Sweat the assets: How brands can win fans in this crowded summer of sport

Over the next couple of months, we’ll see some of the world’s biggest brands competing for the attention of a global audience during an epic summer of sport. There’s already a lot of noise… but will every brand be heard? How do key iconic design assets effectively cut through all that commotion and help brands stand out from the crowd at major sporting events?

What astounded me recently was tech firm RadiumOne’s poll of 1,000 people in the UK, which asked about brand associations in sport. It revealed that six of the top 10 brands most associated with Euro 2016 weren’t even sponsors of the tournament!

Nike came in at number three in the poll, which is fascinating. The fact that it’s not a sponsor demonstrates the strength of Nike’s position as a brand that is synonymous with sport in the minds of consumers. Let’s explore how the best in the business sweat the assets when it comes to sport……

Play your biggest stars

Universally recognised, simple in form and truly iconic – that’s the power of the two simple curved lines that comprise the infamous Nike ‘Swoosh’ or ‘tick’ as it’s more commonly referred to… an asset most brands would give their right arm for.

I once heard that one of Nike’s key communication rules is “Don’t f**k with the tick”. I’m not sure it’s true (although I kind of hope it is), but I love the spirit of this statement. To me it says: here’s a brand that understands the power and immediacy of an asset that has remained pretty much unchanged since its creation over 40 years ago. An asset so firmly embedded in our psyche that it directly speaks to the athlete within us all.

Alongside the tick, Nike’s power also lies in its ability to attract iconic athletes to form the face of the brand. To coincide with the Euros, it created its longest-ever brand film called 'The Switch' (5 minutes and 57 secs), in which Cristiano Ronaldo swaps lives with a young ball boy, and a host of well-known football players also cameo. It’s a nice piece that reinforces Nike’s 'Find your greatness' campaign.

Make the right signings

Tecate is a brand that was implicitly tied up in the notion of masculinity and needed to appeal to a younger generation. But how? Boxing, that’s how.

We recently worked with the Mexican beer brand to help it appeal to a younger audience while staying true to its history – which meant retaining its iconic ‘Eagle’ symbol.

The new identity we created for them was showcased on May 2, 2015 to a worldwide audience during the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight. The Eagle took centre stage and was seen by viewers from across the globe.

The event was deemed such a success from a brand visibility perspective, that Tecate has made the decision to continue to align itself to legendary boxing matches and – for the first time in the brand's history – will endorse an individual boxer, Canelo Alvarez. Canelo is set to wear Tecate-branded boxing trunks in the ring during 2016 to promote the brand’s “Born Bold” campaign

Put your trust in experience

Returning to the poll I mentioned earlier, the brand that (unsurprisingly) topped the table is Coca-Cola – the foremost sponsor at this year’s Euro 2016.

 Here is a brand that’s over 100 years old and has consistently understood the importance of key brand assets, protecting them almost religiously. These longstanding assets include the iconic shape of the bottle, the swoosh, the word marque and – of course – the famous ‘Coke’ shade of red.

Coca-Cola can introduce new equities around major sporting events such as the World Cup and the Euros, and still be recognisable. The assets it owns enables it to create visual languages that feel relevant to the event in question, yet are still unmistakably Coke.

Go big or go home

So, what of the rest? Well, going back to that poll again… among the official sponsors at Euro 2016 this year is Chinese electronics giant Hisense, which – incidentally – turns out to be the first-ever sponsorship deal with a Chinese company in the football event’s 56-year history.

I get that Hisense sees the Euros as an opportunity to break into the western market, but as an unremarkable brand devoid of any iconic assets, I’m intrigued to see how it stands out among the likes of Adidas and Coca-Cola.

Although the Euros and Wimbledon are the focus right now, the Olympics and British Grand Prix are just around the corner. And I for one will be watching the brands as much as the teams during this year’s action-packed summer of sport.

David Jenkinson is creative director of Elmwood London

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