The power of film to leverage Sport

2016 is a massive year in sport. Along with annual events, it’s also the Olympics in Brazil and the football Euro’s in France. Nations will be swept up by sporting fever and millions will be following it on social media.


So what does this mean if you’re a marketer looking to maximise the sporting frenzy, or an agency with a client brief on your desk asking to do just that for their brand? How do you leverage people’s passion for sport?

In a nutshell, it’s about getting them to feel closer to the action or the athletes they follow. We all know that “content is the future of marketing” but what makes video content particularly powerful for sport is that it’s essentially an action story; with thrills and spills, heroes and villains, and countless obstacles on the way to triumph or disaster.

Star V Fan

We scoured the content sphere to see who was getting it right and how they go about it. Content seems to go one of two ways:
· It leverages a big name sports star.
· It makes the fans or amateurs i.e. “us” the star.

The Star

In the world of sport they don’t come any bigger than Nike and Adidas and their duel at the last World Cup was the biggest yet. Even though Adidas were the official sponsors (with the hefty price tag to boot) Nike’s “Risk Everything” campaign stole the show. A technically incredible animation with a strong story that played on the personalities and mad skillz of Nike’s superstar team as they “Risked Everything” to win. It clocked up 8.7 million views in only two weeks (and is now up to 90), and spawned 26 copies :

It was also indicative of the increased length of the most successful vids at the Rio World Cup:

“The length of the top ten most-viewed videos averaged 3:15. We have found that brands are placing more emphasis on creating higher-quality video that emphasize compelling storytelling and a longer narrative to hook viewers.” (Visible Measures)

Fun Stars

Another way to get us closer to the big names is to play on their personality with a little humour. It’s not easy to pull off comedy gold with sports stars but get it right and it’s a sure fire winner. Take our Laurie Smith’s series of ads for BT Sport; great performances shot with a documentary feel show us a different side to some of the Premier Leagues big names and give us the chance to laugh at some good old fashioned gags.

The Fan

Putting the fan at the centre of the story has seen an interesting resurgence. It shows that the brand gets the audience, stays away from anything partizan and comes without a superstar pricetag. Coke’s “One World, One Game” series for the World Cup, was all about sharing special moments and the universal joy that football brings – ideas central to Coke.

It’s also worked pretty hard for Reebok. After dwindling sales and loss of market share it launched Be More Human it’s biggest campaign in over a decade. It put personal fitness at the heart of the campaign aiming to be “people’s partners in their journey” with the ultimate goal of helping them make greater contributions to their families and communities. Stirring stuff that speaks directly to the non-professional and their aims for self-improvement not glory:

Get them pumped!

A slightly different take on inspiration sees brands expand the idea of greatness out to all of us. The likes of Nike with it’s ‘Find Your Greatness’ campaign and Under Armour with ‘I Will What I Want’ and even Adidas’ ALL IN is all about the idea that the greatest achievement is to master yourself. And this makes for some of the most powerful storytelling, particularly when featuring an underdog figure, someone who triumphs through adversity. We immediately identify with and root for these characters and their eventual triumph is even more dramatic. A great example is Eliot Rausch’s short for Under Armour:

Left and Right of Sport

A great client once told me that he often found brilliant stories to the left and right of the brands main activity. Looking for things that surround and lead up to the main event can be rich territory.

P&G brilliantly focused on the struggle and joy of sport from a perspective that fit perfectly with their brand with their Proud Sponsor of Moms campaign.
By focusing on the dedication mothers show in supporting and raising sport mad, aspiring Olympians they made the mothers the heroes and melted hearts everywhere:

Extending Content

What was also interesting was how they extended the content all year round the Olympics. Often before big events brands will tease their new content to build anticipations. But P&G took this concept and extended it for the full year around the Olympics. They began with their Momifesto months before the games and by consistently drip feeding great content around their support of moms the views started to swell, to the point where they’d had 24.6 million before the games even started. And the campaign was so successful it was extended to the Paralympics and Winter Games.

Sport is much more than what happens on the pitch on game day. The thrills, spills, trials and tribulations of human endeavor, both individual and collective resonate with all of us. So no matter what a brand stands for they can say it through sport.