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5 of the best sports campaigns that won in 2021, including Ajax and AB InBev

Dušan Tadić with ‘A Piece of Ajax’

As part of our Best of 2021 series, our journalists have been picking out their favorite award-winning work of the year.

Throughout the festive season, we’ll be looking back through the winners from our 2021 global awards program, which includes The Drum Awards for Marketing, The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries, The Drum Awards for B2B and more.

Here, we round-up some of the best campaigns to win in The Drum Awards’ sports categories, including work from leading brands Sport England and the Lawn Tennis Association.

AFC Ajax ‘A Piece of Ajax’

AFC Ajax won both the grand prix and the sports category at The Drum Awards for Experience. Wanting to bring fans closer after a difficult year, it decided to dedicate its championship trophy to them – literally. It melted down the precious trophy – the top prize in Dutch football – into more than 42,000 little stars in reference to the championship stars on the chest of the Ajax shirt. This way, every season ticket holder and business relation would receive a unique piece of the trophy. Or in other words, ‘A Piece of Ajax‘.

AB InBev/Budweiser ‘Messi's 644 toast to the goalkeepers’ by Copa90

In 2020, Lionel Messi was on the verge of breaking Pele’s 46-year-old record of scoring 643 goals for a single club. Budweiser wanted to raise awareness of its association with Messi, owning the 644 moment by creating a spike in conversation – all while keeping its product at its heart.

So Copa90 flipped the script, focusing instead on the 160 goalkeepers Messi had scored against and their part in pushing him to greatness.

Budweiser produced a bottle for every one of Messi’s 644 goals, each personalized for one of the 160 keepers it was scored against, with the goal number they represented and a revamped version of the Budweiser creed including a special tribute to the qualities that have characterized Messi’s career.

The campaign won the travel, leisure or sports categories at both The Drum Awards for Social Media and The Drum Awards for Content.

Sport England ‘This Girl Can’ by Cyber-Duck

Sport England is a public body that encourages everyone in the UK to become and stay active. Since 2019, Cyber-Duck has been its digital partner. Originally engaged to the digital strategy and main website, the agency’s user research encouraged it to focus the main platform on B2B while B2C would spin-out into standalone brands, like This Girl Can.

2020 kicked off with a high-profile January launch event, hosted by Claire Balding, that introduced ‘Me Again’ as a rallying cry for all women. It mixed original and new footage with a confident soundtrack by Little Simz.

Paid, earned and organic media worked together ensuring women couldn’t miss the ad in the first few months of the year. Alongside our ongoing Sure partnership, this led into the International Women’s Day celebration with Parkrun on March 7, with specific marketing assets highlighting the barriers often preventing less-active women from attending.

The launch helped generate 312 pieces of press coverage, including the playing of the ad on The One Show.

It was viewed across social media 1m times in the first 48 hours and #ThisGirlCan trended within the first hour of our launch post, with the highest single-day website traffic since 2015. All before any paid media kicked in.

It won in the travel, leisure, tourism and sports category at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries.

Lawn Tennis Association ‘Play Your Way’ by The&Partnership

The&Partnership London won the sport and leisure category at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021 with its campaign for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to change age-old perceptions of the sport as elitist and to inspire new audiences to pick up a racket and play, helping to grow participation numbers nationwide. The agency decided to face these misconceptions head on and, as part of the LTA’s ongoing commitment to open tennis up to the nation, developed ’Play Your Way’ – a new brand platform that challenges the stereotypes and rewrites the rules.

To help deliver the cut-through required, it used bold and provocative statements such as ‘Out’s the new in’ and ‘Big timers and mis-timers welcome’, set against a vibrant and energetic new visual identity.

A 30-second brand film was deployed across linear TV, VOD and social channels, reaching over 33 million people and recording over 50m views, achieving an average view-through rate 211% higher than industry benchmarks. The campaign film was covered by 60+ national and regional consumer titles and trade press.

Leisure Lake Bikes ‘Riding the Success of UK's Bike Boom’ by Mediaworks

Crowned winner of the best sports and leisure campaign at The Drum Search Awards 2021, Mediaworks produced data informed by increased demand for bikes during the national lockdown that helped it boost the Leisure Lakes Bikes’ sales during the period of high demand.

The resulting digital approach successfully exceeded Leisure Lakes Bikes’ target of £4.8m in sales over the course of 2020, delivering £6.39m in revenue. It also generated higher rankings, moving a host of key products and brands onto the first page of Google in front of its key target audience at a crucial buying period for the business.

Head to The Drum Awards website to find out more about all of our competitions, including categories, deadlines, judges and how to enter.

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