Anyone who’s ever had the (mis)fortune of sharing an office with me will tell you I’m a cynic. That is, in part, why I’m prone to dishing out a bit of a criticism when brands misjudge sports marketing campaigns. The other reason, is that I’m still a fan first. So when an advertiser misses the mark, I see it through the eyes of fan as much, if not more so than as someone working in the industry.
That said, it’s only fair to give credit to those brands that hit the back of the net.
1. Paddy Power: Loyalty is Dead. Live for Rewards.
Put to one side the morality of the role that betting plays in football (there’ll be more to come on this subject in coming weeks) for a moment. This is, simply, a genius bit of creative. The concept of lining up Ryan Giggs’ brother to talk about loyalty might feel a little bit 2011 but it just works. The reasons being, it is typically provocative (in true PP style), perfectly scripted and above everything, Giggs’ performance is pant-wettingly funny.
2. Nike: Dream Crazy.
You don’t need me to point out how brilliant this was. The crucial factor being authenticity. Losing his contract with 49ers didn’t mean losing his Nike deal. Subsequently, Nike can deliver their message of dreaming big through Kaepernick in a credible way because they stood by him. He acted as the perfect narrator for Dream Crazy, a celebration of aspiration featuring the most inspirational athletes, by the most aspirational of brands.
3. Coca-Cola: Where Everyone Plays.
If any brand understands sponsorship, it’s Coke. The godfathers of sponsorship in many ways. The launch of their Premier League deal recently showed a great understanding of the audience. Firstly, the creative featured real fans, not actors. How often have you seen an ad try and celebrate fankind but end up with a poor imitation? You know the ones, ‘mates’ sat around the sofa looking nervous then celebrating a goal with a hug, a punch of the air and the most choreographed ruffling of hair. Outside of the adverts, Coke made great use of Jesse Lingard and worked him hard on the PR trail, offering fan media outlets time with Premier League talent. The end result, a brand adding value rather than distracting attention. Although, I’ll be honest, Alison Moyet on the soundtrack was an unexpected choice.
4. Channel 4: Meet the Superhumans.
So much talk after London 2012 was about legacy. The one clear and tangible legacy of the Games, for me, has been the way in which we view disability sport in this country. Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics played no small part in this. Offering a prime time platform and a brave marketing campaign that celebrated disability sports stars and their stories. All of which helped take the heroics of Jonnie Peacock, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir and turn them into household sporting names.
5. National Lottery: This Girl Can.
We’ve seen a few incarnations of the ‘This Girl Can’ message but the original burst in 2015 was undoubtedly groundbreaking. Director Kim Gehrig has never been one to shy away from controversy and went on to shoot Gillette’s much-maligned ‘toxic masculinity’ ad (more on that here). But this was a campaign that made you sit up and notice, it was different to the bulk of what had gone before. Sport is not for men and boys. Nor is it just for elite athletes. It has benefits for everyone. Crucially, according to government statistics 2.8m women were engaging in a more active lifestyle as a result.