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How PR and marketing can win big during the ‘Summer of Sport’


Victoria Usher

Published On:

July 21, 2021

Published In:

Advertising & Marketing | Industry News

How PR and marketing can win big during the ‘Summer of Sport’

Few things consistently draw and engage audiences the way sport can; whether it’s live, televised, or increasingly, streamed. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, for example, was watched by an estimated 3.6billion TV viewers and broadcast in 200 countries – reaching around half the world’s population. 

In the UK, attendance figures for live sporting events throughout 2019 exceeded the national population (75.1million), putting British sports fans at the top of the league table for attendance per capita. For many, the lack of spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions has been one of the major downsides of the global pandemic.

Events with large audiences – whether in person or on a screen – inevitably attract interest and investment from brands. Pre-pandemic, the global spend on advertising around sporting events in 2020 was forecast to be $48.4billion. Before it was delayed to this year, the  Tokyo Olympics was expected to break the $1.2billion TV advertising revenue record brought in by the 2016 Rio games.

This year has already seen the successful return of tournaments such as the European Football Championships and Wimbledon, with the Tokyo Olympics still to come. With brands keen to capitalise on the ‘Summer of Sport’, here are some of our favourite examples of how they’re using PR and marketing to do so. 

IKEA doesn’t bottle golden marketing opportunity

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s choice to promote water over more famous beverages from Euro 2021 sponsor Coca-Cola, moving two bottles of the drink away from him during a post-match press conference, proved to be a challenge that fuelled multiple examples of smart marketing and reactive communications from brands. Recognising the ongoing power shift away from sponsors towards sports stars – with Ronaldo boasting 550million social media followers – Coca Cola rapidly moved to secure its reputation and released a statement emphasising the importance of individual choice. This also created the silver lining of amplified awareness for the brand across social media, with social mentions around Coca-Cola spiking more than 343% on June 15 globally after the press conference.

Meanwhile, other brands were quick to play on the event. IKEA, for example, swiftly released a reusable water bottle simply called ‘Cristiano’ in a clever and perfectly-timed nod to the situation. This tapped into the peak of fan and media interest, and resulted in enhancing IKEA’s own position and brand perception on social media.

Specsavers campaign is DOOH-ing it right 

Digital Out of Home (DOOH) is an eye-catching, real-time medium that allows brands to reach audiences in an easily accessible way.  A unique feature that sets it apart from other online ad formats is that it is ‘unblockable’, as well as highly impactful – occupying physical, visual space that grabs attention and cannot be blocked by software or technology. This, along with its mass reach via public spaces, explains why the sector was worth over $41billion in 2020.

As with all advertising, a campaign is only as good as its creative, and leveraging interest in sport has been working especially well for Specsavers this summer. As soon as the final whistle blew on the England vs Germany match during the Euros, Specsavers seized the moment and released a smart DOOH campaign evoking an eye-test chart and the ‘It’s Coming Home’ slogan – a fantastic example of how anticipating an outcome and moving quickly can yield positive engagement and boost brand perception. Though hedging bets on the outcome of a football match might seem risky, Specsavers knew it was in safe hands with its agency, which had previously delivered a social media campaign centred around the 2019 Ashes series that achieved almost 14million impressions worldwide.

A marathon, not a sprint 

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were the first in the event’s history to be delayed. As shown by ongoing support from big names such as Coca Cola, McDonalds and Nike, however, the games retain their powerful pull as a unique opportunity for brands to bolster their profile and reach across global audiences.

Brand interest in sponsorship remains high, with campaigns and products featuring in OOH and DOOH advertising such as billboards around stadiums, and in prime TV spots during the games. Moreover, the opportunities around the Olympics also stretch even further – extending to brand partnerships with national teams and individual sports stars that leverage ‘influencer power’. 

Yoghurt brand Muller, for instance, has partnered with reigning 200m world champion Dina Asher-Smith to launch a new yoghurt across a multi-million pound TV and social media campaign, centred around the athlete developing her own ‘perfect yoghurt’. German-founded supermarket powerhouse Aldi has also recently committed to renewing its partnership with Team GB through 2025.  In addition to marking a decade of its initial association with Team GB  in 2015, the union is a positive step that will see the two forces work together to extend Aldi’s ‘Get set to eat fresh’ campaign for healthy eating and reach 1.2 million young people.

National Lottery operator Camelot has also reinforced its support of Team GB with its biggest ever brand campaign, reminding consumers that by buying a ticket, they are helping to fund the athletes. Paralympic broadcaster Channel 4, meanwhile, has followed up on its previous award-winning advertising campaign, to launch the gritty Super. Human. film, which captures the dedication and sacrifice of the Paralympians as they prepare for their event in Tokyo.

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means there will be no fans allowed into stadiums for the Games, viewers around the world will still have the chance to watch the events via TV – with the BBC alone set to broadcast over 350 hours of the Games across channels. Although traditional broadcast TV is still a major avenue for Olympics-based marketing, it’s estimated that 28% of US adults plan on watching the Games through streaming services. For shrewd marketers, this makes covering both digital and linear bases an essential part of smart Olympic campaign strategy and investment.

UK fans can also be part of the action by attending the recently announced Team GB Olympic and Paralympic homecoming events. Hosted by the National Lottery at Wembley Arena, the celebrations will allow Olympians to mix for the first time following pandemic-driven changes to the Opening and Closing ceremonies, with audience tickets available to National Lottery players. The events are also a good case study of how brands, partners, and sponsors can find alternative avenues for connecting with sports fans and sustaining buzz around major championships, even amid restricted physical attendance.

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