Best Sports Marketing Examples (+ Tips) for 2024

sports marketing

When executed well, sports marketing campaigns can elevate emerging athletes to long-lasting stardom, brands to billion-dollar behemoths, and casual viewers to loyal fans ready to splurge on merchandise and products their sporting idols are sponsoring.

You also don’t have to be a sports brand per se. As a practice, sports marketing’s mass appeal can benefit a variety of industries. It’s why the market for sports and sports-related products is growing year on year, with businesses of all kinds—from fashion brands and fast food chains to subscription-based services (looking at you, Duolingo!)— wanting a share of this $480.12 billion pie. One look at the Super Bowl and the billions of dollars the game rakes in annually, and you know what I’m talking about. 👀

But what makes sporting events so monumental for brands and sports marketing? Before we get to some of the best sports marketing examples, let's riddle this first.

Rihanna working the halftime show: Why the best sports marketing still happens on the field

The Super Bowl may be known for drawing millions of viewers, recording over 123 million viewers in 2023 alone. But the National Football League (NFL)’s annual big game is also eagerly anticipated by brands (and Ad aficionados) looking to grab the 30-second Ad slot and shelling an average of $7 million for it.

This year, however, the marketing brilliance came from the night’s musical guest, Rihanna, instead of brands such as Verizon, Google, and Dove, which had won the coveted commercial slot.

During her halftime performance, as she switched between songs, she cleverly grabbed a Fenty Beauty product from her dancer’s hand and dabbed her face for a quick touch-up. This 3-second, subtle product placement generated US$88.3 million in media impact value for Fenty Beauty, while mentions of the brand grew by 717% on Twitter and TikTok following the performance. Rihanna using a Fenty Beauty product during her Super Bowl performance
This shot was reminiscent of the camera zooming on Pelé as he tied his Puma shoes during Brazil’s quarter-final match against Peru at the 1970 FIFA World Cup. It was one of the first examples of sports marketing (to be televised globally) by a brand, and Puma earned handsomely from the millions of views it received worldwide.

 A shot of Pelé wearing Puma shoes

But did you notice how neither Fenty Beauty nor other brands who advertised had anything to do with American football? Yet, they paid the Ad dollars for the commercial.

Why, you ask? This is known as marketing through sports, where brands promote their products by harnessing the reach and influence of sporting events and athletes while targeting their fan base.

It’s a testament to the brand-building potential of sports that goes beyond entertainment. And a call back to the time-tested techniques of effective sports marketing:

  • Partnering with athletes is still the best way to make a huge impact in a short span. Remember how Ronaldo’s Coca-Cola snub cost the company $4 billion off its market value? It can work both ways, especially when you have millions of eyes watching globally.

  • No matter how creative the campaign is, timing is everything in sports marketing. This is why most non-sports and sports brands drop their campaigns right before a major sporting event.

  • Having an element of surprise (as was the case with Rihanna's product placement) is a good way to stand out.

Below are 6 of the best sports marketing examples to inspire your next campaign.

🫂 Austrian Tennis Federation’s “social” community engagement

🏁 Formula One (F1) pivoting to digital video to appease the younger fans

🏃 Mattel honoring global female athletes with “Role-Model” Barbie dolls

👕 UNDRDOG ATHLETIX powering its Shopify Store with UGC

♟️ Louis Vuitton’s game of chess with Messi and Ronaldo

🏆 Nike’s series of Ads for the Women’s World Cup in 2023

6 best sports marketing examples in recent times

1. Austrian Tennis Federation’s “social” community engagement

On and off the court—few sports organizations “serve” community engagement as well as the ​​Austrian Tennis Federation (regionally known as ÖTV for “Österreichischer Tennisverband”) does.

When you’re competing for fans' attention against brands with bigger names and even deeper pockets, a highly engaged community becomes the lever for sustained traffic and engagement.

To keep the local Austrian tennis community entertained and engaged, ÖTV integrates a social media wall on its homepage and pages of the regional federations using Flockler. This allows it to display a wide range of content curated through its Instagram feed, from announcing local tournaments to highlighting the achievements of sports stars.

Social media wall on ÖTV’s homepage, integrated using Flockler

💪 Having a positively engaged community has helped ÖTV in spreading the word and attracting sports fans as well as sponsorships. It attracts roughly 110 million views per year now.

