The Case for Emotional Sports Marketing

Last week, we talked about how sponsors can successfully appeal to the modern sports fan. This week, we’ll look at creative approach that has become popular amongst advertisers across the globe and how adopting it has created real results for sport marketers.

The World Advertising Research Center (WARC) recently released its warc100 list of the world’s best marketing campaigns for 2015 and within this list, they reported that close to 30% of the campaigns utilized emotion.  In fact, there has been a steady increase in the number of brands employing this approach.

A deeper investigation into the research surrounding this phenomenon gives insight into this trend. By exposing the fickle nature of world occurrences, the post-financial crisis world has fundamentally redefined what human beings want. Yes we still want to move up in life, get a bigger car and a bigger house, but we do not want it by working in a job that makes us unhappy. As human beings, we are no longer willing to sacrifice our sense of self and our values and we have become more comfortable with ourselves and are proud of our passions, which is why statements such as “geeky is the new sexy” are increasingly resonating with consumers. Thus, at the end of the day, consumers will choose brands that appeal to their value and belief systems.

This paradigm shift requires sponsors and sport marketers to rethink their approach to consumer engagement. Gone are the days that just slapping a logo onto a jersey or on the sidewalls, brands now need to go beyond to appeal to a consumer’s deeper need states. Passion for a sport or a team may not translate into passion for a brand unless there is an overlap between the consumer’s values and the brand’s values.

Some marketers have understood this better than others and have made a connection that has translated into real results and given that 2016 is an Olympic year, we’ll have a look at two campaigns that were the stars of the 2012 Olympics. A noteworthy fact is that none of these brands were directly related to the Olympics, yet the connection the reason why they were so successful was because they aligned themselves to consumer values and need states

The first is from P&G. Consumers may have known some of its brands, but they might not have known about P&G as a corporate brand. How did they do it? By connecting their brand to mothers. The campaign celebrated the fact that a mother empowering her child to participate in the Olympics is a feat that is almost as impressive as being an Olympic athlete. It did so by thanking mom.

According to Unruly Media, this particular commercial was the 7th most shared ad of all time (2013 figures). More than engagement, it also translated into $200 million in increased sales.



The second one is for a brand that was getting a fairly bad reputation amongst consumers. In fact, before the Olympics, only 1 in 5 people thought that this brand’s sponsorship of the Olympics was appropriate and the twitter brand sentiment for this brand was the lowest among all 25 sponsors of the Olympic games. Because of their sponsorship, The Children’s Food Bank nicknamed the 2012 Olympics as ‘The Obesity Games’. That brand is McDonald’s.

But that was before the games, after the debut of the ‘We All Make The Games’ campaign, showed consumers that the Olympics were an inclusive event and the extension of the campaign into the Paralympics went a long way to reduce the negative conversation about the brand. Furthermore this campaign increased brand affinity, trust and relatability. All in all this campaign went on to deliver a Return on Marketing Investment of £5.60. By utilizing emotion as a creative approach, McDonald’s was able to move from the negative to the positive.

This year will see big ticket events such as the European Football Championships and the Olympics and consumers can expect big ticket campaigns that will utilize emotion as a creative approach.