Brands look to tap into sport's feel good factor, but there's a fine line between triumph and disaster

By John Reynolds |

August 27, 2013 | 3 min read

If only Mo Farah was an Adidas-sponsored athlete, then it would have been quite a summer for the German sportswear brand.

England's victorious cricketers celebrate their Ashes win

Kit supplier for the winning British and Irish Lions rugby team; ditto the victorious England Ashes team; sponsor of Wimbledon winner Andy Murray; Adidas-owned TaylorMade providing the clubs for Justin Rose’s US Open victory; kit supplier for treble-winning Bayern Munich and UEFA Cup winners Chelsea.

The rumour is that now the Ashes is over, Adidas will pull together its panoply of stars in one of those showpiece, integrated campaigns, celebrating the sporting summer, which will either instantly hit the sweet spot (Nike, PepsiCo) or instantly tank and render their stars laughing stocks (Santander, Gillette).

From Adidas’s point of view, such a campaign poses a conundrum: on the one hand, the prize could be a campaign which can create real buzz and tap into the feel good factor around British sporting success, thus reinforcing Adidas’ credentials as a winner across all sports.

On the downside, as a sponsor you will be paying for all the athletes’ time, not just one (and athletes' time is difficult to get hold of, so this will be high) for a one-off bite of the cherry opportunity, which could horribly misfire. The campaign could be a dud and Rose could be as wooden as Rory Mcllory.

(As a sponsor, sometimes it is best to play the long-game and spread your designated ‘athlete time’ over a year and use them individually, so to get engagement over the course of a year.)

All the signs are that Adidas has been building for this showpiece campaign the past few months, what with the campaigns it orchestrated around the England cricket team supporting the Lions and vice versa, creating this sense of brotherhood between sports.

And lest we forget last year, its London 2012 ‘Take The Stage’ campaign showcased its high-profile stars together.

There are, according to Andy Kenny, managing director at brandRapport, two key rules of thumb to follow for such campaigns: make sure the athletes in them are of comparable stature (Nadal and Ronaldo playing football tennis for Nike works well) and ensure it doesn’t look staged. (The Tiger Woods, Thierry Henry, and Roger Federer Gillette ads spring to mind here.)

Kenny adds: “These big, integrated campaigns can create a real buzz, have a high ‘shareability’ and in the process reinforce and strengthen a brands’ stature and positioning.

“But there are some ‘watch outs’ - the campaigns need to be delivered creatively and be authentic so it doesn’t look too staged and choreographed. Santander bank’s recent marketing campaign featuring three high profile ambassadors (Jessica Ennis, Rory Mcllroy and Jenson Button) is an example of how not to do it.”


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