🤝 They also use social media marketing to promote community interaction by encouraging sports fans to use hashtag #tennisaustria and contribute a post. Evidently, that single hashtag has generated more users for the federation.

Read the Austrian Tennis Federation’s full story here.

2. Formula One (F1) pivoting to digital marketing channels to attract younger fans

When Liberty Media Corporation acquired F1 in 2016, the motorsport championship’s viewership was dropping year after year. That year, a new rebrand was launched for F1 with a singular goal: To build a strong digital presence and capture the interest of the younger generation—something the previous owners ignored.

Around the time, viewer preferences were increasingly shifting to digital platforms like YouTube. And with F1 focused primarily on broadcast TV, with no formal marketing or digital departments, a pivot to digital was the need of the hour.

After months of customer research and surveys, Liberty Media took a three-pronged approach to meet the goal.

F1’s approach to boost its digital presence

  • F1 launched its proprietary streaming service, F1 TV, in 2018, allowing fans to experience more than just the live races. They could customize the viewing experience, tap into real-time data, replay races, access exclusive shows, and lots more. This exclusive content marketing drove up its subscriptions over the years.

  • Netflix’s Formula One: Drive to Survive, a behind-the-scenes documentary recording the thrilling team storylines and off-track action. Already in its sixth season, the show single-handedly promoted the sport to the younger lot, especially in the US.

  • F1 also Lifted social media restrictions, allowing teams and drivers to publish more unfiltered, off-track content. In addition to the game-day updates, fans got to consume content like driver interviews, virtual pit stops, and more, keeping them engaged beyond the live races.

In fact, today, F1’s digital presence is primarily driven by its social media presence and legions of passionate fans, inviting brand collaborations, sponsored posts, and fan-generated content galore. One look at their engagement numbers, and you know they’re killing it.

By offering a truly diverse, omnichannel experience to the fans, F1 has grown its commercial standing to 3.2 billion dollars.

This pivot was a brilliant sports marketing strategy, showcasing how sports organizations can stay on top of shifting consumer trends and reap rewards by meeting fans where they are: in a grand arena or through their Smartphones.

3. Mattel honoring global female athletes with “Role-Model” Barbie dolls

Athlete partnerships are nothing novel in sports marketing. But Mattel starting a new line of “role-model” Barbie Dolls modeled on nine trailblazing women athletes around the world was monumental in multiple ways.

The following female athletes from nine different nations were chosen for the new Barbie line:

  • Venus Williams (United States), Tennis

  • Christine Sinclair (Canada), Soccer

  • Mary Fowler (Australia, Football

  • Estelle Mossely (France), Boxing

  • Alexa Moreno (Mexico), Gymnastics

  • Rebeca Andrade (Brazil), Gymnastics

  • Susana Rodriguez (Spain), Paratriathlon athletics

  • Federica Pellegrini (Italy), Swimming

  • Ewa Swoboda (Poland), Track and Field

Mattel’s new line of ‘Role Model’ Barbie dolls

As Mattel explained, “By recognizing athletes that have broken barriers for women in sports, Barbie hopes to help amplify the voices of women in sports to commemorate their accomplishments on and off the field.”

This was a socially conscious move on the brand’s part, which could easily come across as tokenism. But given Barbie's cultural impact as a pop culture phenomenon (especially after the movie's release in 2023), the initiative was welcomed by most.

This limelight on female athletes could encourage young girls to participate in sports as players or fans and gradually drive the growth of women’s sports.

For the first time in history, women’s elite sports are forecasted to generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2024. For context, the National Basketball Association (NBA) recorded a total revenue of $10.58 billion in the 2022/23 season.

Based on the positive sentiment around the new Barbie dolls, this move will benefit Mattel by increasing sales while redeeming the historical criticism it has received for reinforcing traditional stereotypes against women.

Truly, a win-win.

4. UNDRDOG ATHLETIX powering its Shopify Store with UGC

Earning the buyer’s trust is crucial, but it's not easy to achieve in the e-commerce business. Operating in the highly competitive sportswear space, UNDRDOG ATHLETIX knew this struggle first-hand.

Seeing how 40% of the shoppers are influenced by social media to make a purchase, they knew leveling up their social media game was the key to the treasure.

So they started investing in user-generated content (UGC) and leveraging athlete partnerships to present real-world athletes and influencers wearing their athletic wear. This strategic move garnered the brand a fair amount of engagement and improved brand awareness.

