It’s a growing phenomenon for fans to comment on events and seek out others’ thoughts instantly, so capitalise on that added attention.

Ramp up your social media marketing at these peak periods to capitalise on your audience’s heightened engagement. Even if they are too preoccupied to click at that moment, it can plant valuable seeds for long-term brand equity building.

3. Tap into stories surrounding the sport

If the rules around high-profile sporting events prove a headache, then you could capitalise on stories tangentially connected to the events.

For example, after Cristiano Ronaldo removed two bottles of Coca-Cola at a press conference (causing their share price to drop 1.6%), IKEA swiftly produced a reusable water bottle called ‘the Cristiano’ as a nod to his preference for water.

Alternatively, events like Wimbledon have become as synonymous for celebrity viewers as the actual tennis, and several fashion brands have used this to create content around their attire.

4. Get clever with your collateral

When creating content loosely attached to sporting events, you must be clever to navigate the restrictions. Encourage your teams to think outside the box for campaigns that tap into fans’ sporting instincts, while keeping enough distance to protect you legally.

Glasses retailer Specsavers set a good example with their Digital Out of Home (DOOH) campaign depicting an eye chart with the phrase “It’s coming home” – a popular chant among England football fans.

Examine all angles and find unique ways to engage with this summer of sport. Keeping a calendar of when events occur can give you the breathing room to brainstorm.

5. Use former athletes as influencers

Did you know that 69% of consumers trust influencers over information coming directly from a brand? In substantial periods of sporting activity, reaching out to a former athlete can recapture nostalgic feelings among older fans, with zero risk of compromising guidelines connected to current sports stars.

49% of Gen Z and 41% of millennials make purchasing decisions based on influencer endorsements - Source: OpenSponsorship

6. Time offers around match days

When you know what time football matches or Olympic events are taking place, you can time your campaigns, offers or emails to tempt people during breaks in the action.

For example, say you’re marketing a local takeaway restaurant. Establishing special offers during game days or sending out limited-time offers based on results can capture some additional orders from sporting fans.

7. Prioritise local marketing

With many of this summer’s sporting events tied to national teams and local pride, it’s important to tailor your campaigns for the specific fan bases you market for. The earlier Specsavers example was perfect for an English audience, but wouldn’t mean much to their customers in Denmark or the Netherlands.

Invest in brand management technology and smart templates that allow you to adapt your core messaging to particular audiences. This will make sure you can connect with fans across your global audience with campaigns that resonate with the teams they’re rooting for.

Additionally, consider organising community events and initiatives, such as watch parties for big occasions and mock competitions, to create memorable experiences for your local audiences.

Papirfly brand marketing success story link - Helly Hansen achieving global brand management using Papirfly DAM system.

Kick off your brand marketing for the summer of sport

As you’ve read above, high-profile sporting events can provide a short-term boost to your long-term brand marketing goals. If you’re clever with your collateral, harnessing the right channels and authentic to your values, these moments can be a springboard for your brand awareness.

But just as it takes more than raw talent to make an Olympic athlete, these opportunistic campaigns require more than an ingenious strategy. They demand an agile process, rapid asset creation and a firm commitment to consistency. 

To set your teams up for success, technology like smart design templates and Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems give you the foundation for swift, on-brand communications. With the right tools in your camp, crafting timely assets around the major moments this summer of sport can be as simple for your teams as scoring a penalty into an empty net!

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