But it was embedding their Instagram feed—featuring posts from athletes, influencers, and loyal fans—on their Shopify website that did the trick.

UNDRDOG ATHLETIX’s dynamic Instagram feed displayed on its Shopify site

It allowed casual browsers to see how UNDRDOG ATHLETIX’s products are worn and styled in real life, helping the brand to appear authentic and genuine. As a result, the brand could earn the buyer’s trust and encourage sales.

📝 With Flockler, you can add a hashtag-filtered feed of user-generated and influencer content anywhere on your site. This can help you drive sustained traffic and sales. Try it for free!

5. Louis Vuitton’s game of chess with Messi and Ronaldo

Nobody (or their mothers) was ready for what Louis Vuitton had planned on the eve of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On a fine Saturday evening, a day before the tournament’s opening, the fashion house uploaded a picture on its social media platforms featuring Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo playing chess on a chequered Louis Vuitton suitcase.

For context, Louis Vuitton has a long tradition of crafting trophy trunks for some of the biggest sporting events, including the FIFA World Cup, F1 Grand Prix, and more. This campaign marked the beginning of the World Cup and commemorated the LV’s capsule collection of soccer-themed leather goods.

FIFA World Cup trophy in its Louis Vuitton travel case

The photo, titled “Victory is a State of Mind,” was taken by legendary portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Both the players shared the photo on their individual Instagram accounts at the same time, breaking the Internet within seconds. This campaign with two of the world’s biggest football stars went viral, earning the luxury fashion house significant returns in social mentions and media impact value.

As of June 2024, the image on Ronaldo’s account is the 4th most-liked post on Instagram, with 42.5 million likes,

But what really made the campaign work was bringing two living soccer legends together, given their highly elaborate “rivalry”.

This campaign worked well because Louis Vuitton left no stone untouched.

  • It was timed perfectly, with the World Cup right around the corner.

  • The “rivalry” narrative is the oldest storytelling trick. And with Messi vs. Ronaldo, they didn’t need to do much.

  • Having a game of chess as the backdrop instead of football was brilliant. It brought the viewer’s focus to the trunk LV had crafted.

6. Nike’s series of Ads for the Women’s World Cup in 2023

Some of the best sports marketing examples recently have come from brands spotlighting the disparity for women’s sports.

Nike joined the conversation ahead of the much-anticipated FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. They launched a seven-part series of advertisements reminiscent of its world-famous 2000s Ads.

To celebrate football stars individually and highlight their unique approach to the sport, Nike released six one-minute skits. The seventh one, ‘What The Football,’ was a humorous culmination to the series, calling attention to the long, undervalued history of women’s football.

A still from Nike’s What The Football Ad

But ‘Let It Rip’, which celebrates Megan Rapinoe, the captain of the US national sports team, as the ‘All-American Hero’, is a personal favorite of mine.

But why the need for seven Ads? As Melanie Auguste, Nike’s vice president of brand defining, purpose, and athletes, remarked, “There has never been a more exciting time in women’s sports, and we see this summer’s tournament as a generational tipping point.”

Through these adverts, Nike successfully captured the attention and interest of multi-generational viewers, who got a glimpse into the lives of individual players, their ethos, team culture, and so much more.

Nike also did so without comparing the women’s game to the men’s game. This created a fair ground for viewers to learn about the female sport with a positive intent.

Besides, the Ads created quite a hype and earned the sports good giant $39 million in media value.

Parting thoughts: showing results of sports marketing

As you’ll notice in the examples of sports marketing above, social media hype is only one part of the equation. Relevance, authenticity, and fan-centricity are equally important to launch successful sports marketing campaigns.

On the other side, showing the results of your campaigns can help you prove your marketing efforts to stakeholders. However, tracking and quantifying real results can prove challenging.

This is when leaning on analytics tools like Peel makes sense. If you run a Shopify store or use shoppable social media feeds, Peel’s library of templates is a good place to start building your marketing reports. Getting the Flockler's Analytics add-on can also help you map the ROI from your social content, whether it’s checking individual post performance or hashtag effectiveness.

After all, a successful marketing campaign is one that manages to marry creative strategy with analytics.

With Flockler, you can gather and display social media feeds from your favourite channels. See the full list of supported content types and sources

Flockler helps marketers like you to create social media feeds and display user-generated content on any digital service. Keep your audience engaged and drive sales.

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